This research project studies nineteenth century architectural imaginations expressed in texts, documents, drawings and photography alongside buildings. Based on meticulous archival studies, the project investigates architectural historicism as a complex theoretical, historiographical and textual construction.
One might argue that modernism, rabidly insisting upon a correlation between style and epoch, is a perfect example of historicist thinking. Through careful readings of nineteenth century architectural debates from journals, catalogues, exhibitions and competitions, the project illuminates the architectural culture of historicism shaped by nineteenth and twentieth century text culture and emerging mass media. Pursuing such questions, the project moves beyond the chronological confines of the nineteenth century to identify and discuss the ways in which historicist notions of architecture and public culture reverberated through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
19th Century Architectural Imaginations is organized as an ongoing series of publications, colloquia and teachings. Publications include the forthcoming anthology, Vor Tids Fordringer: Norske arkitekturdebatter 1819-1918 (The demands of our time: Norwegian architectural debates, 1819-1918). The anthology presents more than seventy original texts including forgotten journals, newspapers, poems, proceedings, reports, competition briefs, pamphlets and speeches. Together, these texts describe a vibrant architectural culture, energetically debating and discussing issues such as nature, nation, self-expression and truth.
In the autumn semester 2011, the studio ’Architecture on display’ gathered seven AHO master students for an intensive study of 19th century institutions: Norway’s first modern prison (Christiania Penitentiary, 1851), the first mental hospital (Gaustad asylum, 1855), and the first public art museum (the National Gallery, 1881). Through archival research, literature studies, academic writing, and curatorial practice, the students examined the architectural, intellectual, and cultural contexts of these important modern institutions. The results were presented as an exhibition at AHO WORKS, 12th-16th December 2011, and in the exhibition catalogue Punishment, Madness and Bildung: Three 19th Century Institutions. The course was led by Mari Hvattum and Mari Lending, with Halvard Amble, Iselin Bogen, Mathilde Dahl, Lene Furulund, Lone Kjersheim, Linda Nikolaisen, and Anders Rudlang as participating students.