Infoscience

Journal article

Mattering the Res Publica The Architectural Competitions for the Swiss Federal Post Offices in the Late 19th Century as a Foucauldian Dispositif

In the paper at hand, we study how the young Swiss republic in the late 19th century, which was in a political situation that objected to direct intervention and was deeply skeptical with regard to a centralized state in general, found a way to manifest itself in its major cities. We put forward the hypothesis that this process of manifestation relied on a powerful social technology: the architectural competition. Our argument will mainly trace the constitution of architectural competitions as a regulatory device, as an ensemble of "forces of becoming" constituted by the interplay between a specific constellation of discourses, knowledge-based practices, spatial settings, architectural expressions, and professional networks. By conceptualizing the agency of the processes studied as a Foucauldian dispositif, we also aim at: contributing to the recent debate on alternative theoretical conceptions in research on architecture and planning. Empirically, we will focus on competitions for the federal post offices of Lucerne (1885), St.Gallen (1885), Geneva (1888), Zurich (1892), Neuchatel (1892),Winterthur (1894), Lausanne (1894), Schaffhausen (1898), Berne (1898) and Chur (1899).

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