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Spring 2022
From the Architecture of Bureaucracy to the Ideological Shadow Zones of Technocracy: Special Topics in Architectural History

Bulletin du Comité national belge de l’organisation scientifique, 1939 (nos 9-10)

This seminar will focus on two main topics. First, we will consider a phenomenon that has recently been dubbed the “shadow zones” of architecture and their creators. These “shadow zones” are ideological beliefs and ideals than run counter to the notion of “humanism”, and that – precisely for this reason – often have been ignored or overlooked in architectural historiography. Both classes offer an exploration of such “zones” in the interwar period, investigating the work of Le Corbusier and Ernst Neufert respectively. Even though Le Corbusier is one of the most-studied architects of the twentieth century, architectural historiography has often analysed the architect’s work in a formalist vacuum, thereby reducing his political-ideological beliefs to an irrelevant backdrop for the singular work of a genius. It is clear, however, that Le Corbusier’s visions cannot be understood without taking into account the enormous appeal that political-ideological concepts such as fascism, “strong state power”, and “planism” had during the interwar period.

Second, we will investigate the “architecture of bureaucracy”. On the one hand, we will explore the history of one of the quintessential building types of the twentieth century: the office building. By closely investigating architectural and managerial ideas in unison, we will be able to analyse office spaces from the first half of the century as “techno-organizational complexes”, in which norms on “ideal work routines”, “ideal leadership”, and “ideal employees” were reflected. Essential elements in this analysis are principles such as distrust, hierarchy, and “moral panic” (all in relation to lower class groups and women). On the other hand, our investigation of the “architecture of bureaucracy” will lead us to the buildings designed for governmental bureaucracies, such as ministries and transnational organizations (e.g. League of Nations, UN, European Union). Here, essential analytical concepts will be the notions of representation, (anti-)monumentality, determinism, and opacity vs. transparency.

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