Excerpt from The Roles We Play, Sabba Khan (Myriad Editions, 2021)
Excerpt from The Roles We Play, Sabba Khan (Myriad Editions, 2021)

This call for papers invites scholars, practitioners and researchers to submit papers on the inter-disciplinary topic of Comics and Architecture, for a conference to be held at the Moulsecoomb Campus of the University of Brighton on Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd September 2023.

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), as well as a chapter on the topic in The Routledge Companion on Architecture, Literature and The City, Arana, K.L. (2018). 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) 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, Asterios Polyp, and Batman: Death by Design. Graphic novels Building Stories, Here, and The Voice of the Hall are concerned with individual buildings, while Yes is More 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),  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). Magazines and journals on this interdisciplinary topic have included the work of Archigram in the 1960s, and in recent years MAS Context #20 and Critical Inquiry 41. 2 (University of Chicago).

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 you 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
Building models and dolls houses as a storytelling method

Please submit a 300 word abstract on the topic you would like to explore as a paper at Graphic Brighton, plus a brief biography, to Alex Fitch (a.r.fitch at brighton.ac.uk) and Barbara Chamberlin (b.j.chamberlin at brighton.ac.uk) by Friday 23rd June.

As mentioned above, alongside the presentation of academic papers, comic book practitioners will also be in attendance to discuss their work. Confirmed guests (so far) for this year’s Graphic Brighton include Karrie Fransman (The House that Groaned), Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), Sabba Khan (The Roles We Play), Clarrie Pope (Welcome Home) and Zara Slattery (Coma).

Conference organisers:
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.

Graphic Brighton 2023: Graphic Architecture is sponsored by Design Star Centre for Doctoral Training (AHRC).