The research of the Unit Architectural History and Monument Preservation focuses on four main areas of study: Historical Building Research, Construction History, Research on Italian Architecture and Research on Border Regions. The Unit’s interdisciplinary orientation, its diverse team of archaeologists, architects, building researchers and art historians and their network of national and international partners are of key importance to our research. Graduate students and doctoral candidates are involved in the Unit’s work through a research-oriented approach to teaching – the study of historical architecture also serves to reflect on contemporary architecture.
Historical Building Research
Historical or Archaeological Building Research regards the building itself as a source for understanding its history. Its method is the building survey – the careful observation, measurement, drawing and description of the building including all details, even those that seem insignificant at first. The building survey is a tool for comprehending the history of a building, its origin and later development. Design ideas and approaches to construction of both client and architect become visible. If available, the building survey is supplemented by the study of written and visual sources, such as building records, historical plans and photographs.
Historical Building Research is an essential basis for reconstructing a building through drawings and for positioning it in its cultural context. It is also essential to the preservation of architectural monuments. By precisely observing and analyzing historical architecture, Historical Building Research contributes to answering questions about the complex interplay of conditions influencing the development of architecture: Questions about the political, social and economic environment, about authorship and ideological justification of a design, about material and constructional resources.
Construction History has been an important part of Historical Building Research and has developed into an independent and diverse field of study in recent years. It focuses on historic construction methods and on planning and execution as a process between craft and science, between tradition, invention and innovation. Construction History is embedded in research on technology, manufacturing and material science. It also relies on the study of the history of science and economics. The combination of engineering methods with methodologies of the humanities leads to new insight and forms an essential basis for the preservation of historical buildings, especially for the conservation, restoration and renovation of historical structures.
With his research on Antonio Gaudí and Vladimir Šuchov, Rainer Graefe established a focus on Construction History at the Unit Architectural History and Monument Preservation, which is relevant to this day.
Research on Italian Architecture
In times of globalization – including the globalization of science – the comprehensive examination of the architectural and building history of the Italian peninsula and its former colonies still plays a fundamental role. Our research ranges from the early Middle Ages to the 20th century, from architectural theory of the modern era to the life and work of modern architects, from the complex history of individual buildings to the urban development of historic and modern Italian cities.
Attention is paid to the building itself as a source, as well as to archival material. In addition to the traditional tools of architectural history, interdisciplinary methodological approaches of neighboring disciplines – such as art history, cultural studies and philology– serve to enable critical re-evaluation. The focus is on an in-depth examination of the changing geopolitical context in order to assess the significance of the individual objects of research against the broad horizon of architectural history.
Research on Border Regions
The research on European Border Regions – i.e. on territories that have changed their national affiliation in the course of their history, mostly due to war and conflict – is a relatively young discipline. An example of such a region is Alsace with the urban center of Strasbourg. The territory changed affiliation four times between 1870/71 and 1945, alternating between France and Germany. It can be understood as the scene of Franco-German cultural transfer. A historical parallel is Pozna? where – like in Strasbourg – an imperial palace and extensive urban expansions were added as a manifestation of new power relations and imperial aspirations. Our Border Research also focuses on Italy. The country has made the significant territorial gains of South Tyrol and Trentino, Trieste and Istria since the end of the First World War. All of these territories – of which only South Tyrol is not predominantly Italian-speaking to this day – underwent a profound Italianization that was further intensified during the fascist Ventennio.
Research on Border Regions is interdisciplinary and combines traditional methods of architectural history with methodological approaches from history, art history and cultural studies.