What if? What next? Speculations on History’s Futures

November 18 to November 25, 2020

37th Annual Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand

Hosted by the Department of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Design, School of Design, the University of Western Australia and convened by Kate Hislop and Hannah Lewi. Click here for the conference’s website.

Owing to the global COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions on gatherings and travel, the SAHANZ 2020 conference was held online 18 – 25 November 2020. 

Amended Format

The SAHANZ 2020 conference took on a ‘slow’ and ‘dispersed’ format, spread across the period of a week, incorporating a series of localised ‘satellite’ meetings in cities across Australia and New Zealand. The satellites accommodated forums for physical and virtual Paper Presentations and Roundtables, clustered in thematic groupings. Conference delegates were able to attend these forums either in person or by virtual means. Allowing for different time zones, the conference program was structured to enable delegates to attend presentations and events in virtual mode at each of the satellite locations.

Regular events

Most of the regular conference events proceeded in accordance with the slow and dispersed format:

  • Opening and Closing events were scheduled at a time to enable delegates to attend virtually;
  • Keynote speakers presented virtually to a dispersed audience;
  • Tours of WA attractions occurred for WA delegates and were made available to all delegates in virtual or recorded form;
  • Proceedings were published as normal and will be available early in 2021; and
  • The SAHANZ AGM was held virtually.



Challenges to the transmission of historical knowledge in architectural education today highlight a potential shift in expertise that may ultimately impact upon the production of architecture, as well as broader understanding of the built environment, which warrants interrogating. At the same time, increasing appetite for the preservation and repurposing of built fabric feeds a growing heritage sector (and associated tourism industry) that offers opportunity for architectural history’s contribution insofar as its basis in inquiry informs knowledge, interpretation and evaluation of buildings and places. The 2020 SAHANZ Conference calls for broad consideration of the prospects for architectural history in relation to the endurance and/or transformation of architecture as a discipline and profession.


Under the banner of ‘history’s futures’ we encourage speculation upon impending modes of application of critical scholarship and historical knowledge: what might be the nature, purpose or outcomes of historical inquiry? What might be the intersections with or influences upon architectural production? Upon the reception of architecture? Or what kinds of projections about the future can be discovered in the past? Questions around pedagogy, transmission, content and method all bring focus upon architectural history’s role to investigate and locate architecture within the contexts, frameworks and processes informing its production and use.


Across the breadth of cultural, environmental and material concerns we invite examination of the intersections of architectural history with heritage scholarship and practice. Complex relationships exist between history and heritage, and also memory and narrative, with regard to notions of identity and authenticity as they are bound up with the past, present and future. This is nowhere more evident than in the context of global phenomena such as Brexit, or by contrast in the powerful Uluru Statement from the Heart. David Lowenthal’s declaration that history may be usurped by memory and nostalgia because of the personal dimension and immediacy that they bring to matters of the past highlights an opportunity for architectural history. Buildings, landscapes and the artefacts associated with them provide tangible material historical record through which stories are found and told. Moreover, history has benefitted from the myriad more ways of accessing, understanding and disseminating knowledge of past times, places, artefacts and cultures.


We pose the counterfactual ‘what if’ questions about how architectural histories – of the past or in future – might sound or look if recast from marginal points of view (indigenous, migrant, gender, class and so on); or if editorial choices responded to different criteria (what to include and what to leave out). Conjecturing ‘what if’ through a hypothetical recasting or negating of an event enables appraisal of its relative historical and future importance. In turn, we ask, might the ‘what if’ or ‘what next’ questions equip architectural history with additional evaluative tools to support its (future) disciplinary inquiry?


We have invited original papers by individual or joint authors and/or Round Table sessions considering or expanding upon topics such as:

+ Modes of architectural history

Ecologies of history: histories of ecology

Architectural history through technology and material culture

Architectural history in the digital, virtual and gaming age/space

+ Routes to the Past

Critical, cultural or commercial: intersections between architectural history and heritage

Authentic? History, heritage and matters of veracity and experience

Legacy: presenting the value of the past through constructed and cultural landscapes

Pedagogy, policy and practice: education, governance and the institutions of history and/or heritage

+ Countering the canon/s

Living cultures: recovering Indigenous narratives in architectural history

Activism and agency in architectural history: migrancy, gender diversity, class

Advocacy through heritage: promoting built environment quality, conservation and sustainability

+ The counterfactual

What if? What next? So what? Exploring the historical consequences of choices

Feedback loops: architectural history’s impact on architecture


Work submitted for review and publication in the Conference Proceedings should be original research that has not been previously published elsewhere, or work that has undergone substantial development from a prior publication.



Kate Hislop (UWA, Convener)

Philip Goldswain (UWA)

Hannah Lewi (U.Melb)

Sarah McGann (Notre Dame, WA)

Bill Taylor (UWA)

John Ting (UC)

Peter Scriver (U.Adelaide)

Lee Stickells (U.Syd)

Nicole Sully (UQ)

Christopher Vernon (UWA)

Nigel Westbrook (UWA)


Image courtesy of Hannah Lewi

The 37th SAHANZ Conference was held 18-25 November 2020 in Perth, Australia, and online. Keynote speaker: Tim Winter.



SAHANZ conference proceedings are subject to copyright protections. Please read the Disclaimer and Copyright Notice.