Lay summary

The research project “Architectures of Display” is concerned with architecture as an apparatus for framing and display. It starts out from the assumption that architectural thinking has been concerned with display throughout history. Conversely, architecture’s “display capacity” has not been given adequate consideration. Its systematic analysis is important for current research mainly for three reasons: First, it will shed light on the complex relationship between the architectural artifact and its observer/user, thus working toward a theory of how architecture produces visual and spatial meaning. Second, it will lay the basis for a better understanding of the relationship between architecture and its topographical setting. Third, the investigation contributes to an opening of the methodologies of architectural history, thereby working toward a re-integration of architectural history within the humanities.

The guiding questions of the investigation are: What is architectural about display? What is the architectural language of display? Rather than following a traditional methodological trajectory, the project is situated at the interface of architectural iconology and the aesthetics and history of reception. The aim of the research project is, on the one hand, to establish a map of architectural elements and motifs of display (such as the window, the threshold, or the loggia). On the other hand, the inquiry seeks to explore historical responses towards architectures of display by looking into how users/spectators of architectural structures responded to instances of architectural framing/display.

The project will consider architectural display from a broad historical perspective from the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance to the present. Such a wide historical span will underline the significance of the “display capacity” as a basic function of architecture, but will also allow to arrive at a thorough theoretical understanding of how this capacity has changed historically, and for what reasons.