D 1 – The Image of Architects: Constructions of the Subject and Social Notions of Order between Enlightenment and Modernity
A group portrait of Scottish architects, including William Fraser (man with mustache standing, center), ca. 1890, Photographer unknown. CC-BY-SA 4.0.

SECTION D – Order as Subjectification

D 1 – The Image of Architects: Constructions of the Subject and Social Notions of Order between Enlightenment and Modernity

Sarah Borree , Carsten Ruhl

Art History Institute at the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main

Hardly any other profession is defined by such contradictory characterizations as architecture. In the course of the last 500 years, architects have been considered Uomo Universale (“universal man”), Enlightenment philosopher, artist, historian, social engineer, expert, technician, scientist, demiurge, visionary, dandy, manager, curator or criminalist. The foreign and self-designs associated with these roles have so far received only rudimentary attention. Strategies of the habitual, mimetic or performative adaptation of the architect in political-scientific discourses are not taken into account in architectural-historical research contributions, nor is the significance that the image of the architect has for the legitimization of order and the concepts of subjectivity embedded in it. By focusing on the image of the architect as an orientation parameter in social subject-forming processes, this subproject proposes a new perspective. Instead of a professional or social history in the classical sense, it is primarily interested in processes of subject construction in and through architecture. Assuming that architecture is capable of shaping the social imagination like no other discipline, one could reasonably argue that it serves in a variety of ways to enforce political, legal, technical, institutional or scientific norms and orders. The project pursues the thesis that this applies not only to the physical presence of the building, but also to the images of architects identified with it.

The subproject focuses on the following questions: In what sense can images of architects be understood as part of a general societal practice of life building and what part do they play in an intersubjective under-standing of societal models of order and their implementation? Can the practice of designing itself be understood in this sense as a media formation process of social subject formation? What significance does the image of architects have for the order of subject-forming processes in modernity and which figures of image control underlie these processes?


Publications on the project topic (selection):

Ruhl, Carsten: “Zur gesellschaftlichen Lage der Architektur”, in: WestEnd, Neue Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, 02 – 2020, pp. 25-42.