Autofocus’16 – From Darwin to Dissanayake

From Darwin to Dissanayake

Our deep, ancestral past continues to live on in humans of today, despite the vast changes in our modern way of life. What universities now call science, art, and humanities were originally embedded in human nature as a single world view, instilled through ritual ceremonies in which everyone participated. Although our contemporary approach to understanding the world is different, similar biological capacities and needs underlie our investigations.

Autofocus Research Seminars on ArchitecturePhilosophyNeurosciences are designed to provide a cross-disciplinary forum for considering the universal cognitive and emotional foundations of our individual and cultural lives in biological and social environments. Our first international academic event, From Darwin to Dissanayake, will consider the nature of the arts particularly as they relate to the built environment and architectural theories. To this end, our special guests are authors Ellen Dissanayake and Harry Francis Mallgrave (whose chapter title in a recent book gave us the name for our seminar).

Ellen Dissanayake’s unique writings use an ethological, Darwinian approach that considers art as something that people do (“make special” or “artify”) rather than as the standard focus on “works of art.” Her cross-disciplinary studies include paleoarchaeology, developmental psychology, neuroscience, anthropology, and aesthetic philosophy, all of which are relevant to answering questions such as “What is art?” and “Why does art exist in every human society, past and present?” Harry Francis Mallgrave’s presentation will link the history of architectural history to the architect’s brain, introducing an embodied neural domain for design theory as embodiment and architecture.

The speakers will invite discussion on philosophical issues that underpin relations usually subsumed as “practice vs. theory”—that is a recasting of design theory from “the objects as subject” to “the agent as subject,” as Mallgrave puts it.

Join the Autofocus Facebook group for further updates. Any further questions can be sent to:

Keynote Speakers

Ellen Dissanayake – University of Washington
Harry Francis Mallgrave – Illinois Institute of Technology


António Amorim – University of Porto FCUP, i3s, IPATIMUP
João Relvas – University of Porto FCUPi3s
José Miguel Rodrigues – University of Porto FAUP
Sofia Miguens – University of Porto FLUPIF-UP, MLAG


November 8 – 14:30 Auditório Fernando Távora at FAUP (Faculty of Architecture)
November 9 – 14:30 Sala de Reuniões at FLUP (Faculty of Arts)

Organizing Committee

Ana Luísa Sá – FAUP, PhD Candidate
Diana Couto – FLUP, MA
Gustavo Gava – PUCPR
Isabel Marques – FLUP, Secretariat, Communication&Contact
João Lemos – FLUP
José Pedro Correia – FLUP, PhD Candidate
Luís Veríssimo – FLUP, PhD Candidate
Maria Matos Graça – FLUP
Patrícia Remelgado – FLUP, pPorto
Pedro Borges de Araújo – FLUP, IF-UP Researcher, MLAG, Autofocus Project Coordinator
Sofia Miguens – FLUP, IF-UP, MLAG Research Coordinator


Registration is free and can be done here in advance, or at the venue. Online registration is required to ensure the availability of documentation and other workshop material.