Oral history is as old as history itself and might be considered the first kind of history. The intensive modern use of oral history is, however, relatively new, certainly when it comes to the historiography of modern architecture. This themed Fabrications issue, which was guest edited by Janina Gosseye, set out to explore issues of knowledge generation relating to architecture through the use of oral history on the one hand, and to investigate the operational aspects of this methodology within the discipline on the other. The call for papers thus put forth a myriad of questions, including: What specific types of information are disclosed through the use of oral history? Does the increasing popularity of oral history feed into the critical regionalism bias, offering a more diversified and often more place-based understanding of postwar modernism or does it conversely support claims of growing globalisation in modern architecture? How might oral history unsettle the very foundations of architectural historiography? How does the positioning of the interviewer vis-à-vis the interviewee affect the outcome of oral history? In short, what does oralhistory contribute to the understanding of modern architecture and how much might be “lost in conversation”?

The resulting collection of papers presented in this themed issue offer a scholarly insight into different research projects that have used oral history as a method. Each of the papers offers a candid reflection on the methodology’s strengths and weaknesses. Although the contributions are quite distinct, there are three aspects that they all – explicitly or implicitly – address: who talks, who asks and what is said.

Janina Gosseye, “Lost in Conversation, Constructing the Oral History of Modern Architecture – Editorial”, Fabrications, 24: 4 (2014): 147-155. DOI: 10.1080/10331867.2014.964792

Janina Gosseye wrote an extensive introduction/ editorial for this theme issue, which can be read here.