Research Profile

Historic buildings are part of cultural value systems and are bearers of the cultural and technical knowledge of their time. The departments involved in the Research Training Group (RTG) approach research topics related to the fabric of historic buildings using the methods of their respective disciplines. The aim of the RTG is to gain insights into the cognitive, ideological, economic, social, institutional, artistic, or aesthetic aspects of a culture through the exploration and discussion of the cultural and technical elements underpinning historic buildings.

The focus of the research is the technical and technological dimensions associated with the assessment and evaluation of buildings, their development and change. Researchers explore questions related to the research focus and their specific interests via regular interdisciplinary colloquia covering relevant thematic areas. These colloquia reveal connections between the researchers’ disciplines and produce synergistic effects, which benefit all participants. From these colloquia and through the involvement of guest researchers in complementary disciplines, the programme aims to enrich the researchers’ work in an interdisciplinary manner.

The research group looks at the construction and use of buildings, settlements and cities with an eye towards the social, economic, and political circumstances as well as the guiding principles that these places reflect. Later building interventions, renovations and adaptations, which can fragment the original fabric, are a topic worthy of investigation as they provide evidence of new attitudes and approaches in the historical continuum. In addition, the broad geographical and temporal scope of the projects involved in the research group allows the respective perspectives and approaches of the individual disciplines to be examined and, if necessary, corrected.

Handed down in varying degrees of conservation, historic buildings represent components of cultural landscapes that have emerged at different times. These places can be scientifically reconstructed but cannot be reproduced. Recent discourse on the preservation of monuments is concerned with the analysis, evaluation and protection of the cultural landscape as well as the recognition of the historic function of the architectural monuments. Buildings serve as non-reproducible resources that are not only a source of historical knowledge but also a symbol of cultural identification. This symbolic value often outweighs others and becomes the sole factor behind the attainment of prestige and investments in preservation efforts for a historic building or a cultural landscape.

Technical achievements in building construction and the tension between art and technology are topics central to the Research Training Group’s work. Subjects from ancient times to the 20th century are explored. The programme approaches this research area in an innovative manner by placing a focus on the technical aspects of construction, as well as by utilising a diachronic approach that makes connections between the study of the history of construction and technology and planning history and socio-historical urban research. The focus on the history of engineering and construction and their linkages with questions of institutional history and the history of the cultural landscape is part of the genuinely novel approach of the research program.

The structure of the RTG favours the early involvement of the doctoral students in the international academic sphere. To achieve this combination of individual research projects within the framework of established research groups and interdisciplinary colloquia involving the participation of international guest academics is organised. The RTG aims to qualify young academics in interdisciplinary exchange and interdisciplinary cooperation. It also seeks to stimulate debate by strengthening networking opportunities between our researchers and academics from partnering universities and other specialists from different disciplines and research traditions.

Interdisciplinary colloquia held during the early stage of members’ research offer the possibility to discuss the technical and technological aspects of the examined structures and their cultural-historical classification and evaluation. The doctoral students have the opportunity to present their work during these seminars. Additionally, they are given the opportunity to have their own academic contribution published together with the contributions of the guest academics once during their three-year doctoral studies.

The RTG provides access to interdisciplinary research beyond European borders. This exposes researchers to different perspectives and provides tools for the comparison of research landscapes. The linking of individual projects with interdisciplinary discussions helps doctoral students clarify research questions and manage the development of their work. The positioning of the research idea at the interface between art and technology highlights the fact that the construction and technical layout of historic buildings is an important part of cultural history. In order to intensify the interdisciplinary dialogue between engineering and the humanities, the programme connects the work of overlapping transnational tandem research projects in the fields of engineering and the humanities.