Architecture without history is as unthinkable as cultural identity without memory.
Architecture always arises in a concrete historical and cultural situation; it reflects the architectural ideas and possibilities of this situation and preserves them as a document that can still be read in later times.
The history of architecture familiarizes us with historical architecture and its cultural context. It deals with questions of architectural history, the history of ideas and the construction history and their manifold interrelationships. By means of precise observation and analysis of historical architecture and its context, the history of building formulates questions that investigate the complex framework conditions of the actual formation of form: Questions about the political, social and economic environment of architecture, about the authorship and ideological basis of the design, about the significance of a form and the change of this significance in the historical process, about the material and structural resources - building history is thus always also design history.
In addition, the history of building gives the architect an insight into the history of his profession and serves as a corrective for determining his own position in society. Dealing with the history of construction is therefore an important and necessary stage on the way to a well-founded, reflective attitude to design.
The history of building deals with historical architecture from the point of view of the architect, who learned to design, plan and construct himself during his training; in addition, the preservation of historical monuments provides both the intellectual foundations and the methodological tools for dealing with the architectural heritage. There are many cross-connections and overlaps with neighbouring disciplines such as art history, archaeology and civil engineering. At the centre of building history, however, is historical building research, which regards the building as a source - never in isolation, but always in its cultural-historical context.
The teaching of building history is offered in a differentiated manner and is often closely linked to the research projects of the department. Lectures provide an overview of the history of building and deal with selected special areas. The emphasis is on the building typologies and ideas characteristic of an epoch, rather than on detailed or factual knowledge. In the seminars, students deal in depth with topics relating to the history of building and urban development, the history of ideas and the history of construction. In the building survey exercise, the students learn to understand the spatial and constructional characteristics of a selected historical building by systematically recording it in drawings directly on site and to understand the design. The building survey trains the eye for the building and its location, for proportions and scales, for materiality and construction and is essential for developing an understanding of architecture.
The analytical potential of the history of building and its typological diversity are used in the design to find the shape. The aim is to make use of this fund as a source of inspiration for one’s own creative and primarily intuitive working methods, to complement it critically and to develop a living continuum between past and future. The design tasks are primarily concerned with building within existing structures and the revitalisation of historical buildings.
The Research Institute Archiv für Baukunst collects and scientifically processes documents on architecture and civil engineering with a focus on the central Alpine region.