Corporate architecture
Legal structures and built spaces as ordering regimes of corporate modernity

Research Project

The rise of the corporation to become the world's most important private-sector actor marks a deep turning point in modern history. This development, which began at the end of the 19th century, seems irreversible today, because corporations are essential to modern economies. It was not least the formation of corporate groups, i.e. the acquisition of shares and the consequent control of one company by another, that opened up completely new legal and economic perspectives.

The architectural implications of this institutional revolution remain insufficiently investigated. This is partly due to the fact that often no clear distinction is made between the legal-institutional and the technical dimensions of this change. Research on corporate architecture  is primarily understood in terms of technology and industry, and therefore tends to focus on iconic industrial buildings. By contrast, this project examines the places and spaces in which the relevant entrepreneurial decisions are made. These include not only the offices and conference rooms used by the executive and supervisory boards (or their members), but also the structural arrangements of the ‘corporate infrastructure’ on whose functioning the company management depends (banks, stock exchanges, central securities depositories, law firms, auditors, etc.). In this way, the project will contribute to a better understanding of architectural and (urban) economic micro and macro structures of corporate cities such as New York, Berlin (until 1945) and Frankfurt am Main. A second focus of the project traces the increasing use of architectural references in legal discourse over the course of the 20th century and explores how law is, to some extent, dependent on architecture as a metaphorical system for the expression of highly abstract legal concepts.

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