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hortence is the Research Centre for architectural history, theory and criticism of the Faculty of Architecture La Cambre Horta of the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB). Established in 2008, hortence counts at present more than twenty members. The personality of hortence is characterized by its members – academics, researchers, PhD students and practising architects – who all engage critically with the history and theory of modern and contemporary architecture.

As such, hortence gathers distinct areas of research strength, in particular regarding
‣ heritage studies of 20th-century architecture in Belgium;
‣ the study of mediation in architecture;
‣ the history of architectural theory and criticism;
‣ the study of architectural pedagogies;
‣ research through and by architectural design;
‣ architecture and genre.

hortence also seeks as much as possible to enhance, diffuse and to question its research through the organization of workshops, conferences, colloquia, exhibitions as well as through publications. These activities of research and service to the community reflect the engagement of its members with teaching courses on the history, theory and criticism of architecture; a.o. the research seminar on research methodologies concerning architectural theory, the design studio HTC, and the study groups (“options”) HTC, Restoration and heritage DOCOMOMO and Archives.


The “degree zero of architectural writing” in Bruno Zevi’s historiographical and critical work: overcoming the antagonism between “high” and “low” architecture.

From the 1960s to the 1980s on an international scale, architects studied the recent developments in the field of semiology to seek a way out of the  crisis of modern architecture. Bruno Zevi (1918-2000), a leading 20th century Italian architect, historian and critic, proclaimed that the search for a "zero degree of architectural writing" was the only way for architects to overcome this ideological and stylistic impasse. He continued to defend this idea from 1973 to 1997 and borrowed the theory of the degré zéro de l’écriture, also known as "neutral" or "white" writing, from Roland Barthes, a French philosopher and semiologist, who had a major influence throughout the intellectual world during this time. This new form of writing, as envisioned by Roland Barthes, was to be devoid of all external meaning, free of the weight of language and style, and to have the ability to transcend the conflicts embedded in the history of language between popular and literary language. 
Based on the work of Bruno Zevi, this project aims to investigate the ways in which the notion of a "degree zero" of writing influenced the historiography of modern and postmodern architecture. It will address a gap in the existing literature on the last three decades of Zevi’s career which have  received very little attention in comparison to his early work. Of central importance in this phase of his career was his  argument for a "degree zero" in architecture - understood as an architecture free of all dogmas and questioning the status quo -  in response to the important debate on the conflict between high and low architecture in the second half of the twentieth century.