Call for Papers: Style and State. Public Buildings in the Pre-March Era from Neo-Classicism to Early Historicism. Vienna, 28-29 November 2019

Division for History of Art of the Institute for History of Art and Musicology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences

In the course of the pre-March era, the planning and construction of public buildings in Vienna, the capital of the Austrian Empire, took place to an extent hitherto unknown yet significantly later than elsewhere in Western Europe (especially London and Paris). These buildings served tasks and needs for which the state now felt responsible. The range of buildings types included universities and libraries, buildings for banking and finance, for trade and commerce as well as official buildings for public and military authorities such as administrative buildings and law courts.
The public agencies, which planned and realized these buildings either existed already or had been established recently as central organs of education and control. In Vienna, the Academy of Fine Arts, with its architectural school lead by Pietro Nobile, acted as the central educational institute of the monarchy and as the authority in any question of the arts. The Hofbaurat, of which Nobile was also a member, was the supervisory body for the state’s building measures. Between the poles of “architecture as a representation of power” and “architecture as a means of communication” (Klaus J. Philipp, Weinbrenner und der Klassizismus in Deutschland, in: Friedrich Weinbrenner 1766–1826. Architektur und Städtebau des Klassizismus, exhibition catalogue Karlsruhe 2015, Petersberg 2015, 51–59.), these new constructions could adopt a meaningful shape in the sense of Charakterlehre (the discourse on character in architecture) by clearly expressing a building’s function and purpose.

In the pre-March era, public buildings could serve as an edificial manifestation of government bodies. As “instruments capable of shaping society” (Klaus J. Philipp, Rückgriff und Auswahl. Klassik und Romantik als komplementäres System in der Baukunst, in: Andreas Beyer (ed.), Geschichte der bildenden Kunst in Deutschland 6: Klassik und Romantik, Munich-Berlin-London-New York 2006, 207–223) they could convey further statements: public architecture (and Neo-classicism respectively as the applied style) could serve community and identity building, as was the case in Washington where nationally encoded public buildings were erected from the late 18th century onwards. Projects for Milan (Foro Bonaparte or Arco del Sempione) show similar qualities during the period in which that city was under the influence of French cultural policy in the era of Napoleon I. In Vienna, the historian Joseph Hormayr described Nobile’s Äußeres Burgtor as “completed by the army following the ancient Roman manner”, i.e. comprising all associated conceptions of virtue which turned the city gate into a monument of victory over disorder, as provoked by revolutionary France and Napoleon. The organization of public architecture under Friedrich Weinbrenner enabled constructions, which we can stylistically interpret as typical for public architecture in Baden.

Taking the city of Vienna as the point of reference, the question is therefore: Which styles were chosen for which building types in pre-March Europe and which political points were thus rendered possible? Where and under which circumstances did spatial and construction policy become an instrument for state and nation building and for the safeguarding of power? Could the architectural policy of nation building simultaneously express the continuity of monarchical authority – as in the politically inevitable case of the supranational position of the Habsburg dynasty (Francis II/I as the “father of his peoples”)? Do these supposed political connotations and encodings, which apply questions of style, as described in the case of Washington, hold true for political systems like the Habsburg monarchy, i.e. for socially and politically divergent configurations?

The conference seeks to collect contributions which investigate the multifaceted role of neo-classical and early historicist architecture on the basis of case studies and by including the coeval discourse.

The topics of the contributions should relate to the following issues:

  • 1. style and (architectural) motif as signifier (Bedeutungsträger);
  • 2. building types (both profane and sacral);
  • 3. representing structures of power.

As for the geographical focus, the conference is aiming at a comparative and contextualizing view and therefore explicitly intend to exceed the Central European borders of the Habsburg Empire. The question of interaction with and the model function of the developments in Western Europe, which began significantly earlier, serves as a background for the conference.

The conference organizers are asking for abstracts of up to 500 words for presentations, which should not exceed the length of 20 minutes. Please attach a CV with references to your most important publications (in a maximum length of 1 page). The deadline for submissions is 15 March 2019. Please send your submissions to: richard.kurdiovsky@oeaw.ac.at.
Conference languages will be English and German.

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