Interior of the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) in Frankfurt by Oswald Mathias Ungers. (DAM, 1984).

The Institutionalisation of Architectural Culture

Architectural Analysis 2017

The first attemts to archive architectural documents (drawings, models, sketches, et cetera) were already made in the 19th century by private collectors. The archived materials primarily concerned information about monumental and representative buildings, like palaces of the aristocracy, properties of the bourgeois elites as well as important religious and public buildings. Apart from a few exceptions, the documents were not accessible to the public.

Architecture museums as we know them today, publicly accessible institutions dedicated to educating visitors about various topics of architecture and urbanism, came into existence in the 20th century. At the time subjects as the design of buildings and cities, hygiene conditions of living environments, the segregation of functions and public housing became highly relevant. Consequently, the debate about the qualities of the modern society contained – besides space related – also societal subjects like social rights, economic emancipation, individual freedom and equality for all. As a result of this shift, the planning of proper living conditions for ‘ordinary people’ and their ‘everyday’ physical habitat became important subjects of discussion within the fields of architecture and urban design.

Some well-known architecture museums are the German Architecture Museum / DAM, founded in 1984 and The Netherlands Architecture Institute / NAI, founded in 1998. The Museums reflect especially on complex themes of contemporary architecture and urbanism like the emancipatory meaning of modern architecture and the role of history in the process of modernization. More recently, they address also societal subjects like the significance of non-spectacular everyday architecture and relations between spatial regulations, political power and real estate production.

However, the architectural design of these institutions are far from neutral, but represent a very specific spatial and cultural perspective on architecture and urbanism. In case of the German Architecture Museum – designed by Oswald Mathias Ungers – the composition of the building reflects an important paradigm change in the fields of culture, literature and humanities, which is also known as the rise of postmodern thinking. The architecture of the ‘Dutch Architecture Institute’ represents some key aspects of contemporary Dutch design like spatial innovation, transparency and the subtle integration between building and city landscape. Furthermore, the founding of the DAM and the NAI are not only visualizing particular debates about architectural styles or cultural and societal transitions. They also form important keystones in the ongoing processes of city renewal and city branding concerning the spatial and social upgrading (gentrification) of urban environments.


Research partners:
Technische Universiteit Eindhoven

Jochem Groenland,
Hüsnü Yegenoglu and
Margit van Schaijk


Since the institutionalisation of architecture is quite a young phenomenon, it may be interesting to investigate how architecture is being institutionalised throughout the world. How many architects and institutions exist in a country and what purpose do they have. To answer this in a visual manner, a 2 by 3 meter world map was made that shows both. The height of the countries represents the number of architects over the entire population and the lights mark the architectural institutions that are present. Europe seems to be the epicentre of the architectural institutionalisation since both the ratio of architects and the institutions are highest in this continent.  Most of the larger, multi-purpose institutions, that accommodate museums, libraries, archives and research centres, are situated here. Africa seems to be in an earlier stage of institutionalisation. The focus lays on the formalisation of building and architecture, so most of the institutions are concerned with the registering and uniting of architects.


10 Architectural institutions were analysed on their architectural principles. They vary from smaller architectural museums (Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture) to large institutions like the Canadian Center for Architecture. But also houses by famous architects that are currently museums (House la Roche, Jeanneret) or prestigious museums that also considers architecture (MOMA).

Scale models

The all-white models are built in a 1:33 scale.  The analysed institutions vary from small, famous architectural houses that are open for the public to large, multi-purpose institutions that are active throughout the world. The models are kept quite abstract and empty in order to offer a space where observers can freely unfold their imagination.

tijdruimteThe Institutionalisation of Architectural Culture