A call for papers has just gone out to scholars, practitioners and researchers to submit papers on the inter-disciplinary topic of Comics and Architecture, for the upcoming Graphic Brighton conference, to be held at the Moulsecoomb Campus of the University of Brighton on Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd September 2023.
Alongside the presentation of academic papers, comic book practitioners at Graphic Brighton this year, confirmed so far, include Karrie Fransman (The House that Groaned), Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), Sabba Khan (The Roles We Play), Clarrie Pope (Welcome Home) and Zara Slattery (Coma). Graphic Brighton is being organised by Alex Fitch and Barbara Chamberlin.
The inter-disciplinary potential of comic books and architecture is something that is gradually being investigated by the academy, a field termed ‘Graphic Architecture’ (Lockhart 2014). Titles which explicitly explore the intersection between the two disciplines include Comics and the City: Urban space in print, picture and sequence, Ahrens, J. R. and A. Meteling (2010), Bricks & Balloons: Architecture in Comic-Strip Form, Hoorn, M. V. D. (2012), Cómic, Arquitectura Narrativa, Bordes, E. (2017) and Urban Comics: Infrastructure and the Global City in Contemporary Graphic Narratives, Davies, D. (2019).
There have also been exhibitions of architectural comics in London (Sequential City at Anise Gallery, 2015) and Canada (Architecture+Comics at Winnipeg Architecture Foundation, 2019) in galleries that promote architecture themed artworks.
There have only been a couple of international symposiums looking at this topic – Graphic Novels / Novel Architecture at Kent State University College of Architecture & Environmental Design (2016) and ‘L’édifice dans les cases: Le décor monumental en bande dessinée’ at the University of Picardie Jules Verne in Amiens (2018) – and so Graphic Brighton 2023 proposes to be the first British conference to look at architecture themed comics, and the many topics that this theme can be connected with.
A number of comic creators have backgrounds as architects, including Alison Sampson, Owen Pomery and Sabba Khan, and architectural bandes dessinées writer Benoît Peeters (Les Cités Obscures), who has recently lectured on graphic fiction at Lancaster University. While architecture is ubiquitously found as the backdrop of superhero comics (set mainly in the built environment, often New York City), there are graphic novels about famous architects – such as Robert Moses and Eileen Gray – plus tales of fictional architects in such titles as Mister X by Dean Motter, Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli, and Batman: Death by Design, by
by Chip Kidd and Dave Taylor.
Graphic novels such as Chris Ware’s Building Stories, Richard McGuire’s Here, and Sean Azzopardi’s The Voice of the Hall are concerned with individual buildings, while Yes is More by Bjarke Ingels and Julius Knipl are narratives about architectural photography.
Architects themselves have used comic book imagery to promote their work over the years, from Le Corbusier’s “Letter to Mme Meyer” (1925), to the work of Archigram in the 1960s, Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau in their book S, M, L, XL (1995), and C.J. Lim and Ed Liu in their revised smartcities, resilient landscapes + eco-warriors (2019).
With all the above in mind, Graphic Brighton 2023 invites scholars, academics and practitioners working in the fields of architecture, comic studies and related disciplines to propose papers about the intersection of these fields. As with previous iterations of Graphic Brighton, we expect the line-up of the conference to include talks, panels and workshops by academics and comic book practitioners.
Topics scholars, practitioners and researchers might like to consider include, but are not limited to: architecture, comics and world-building; using comics to understand building use and purpose; architecture, comics and communities; comics and sustainable development; comics, architecture and social justice; using comics to explore real and imagined space; comics and stained-glass narratives in churches; building stories and stories of buildings; the cityscape as narrative design; architectural comics as social commentary; architectural comics as microcosms of lost worlds on the page; the comic book creator as flâneur; the architecture of the comics page; architects and the use of comics to disseminate ideas; and building models and dolls houses as a storytelling method.
Alex Fitch teaches in the School of Architecture, Technology and Engineering, and the School of Art and Media at the University of Brighton, is pursuing a PhD on The Depiction of Architecture in Comic Books and has been published on this topic by Cambridge Scholars, Studies in Comics, and McFarland. He also presents the UK’s only regular broadcast radio show about comics.
Barbara Chamberlin is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Brighton and teaches comics and creative writing at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. She is pursuing a practice-based PhD at University of the Arts London that fuses folklore, witchcraft and collaboration in papercut comics using walking as key to the creative process.
• If you would like to submit a Paper for consideration at Graphic Brighton, please submit a 300 word abstract on the topic you would like to explore, plus a brief biography, to Alex Fitch (email@example.com) and Barbara Chamberlin (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Friday 23rd June.
• There’s more information about previous Graphic Brighton events at graphicbrighton.wordpress.com
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