Architecture, Culture and Modernity

The main focus of this research group is the multiple ways architecture absorbed and responded to the conditions of modernity, in particular the emergence of a mass society and related urbanisation processes, new forms of (democratic) government systems, and concomitant issues of subject-formation, emancipation and citizens' empowerment.

OMA, competition entry town hall The Hague, 1986-87, © OMA – AMO c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2021 (Collectie Het Nieuwe Instituut)

Architecture is autonomous in its disciplinary development, while simultaneously, it is also engaged in urgent societal questions as a practice. Architecture encompasses design, research, and history and theory, and is embedded in a wider discursive, cultural field. The interrelations between political economy, democracy and aesthetics are therefore of special interest to the group, just as practices of inclusion and care, and the specific notion of an open society, in which critique and rationality are key in terms of value and a mode of operation.

Research work is developed through micro-histories and epistemological studies, and design and plan analysis of precedents. The historical-theoretical dimensions of the research and the specific practice of discourse analysis brings a strong interest in archival and media studies and their methodologies.

Research interests

  • Long lines of developments of the modern era since 1800, with an emphasis on the period post-1945, and how these lines continue to impact the way we think, use and produce buildings and cities;
  • Architecture discourse, its media and disciplinary institutions; 
  • How architecture embodies a multitude of traditions and epistemologies, through its development along various historical and geographical vectors;
  • An understanding of architecture as embedded, cross- and transcultural;
  • An interest in the ways architecture operates within a multitude of societal forces;
  • The study of historical and contemporary case studies as precedents and paradigms of operative architectural knowledge.
  • The historical-theoretical dimensions of the research and the specific practice of discourse analysis brings a strong interest in archival and media studies and their methodologies, including the new field of digital humanities.

Subjects and themes

  • Revisions of the modern (the historical body of knowledge of the architecture discipline): projects, realizations and conjectures, texts and methods;
  • Architecture of the welfare state, the neo-liberal condition and its contestations;
  • Formations of domesticity and housing policies, in relation to financialisation and territorialization of housing;
  • Urban renewal, ecologies and environmental thinking;
  • Inclusive and intersectional approaches to architectural design, research, and histories;
  • Roles of the architect: participation, agencies, new forms of practice;
  • Design knowledge production and its disseminations, globally and locally.

Public programme

The group collaborates closely with the Jaap Bakema Study Centre and Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam, which holds the National Collection for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning. This collaboration leads to a natural interest in questions of museology, in the way research and archives are connected, and in the possible formats of public presentations, especially exhibitions. Together with the Jaap Bakema Study Centre and Het Nieuwe Instituut, the group accommodates a special PhD-programme 'Architecture and Democracy'.

Projects