UK Construction History Conference

IMG_1907You could get used to that, right?  Cambridge University’s Queens College hosted the UK’s first (!) national conference on Construction History last week.  I attended it largely as an ambassador from the US (a loftier title than I really deserve), but also because this was the site of the 2006 Congress, and as you can see it’s a place that deserves repeated visits.  That’s the “mathematical bridge” to the right, itself a key piece of historic construction, with Powell and Moya’s more recent Fitzpatrick Hall to the left.

The conference was, as these things are, fascinating.  Topics ranged from fishing shacks in northern Spain to historic mortar composition to oil platforms in the North Sea–as always, it was hard to pick between sessions, let alone centuries.  Two keynotes–by Richard Harris and Mark Wilson-Jones–looked at dendrochronology in dating timber roof construction and at Greek and Roman construction.  Wilson-Jones went through his utterly convincing explanation of the Pantheon’s double pediments, which was a fantastic high-wire act to see in person, even for those of us who had read the original argument (he attributes them to a…erm…supply chain-driven on-site decision, and can back it up with details of brick joints that support a very non-standard but very believable chronology).

There were about 100 attendees, from throughout northern Europe (and two others from the States).  All in all, encouraging, especially as there was real enthusiasm for 5ICCH in Chicago next year.  We’re hoping that the mix includes the brilliant European scholarship on evidence last weekend, as well as the (equally brilliant) work being done in the U.S.  These things are always mixers in the best way–you never know what language you’ll hear next to you at meals.  This was–surprisingly–the first actual National Conference in the UK, though there is a long history of regional ones, and the interest and attendance make it likely that they’ll adopt the US model of biennial meetings.

IMG_1909Speaking of which, the instigators of the four previous Congresses and I met afterwards to coordinate plans for Chicago.  I don’t get to hang out with rock stars very often, but an afternoon with Robert Carvais, Werner Lorenz, James Campbell, and Santiago Huerta seemed historic enough to merit documentation.  “We look like Supertramp,” noted one of my colleagues.   We’re certainly grateful that they’ve been willing to share their considerable experiences in getting previous Congresses put together so successfully–and to help spread the word.  They’ve all set very high bars, and we’re hoping Chicago lives up to Madrid, Cambridge, Cottbus, and Paris.

A fantastic weekend, great to be in the company of such diverse, intense scholarship and conversation.

Oh, and there was some of this:


5th International Congress on Construction History–Call for Papers

5th International Congress on Construction History

Chicago, June 3-7, 2015

Call for Abstracts

We invite researchers and practitioners from all aspects of the history of construction to submit paper abstracts for the 5th International Congress on Construction History, to be held in Chicago and hosted by the Construction History Society of America June 3-7, 2015. The congress follows on successful interdisciplinary congresses held in Madrid (2003), Cambridge UK (2006), Cottbus (2009), and Paris (2012).

Paper and Presentation Proposals

Papers will be published in the Congress proceedings and will be presented by the authors at the Congress. Each paper proposal must include:

  • a title,
  • authors’ names and institutional affiliations,
  • an abstract of 400 words,
  • key words (selected, if possible, from the list of topics and subjects),
  • a one-page curriculum vitae indicating contact information, status, laboratory affiliation if relevant, and publications or other relevant work for each author.

Papers presented at the congress will be published in both electronic and paper versions. All papers and presentations must be in English. Please contact with any questions.


Submission: Submit proposals to by June 1, 2014.


Paper topics may include:


History and construction of specific projects

History of the building trades or specific builders

Organization of construction work

Wages and the economics of construction

The development of building codes and regulations

Trade unions and guilds

Structural analysis and the development of structural forms

Development of construction tools, cranes, scaffolding, etc

Building techniques in response to their environments

Building materials, their history, production and use


History of services (heating, lighting etc.) in buildings

The changing role of the professions in construction

Building archaeology

Computer simulation, experimentation and reconstruction

Use of construction history for dating of historic fabric

Recording, preservation and conservation

Construction in architectural writing

The role of construction history in education

The bibliography of construction history

The theory and practice of construction history


Important Dates:

Deadline for abstracts: June 1, 2014

Abstract decision notification: August 15, 2014

Deadline for paper submission: February 1, 2015

Deadline for final papers: March 31, 2015

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