— Michael Guggenheim

Tag "Building Type"

in: Candide, Journal for Architectural Knowledge, Nr. 4, 2011. pdf


In this article, Michael Guggenheim analyzes architectural writing on the change of use of buildings published since the early 1970s. He shows that, in its sum, this literature fails its object because the process of change of use cannot be grasped in established architectural categories, categories that refer to fixed states. Guggenheim looks in detail at the metaphors and other figures of speech used to compensate this theoretical shortcoming. He concludes that architectural discourse needs to develop a processual view of buildings to more clearly differentiate between the three relevant perspectives—technological, semiotic, and sociological—in understanding the relationship between buildings and society.


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Buildings like this one prompted the authorities of Ascona to attempt to prohibit flat roofs. To no avail. (Image of Casa Catterina by Eduard Keller, 1928)


In: Social and Legal Studies. December 2010, Vol. 19: 441-460.



This article looks at how building codes and zoning laws mediate the relationship between foreign building types and their uses. The article is based on insights from actor-network theory and analysing buildings as quasi-technologies, actor-network theory’s understanding of buildings. It draws on three case studies in Switzerland: The first looks at the introduction of flat roofs along with modern architecture in the 1920ies that led to the introduction of building codes in Ascona. The second is contemporary: It looks at disputes about the right of Muslims to add minarets to prayer spaces that eventually led to an initiative to ban minarets altogether. In each of the cases I show how the building code mediates the travelling element and the associated lifestyle of the implicated groups and leads to a new definition of what those building types are. The law emerges as an important mediator of building types because it constantly shifts building types as being defined as material or social.

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The Long History of Prototypes.
Contribution to Prototyping Prototyping, Limn, Issue 0, edited by Christopher M. Kelty, pre-publication to conference: Prototyping Cultures, organized by Adolfo Corsín Jiménez and Adolfo Estalella. Madrid 2010.

extended journal article version to come later.

A video of my talk is here, in case you want to see me.


the argument:

“Prototyping” has always existed and probably, for most of human history, has been more important than it’s opposite, orderly science and planning. But the differentiation of the functional system of science and art and the strong differentiation between experts and lay people in high modernity has obscured existing forms of prototyping. Only since the late 1960ies, as part of the “revolt of the audience” as Jürgen Gerhards has called it (Gerhards 2001), has it become possible to acknowledge prototyping as part of western society.

Such a claim rests on a notion of prototyping as laid out in the description of the conference: prototyping is not simply understood as the development of “first forms” or “first strikes” as beta-versions of products as in industrial design, but as a more general mode of doing culture: a mode that is tentative, based on bricolage, user involvement and ongoing change and improvements of products and practices, as “open innovation”, rather than on an expert in a closed lab who turns out a finished product to be used by a unknowing user.

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A truly non-fetishistic church, as discussed in this article. (photograph of MG)



Building a Fetish – Sacrificing a House. Building Types as Technologies or Fetishes.
In: Catherine Perret (ed.) Fetish & Consumption. merz&solitude, Stuttgart 2009, 203-219.

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Image: An industrial building at the outskirts of Zürich, in which assisted suicides had to be performed, after zoning laws made it impossible to commit assisted suicide in flats. (photograph by MG)

Travelling Types and the Law. Minarets, Caravans and Suicide Hospices.
in Michael Guggenheim and Ola Söderström (eds.) Re-Shaping Cities. How
Global Mobility Shapes Architecture and Urban Form, London: Routledge.


This is how we introduce the chapter:

Michael Guggenheim looks at the law as a powerful but often neglected mediator to regulate the circulation of building types on a national scale, in his case Switzerland. His analysis of caravans, mosques, and homes for assisted suicide shows that the law is a powerful mediator that shapes the import of building types, by enforcing adaptations, changes to buildings and that serves as an arena, where conflicts about the circulation of building types become explicit.

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