Interdisciplinary Colloquia

To unpack the key question of how building is to be categorised in its cultural and technical significance within different historical and cultural contexts, an interdisciplinary colloquium on these central themes is organised every one to two years. These represent fundamental aspects of the ‘Cultural and Technological Significance of Historic Buildings’ cross-cutting theme and are particularly suited for interdisciplinary discussions. The two- to three-day interdisciplinary colloquia are intended to produce a complex, innovative overall view of the phenomenon of construction, as well as the historical epistemology of specialised research, and particularly resonate for the dissertations of the Research Training Group.

Fifth Interdisciplinary Colloquium “Shifting Values – Processes, Strategies and Conflicts in the Built Environment”

25–29 September 2019, Cottbus

Call for Papers

Valuating the built environment is always part of a process of valuation influenced by political, economic and social circumstances. With the fifth interdisciplinary colloquium at BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg, the Research Training Group 1913 Cultural and Technological Significance of Historic Buildings will focus specifically on the changing valuation of the built environment.

Ever since antiquity, negotiating values has been part of philosophy and, with the advent of capitalisation of the modern world, theories of valuation have been discussed explicitly since the 19th century. Generally, values can be defined as something, which “for various reasons is being singled out from reality and presents itself as desirable and necessary for him, who valuates”[1].

Values direct human behaviour, which is always oriented towards the future and therefore imbued with uncertainty. Valuation bridges the gap between knowledge and action. Planning processes in particular are always linked to valuation, because they are directed towards the future and values are fundamental for the necessary decision making processes. At the same time, preservation and adaptation of built structures are based on long-existing patterns of thinking and deeply ingrained value systems.[2] Phenomena of shifting values can be observed when planning from scratch, when changing existing structures, during renovation and structural reinforcement.

At the interdisciplinary colloquium, processes of value appropriation, value internalisation and the (individual) formation of values will be discussed using specific examples from construction and planning history. These processes can range from antiquity to the present time and should be discussed using an interdisciplinary approach. The colloquium would like to specifically engage disciplines such as archaeology, architecture, construction history, architectural conservation, engineering, art history, sociology of space, urban and regional planning.

The following cross-disciplinary questions, which should be applicable to the built environment, outline the research interest of the conference:

  • Which historic, social, political, and economical influences or events change the societal consensus about what is valuable?
  • What are the reasons and motives for re-valuating built structures and what are the consequences resulting from this? How can scientific and technological findings elicit a shift in values?
  • If such scientific and technological changes entail surges of shifting values, what is the potential for the future they bring and what crises can they generate?

Different aspects of a shift in values of the built environment should be looked at more closely against a backdrop of four different domains suggested by the conference organisers in order to hone in on these questions.

PHENOMENA – Is it values that are shifting or rather value attributions?

Before being able to more closely consider processes of change, shifting values have to be identified and conditions, which bring about such processes, determined: Subjective freedom and reflection produce „ever new history- and society-supporting values and structure-conserving measures“[3], triggering ever new shifts in values.

  • Can all values be subject to change? Are there value attributions able to resist change?
  • In what sense can shifts in meaning be identified and what are the patterns they follow?
  • How can values and value shifts be identified and researched by examining objects and phenomena?

PROCESSES – What are the processes evident in value shifts?

Honing in on valuation processes can illustrate how decisions – that is attributions of value – are being brought about. Agents should be looked at as subjects of value and the built environment as object of value. At the same time, the grounds decisions are being based on should be assessed and compared and the implications of these decisions analysed.

  • Which processes can be observed when shifts in values take place? Can specific dynamics be attributed to these?
  • What are the roles taken on by different agents (subjects and objects) in the process of shifting values?
  • How can the tension between individual and societal shifts in values be described?

STRATEGIES – What role do mediating instruments play in value shifts?

Values as a result of a process of valuation usually lead actions and thus influence surroundings and themselves. In order to communicate changed values, different strategies of instrumentalisation and means of communication such as media, historiography, advertising, propaganda or lobbying are being used.

  • What are the means – i.e. instruments and strategies – applied in collective and individualised processes of valorisation?
  • What role did and do text and image, for instance, and the media in general, play in processes of shifting attribution of value?
  • How do interest and opinion groups use strategies and instruments to affect a change in values?

CONFLICTS – How are conflicting values being dealt with?

Different value systems can co-exist in a society and complement each other (pluralism of values) or dramatically contradict each other. Conflicts of values resulting from this can bring about considerable potential (material and other) for destruction, or lead to complete re-valuation.

  • How do negotiating processes for conflicting and contradicting values work?
  • Do compromises in value attributions always mean a de-valuation on the one side and an up-valuation on the other or is there scope for a win-win value?
  • Within processes of value formation and value shifts, what is the ratio between top-down interventions and collective bottom-up processes of forming opinions?

We welcome abstracts in German or English for presentations (max. 20 minutes long), commenting on the issues described. Please submit your abstract (max. 2500 characters) with a short CV (max. 500 characters) by 15 May 2019 to dfg-graduiertenkolleg-1913(at)b-tu.de.

We will let you know by 1 July 2019 whether your application has been successful. Travel and accommodation expenses can be covered by us for all speakers of the conference. Conference findings are going to be published by Birkhäuser in 2020 as part of the Research Training Group’s publication series Kulturelle und technische Werte historischer Bauten.


[1]             Baran, Pavel: Werte, 806, in: Europäische Enzyklopädie für Philosophie und Wissenschaft, published by Sandkühler, Hans Jörg, Bd. 4, R–Z, Hamburg 1990, 805–815.

[2]             Starick, Anja: Kulturelle Werte von Landschaft als Gegenstand der Landschaftsplanung, Dissertation Technische Universität Dresden, Institut für Landschaftsarchitektur, Dresden 2015, 12.

[3]                  Erpenbeck, John: Wertungen, Werte. Das Buch der Grundlagen für Bildung und Organisationsentwicklung, Berlin 2018, 2.