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Paperwork and Wordcraft: Institutionality at IAUS


Alex Maymind

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June 21, 2023

This paper examines the bureaucratic management of the Institute of Architecture and Urban Studies (IAUS) through the lens of tacit knowledge as manifest in an analysis of paperwork and wordcraft. Specifically an examination of the “little tools of knowledge”– the self-evident and mundane administrative tools–reveals the epistemological foundations and specific character of the institute as distinct from and similar to others in the same milieu, and positions it within a larger phenomenon of similar agencies, activities, and groups. Archival documents attest to a self-aware bureaucratic and representational medium in a state of flux as IAUS attempted to accommodate multiple and often conflicting modes of work, funding, and directions in order to stake out a productive territory in a landscape of similar institutes, all of which were competing for prestige, legitimation, attention, student participants, and dollars. An examination of these documents through multiple parallel trajectories that are not strictly chronological mirrors the manner in which the institute functioned, not as a cohesive entity, but as a contradictory one, as overlapping concerns struggled to find priority during the course of its brief history. This archival analysis forms the basis of a counterhistory in which the institution itself is considered as an abstract author in the larger context of New York City and beyond, determined by and determining of a variety of forces beyond the individual’s control.

This paper will be presented at the TACK Conference in the paper session ACTORS, 21 June 2023 between 09:30 – 12:00 (CEST) at ETH Zürich (Auditorium HPV G5).

Alex Maymind is an assistant professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. He is an architectural historian, educator, and designer who works on architectural institutions and pedagogy in the context of the American research economy after 1968.