Annual Theme

2021: Built Order

The architecture of the space around us has a considerable influence on our everyday lives. However, the resulting layout is rarely accidental and unintentional. Architects who design government and administrative buildings, urban spaces, libraries or other built structures have always been guided by the aesthetic as well as functional requirements and needs that are placed on the buildings and architectures they design. The result is architecturally manifested space that intends to reflect and constitute political-social orders and ideals or designed with regard to specific forms of exercising and securing power. As part of its annual theme of 2021 “Built Order”, the LOEWE research project “Architectures of Order: Practices and Discourses between Design and Knowledge” will deal with various spaces of power in the first half of the year and investigate the interrelationship of architectural and spatial with political and social orders as well as cultural practices.

The starting point for the thematic orientation of the second half of the year, “Storing Knowledge,” is the observation that architecture configures knowledge spatially and thus plays a significant role in the modulation, enforcement, canonization and institutionalization of epistemic models. Archives, libraries, museums and universities can be understood as materialized knowledge orders: the knowledge that is collected, selected, ordered, indexed and mediated in these places is framed spatially. The project will investigate the extent to which the concrete architectural framing has an effect on organizational or knowledge structures.

In 2021, we want to approach these topics through a variety of event formats – including lectures, panel discussions and workshops – and will include historical and theoretical perspectives as well as those from archival and construction practices.

2022: Designing Order

The annual theme is dedicated to the architectural design process and its contemporary relevance and historical diversity, whereby both the structuring concepts of order as well as the new ideas of order created by it are the focus of interest. Architectural design is understood as a process shaped by experience and values, by practical, technical, social, and legal frameworks. Each design imagines the future and represents an attempt to create a new spatial – and thus for the most part also social – order. This projective access to the as yet unknown and unthought is always based on planning conventions, structural standards, legal requirements and established architectural, urban and social concepts that are placed in relation to one another, reconsidered and dynamized in the design process. How does design structure the interaction of these distinct and heterogeneous factors? What role do the economic and political conditions or norms play, and what role do the tools or media of design play? And finally: to what extent does the architectural design process play a key role in the analysis of societal regulatory practices?

Increasing digitalization and the technological innovations that have accompanied it have contributed to far-reaching transformations of architectural design processes over the last few decades. Crises like the global pandemic and the climate crisis are currently changing the way we live together and our approaches to (spatial) resources; whether – and if so, how – they stimulate new architectural thinking and design remains to be clarified.

The annual theme for 2022, “Designing Order”, is divided into two main topics and is accompanied by an in-depth lecture series with roundtables and a workshop. While the first half of the year is devoted to the question, “How does order come into the design process?”, the second half of the year examines the interrelationship between design processes and their specific design objects.

2023: Order/Chaos

The fourth project year will serve to provisionally specify the insights gained and to discuss further questions that will be the focus of subsequent projects. This is to be achieved through the polarizing juxtaposition of figures of order and chaos. After all, structures of order often only become visible when they are contrasted with their criticism, deconstruction or strategic subversion. The project’s conceptualization of architecture as a mechanism for a better understanding of social practices of order should thus be convincingly outlined.

A final international conference with the working title “The Architecture of (Dis)Order: Plan or Chaos” is planned for 2023.

2020: Architecture as Metaphor

We commonly and ubiquitously use architectural metaphors in both everyday speech as well as various professional contexts. Yet we rarely, if at all, register this connection when we talk, for example, about software architects, thought constructs, pillars of society, the architecture of the brain or the façade a person puts up. At the same time, metaphors also feature prominently in the fields of architecture and urbanism, where they are being used for the development of design concepts and provide useful means to communicate, discuss and evaluate design features. Examples range from crystalline buildings to the fabric of a city, but also include Le Corbusier’s infamous description of houses as ‘machines for living in.’

This research project aims to explore metaphors as productive mediators in processes of knowledge transfer between the fields of architecture and everyday knowledges and between architectural and other professional discourses. It thus contributes to a broader investigation of architecture as a cultural practice of ordering.

Metaphors, to us, provide a lens that allows us to zoom in on and examine the involvement of architecture in processes of social ordering. Our premise is that metaphors are not merely explanatory in their function but instead interfere with epistemological thought and production processes. Metaphors rely on the incongruity between a particular term and the context within which it is being deployed, creating a space of continuous re-interpretation. The meaning of a metaphor thus oscillates between the body of knowledge from which the metaphor stems and that within which it is used. Through transferring aspects of one field’s body of knowledge to another, metaphors disseminate and thereby consolidate social or disciplinary hierarchies, norms, and protocols inscribed in the original body of knowledge. This consequently raises questions regarding the ways in which architecture as a practice of ordering interrelates with societal as well as disciplinary structures, orders, and knowledges. Hence, we are not only interested in the connection between different fields, but also different forms of knowledge that metaphors can facilitate and how this relates to architecture.

The first year of the project ended with the interdisciplinary conference “Architektur_Metapher”, which took place on 5-7 November 2020.

Annual Theme
After Sébastien Leclerc: Die Akademie der Künste und Wissenschaften, 17th century, 255x381mm © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main.