— Michael Guggenheim

Tag "Zoning"

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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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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“Mutable Immobiles. Change of Use of Buildings as a Problem of Quasi-Technologies”
in: Thomas Bender & Ignacio Farias (eds.): Urban Assemblages. How Actor-Network Theory Changes Urban Studies.
Routledge, London.

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