Junior Research Group

Histories of the Built Environment

The Junior Research Group is emerging/stems from from the Volkswagen Foundation-funded Freigeist project "Conquering (with) Concrete. German Construction Companies as Global Players in Local Contexts" (2020 to 2024). It examines histories of the built environment in the 19th and 20th century in a global perspective. It includes the production of building materials, the construction of buildings as well as the appropriation, maintenance, conversion and decay of buildings and ensembles in its analyses. Spatially, the focus is on places in the “Global South”. These are examined with a view to their position in regional and transnational exchange relationships, for example in the circulation of building and architectural knowledge as well as in value chains of the construction industry. The interdisciplinary junior research group works at the intersection of architectural and urban history, economic geography and social anthropology. It aims to take up methods of the digital humanities (e.g. deep mapping, network analysis), question established disciplinary patterns of interpretation and critically engage with the practice of archiving. To this end, the research group collaborates the scientific collections of the IRS.

Ongoing Projects

Global construction companies impact our futures. Beyond the edifices and infrastructures they construct, they also fundamentally influence governmental development aid policies, or dislocate people to build a new dam, for example. Yet the role of these major global players and their persistent presence in different world regions has barely been reflected upon. Our project investigates how major German construction companies conquered markets and spaces, thereby cementing their presence in different regions of the Global South, and it will trace the footprints left behind, long after the dust of the construction sites settled. It draws on the observation that it is impossible to fully understand the complexity of the built environment in these regions without acknowledging and analysing the role of construction companies such as HOCHTIEF AG or Bilfinger Berger as actors, stakeholders, transnational legal entities and major driving forces in the processes of globalised construction business. However, in previous bodies of research this perspective has been overlooked, except for rare exemptions. more