WG 1 : Actors and networks of expertise

The objective of this research track is to look at the multiplicity of actors that shaped the transfer of European architecture overseas. Research in architectural history traditionally focuses primarily, if not exclusively, on the activity of architects. While a central place will be given to this particular actor of the designing and building process, the Action will also look at other actors involved in the dissemination of European architecture outside Europe, such as engineers, contractors and patrons. This shift of focus will extend the range of architecture under scrutiny, by allowing in particular to consider, besides schemes and projects produced by well known figures, more mainstream productions, and even the most modest constructions made without professional designers that often make up the bulk of the built environment.

Particular attention will be given to European-trained designers of non-Western origin, who played an important role in the transplantation of European aesthetics and techniques overseas in the period considered. Typical examples include French-educated Armenian architects in the late Ottoman Empire or the Levantine architects trained in France or Lebanon that were active in British Cairo. European schools of engineering and architecture represented in fact a major dissemination channel of European architecture abroad – and one that is still alive today. Major public works performed by European companies outside of Europe were indeed instrumental in the international circulation of European architectural expertise. Other non-colonial channels include the Christian missionary organizations and their building activities, or the political, military and technical cooperation, developed by Prussia (later Germany) and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Even less studied, but of great importance, is migration, through the Greek, Italian or Jewish diasporas active in the Eastern Mediterranean or throughout Africa for instance.

The Action will endeavor to map these distinct networks based on education, socio-religious identity or corporate activity, and their possible intersections. It will make full use of the wealth of data already collected at national or case-study level (biographical dictionaries, alumni gazetteers, etc.) and will cross their findings in order to define a theoretical and methodological framework for studying such circulation flows. An outcome of this research track will be a digital biographical dictionary of actors, highlighting connections and networks of expertise based on a variety of vectors. It is expected that such a dictionary will stimulate transnational and comparative research.

Coordinator : Johan Lagae (BE)
Co-coordinator :  Madalena Cunha Matos (PT)

Members :

  • Diego Caltana (AT)
  • Ola Uduku (UK)
  • Regina Göckede (DE)
  • Alexandra Yerolympos (GR)
  • Leïla el-Wakil (CH)
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