Giving an Account of Oneself: Architecturally

In 2014 Cornell University set up an ethics hotline using regulatory compliance software provided by US-based Corporation EthicsPoint, Inc to provide ‘a simple, anonymous way to confidentially report activities that may involve certain improper conduct or violations of Cornell University’s Policies’. This is but one indication of how ethical concerns have risen up the agenda in current institutional cultures, manifest in universities as well as the built environment professions, and taking the form of new ethical codes, policies and procedures, as well as the establishment of think tanks and commissions for debating ethical practice. My own ‘practice of ethics’ began back in January 2013, when I questioned UCL’s decision to accept $10 million of funding from the Anglo-Australian multinational mining and petroleum company BHP Billiton to create an International Energy Policy Institute in Adelaide, and the Institute for Sustainable Resources in London at the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, of which I was then Vice Dean of Research.

My questions started a process which is figured here as a site-writing, articulated through two registers: bios – a set of diary entries noting personal anxieties and hopes related to my institutional role at UCL, and logos – an attempt to relate these issues to the development of my own intellectual work and concepts concerning ethics and critique generated by others.

Professor Jane Rendell, Professor of Architecture and Art and Vice Dean of Research at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. She is a leading UK researcher concerned with research ethics and building ethical know-how in Architecture and the creative disciplines. Rendell trained and practiced as an architectural designer first, before studying for an MSc and PhD in feminist architectural history. Her practice is interdisciplinary, and crosses architecture, art, feminism, history and psychoanalysis. It concerns how human subjects experience and encounter spaces. Rendell’s publications include over 100 essays, and a number of authored books, such as Site-Writing (2010), Art and Architecture (2006) and The Pursuit of Pleasure (2002), and co-edited collections like Pattern (2007), Critical Architecture (2007), Spatial Imagination (2005), The Unknown City (2001), Intersections (2000), Gender, Space, Architecture (1999) and Strangely Familiar (1995). Her most recent book concerns transitional spaces in architecture and psychoanalysis and she is currently working on topics that deal directly with ethical issues, focusing on actions of displacement in mining and housing.

Professor Rendell is chair of the Bartlett Ethics Working Group, which is leading the Bartlett’s input to UCL’s new Cultures of Integrity initiative.

Professor Rendell’s lecture has been generously supported by the Macgeorge Bequest.