The Corporation and the conception of modern space

PhD Project

The project The corporation and the conception of modern space is part of the LOEWE focus Architectures of Order, which aims to analyse architecture as a cultural ordering practice that operates at the interfaces of control, knowledge, design and subjectivation. The LOEWE sub-project Corporate architecture investigates the architectural implications of both legal and managerial structures to better understand the corporate institutional revolution.

The rise of the corporation as the predominant economic player in the early 20th century radically disrupted traditional economic theories. The stock exchange’s new mechanism of raising and collecting capital opened up completely new legal and economic perspectives. The parcelled-out ownership in shares led to the disintegration of the traditional unique right of property in its two distinct components of ownership and control. The rise of the modern corporation was made possible through the power of disposition (control) handled by the rising figure of the salaried manager. He contributed to the development of innovative systems of control and administrative coordination, which proved to be more efficient than the traditional market mechanisms of price equilibrium. The corporation tends theoretically to become an objective and autonomous entity: the “Unternehmen an sich”, which occupies an intermediate position between private and public enterprise.

The connection between architecture and corporate organisational models remains substantially unexplored. Through an historical analysis, the project aims to investigate in which ways the new structure of the corporation and its mechanisms have affected the built environment and how, conversely, architectural design has influenced corporate structural organisation. This is pursued through the analysis of selected case studies from Germany, Italy and the USA. At the centre of the study are the corporate architectures of control and coordination: headquarters as well as subsidiaries’ buildings. My comparative approach connects the selected case studies’ corporate strategies and organisational structures with their real-estate ventures. Both realised and unrealised building projects are examined to clarify the relation between organisation culture and design culture, and the role of architectural practices within it. Moreover it intends to offer, from the architectural critical front, a further contribution to the still current legal debate on the public/private dichotomy of the corporate dimension.

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