Changing Identities. Art and architecture as bearer of meaning


Prof. dr. Lex Bosman

Members of the research group

C.A.H.H. Bertram
prof.dr. A.F.W. Bosman
dr. P.A. Brouwer
C.A. Drieënhuizen
prof.dr. M. Gnade
dr. K.H. Broekhuijsen - Kruijer
dr. G.M. Langfeld
dr. M.K. van Mechelen
dr. M.I.D. van Rijsingen
drs. A.J.R. Rulkens
dr. W.A.W. van Welie - Vink
W.A. Wagemakers MA
External Member: Wim de Groot


We collaborate with various partners, depending on the project. They are: ETH Zürich (Institute of Historic Building Research and Conservation); Free University Brussels (AE-lab Architectural Engineering) Rijksdienst voor Cultureel Erfgoed (RCA); Bureau Monumenten en Archeologie, Amsterdam; Dutch University Institute for Art History, Florence (NIKI, Italy); Institute of Fine Arts, New York University; Martin-Luther-Universität Halle; Bibliotheca Hertziana Rome

Description of the research programme of the research group

Throughout history, architecture and art have been used in different contexts to claim and proclaim identities, to create and confirm new identities and sometimes to impose or suppress existing identities. When Charles the Great for example was expanding his empire, a major issue of his political strategy was how to employ art and architecture in order to create a common identity among people who had been fighting each other for generations. In the first half of the twentieth century the young artist Henry Cartier-Bresson found part of his own identity in the surrealist group in France, which was proclaimed as the identity of a group. These are just two examples of architecture and art having always proved to be a vital tool, not only to express specific identities in specific contexts, but also to convince other high-ranking individuals or large groups.
This group is researching the various means how art and architecture in past and present times were and still are applied in the process of the search for identity. This search for identity is applicable to multifarious groups and entities – local, regional, national, transnational, economic, religious, political, ideological, artistic and professional – that can be positioned in various ways in the larger social-cultural context, varying from subcultures and peripheral to dominant groups. Taking the dynamic process of identity formation on the basis of art’s and architecture’s meaning as a starting point, we research all possible related questions, in various periods from the Middle Ages to the present, in both art and architecture.

Envisaged results

• PhD theses
Annika Rulkens, Monastic architecture during the reign of Louis the Pious (814-830).
fall 2013 (Promotor: Prof. dr. Lex Bosman).
Wim de Groot, Macht en devotie van de Bourgondische-Habsburgse monarchie in het kerkelijk interieur in de Nederlanden.
2014/15 (Promotor: Prof. dr. Lex Bosman).
Wouter Wagemakers, The power of architecture: Architecture and politics in sixteenth-century Verona
2015/2016 (Promotor: Prof. dr. Lex Bosman).
Mazura Omar, The meaning of Dutch built heritage during VOC rules: Malaysia and the Netherlands. 2017 (Promotor: Prof. dr. Lex Bosman).
• Conferences/papers
Lex Bosman: Organizer and chair conference session ‘Architecture and Conflict, c. 300 – c. 1600’, at Third International Meeting European Architectural History Network, Turin may/june 2014.
• Research applications and projects
Lex Bosman: Research projects on the theme how architecture in different historical periods and circumstances has been employed to create identities. Several projects are under way or will be started, also in collaboration with PhD-students (mentioned above):
o Architecture as tool to create identity in the Carolingian period. The architecture of Carolingian palace complexes will be analysed as well as their architectural material , like the spolia in Aachen. (Bosman, Rulkens).
o Architecture and power, in periods of conflict, contested power and rivalry. This research will also be closely connected to that of other members of the Center for Medieval Studies Amsterdam (CMSA).
o Political identities in 16th-century Italy. Themes: Verona and the way architect Sanmicheli was employed to create a political identity with his architecture; political iconography under Habsburg rule, the Villa Pliniana at Lago di Como (Wagemakers, Bosman).
Petra Brouwer: BRAND new. Towards new design strategies for Dutch brick architecture. Proposal for embedded research-project NWO Creative Industry Call (with Wingender Hovenier Architecten and Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Bouwkeramiek). NWO decision: May 2013
If funded, the project starts in September 2014 and will run for 1,5 years
o Postdoc research The architectural debate on the aesthetic and technical qualities of Dutch brick architecture, nineteenth century – present (September 2013 - March 2015)
o Research project for junior-researcher (September 2013- March 2014) Brick dressing. Developments in the technique of brick production and brick construction in the Netherlands 1945-present
Petra Brouwer: International comparative research into the meaning of materials (brick, wood, concrete, glass) in modern architecture - in collaboration with ETH Zürich and Free University Brussels. The proposal for application for European funding is still in an exploratory stage.
• Publications
Lex Bosman: ‘Designing the Villa Pliniana at Lago di Como. Pellegrino Tibaldi and political iconography under Habsburg rule’. Article, to be finished 2013.
Gregor Langfeld: Searching for Artistic Identity during Exile: The Correspondence between George Grosz and Herbert Fiedler, 1932-1945 (critical edition, 2014).
Gregor Langfeld: The influence of National-Socialism on the forming of the collection of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2015)

Work plan and time schedule

The research group will run for a longer period of time, with short term as well as long term output. We are aiming at a period of at least 5 years, during which short term results will be delivered as papers and publications. After several years we would like to aim at an international conference, to confront our results with those of colleagues abroad.
Part of the programme will also be the preparation of one or more a research grants from NWO or ERC.

Societal relevance

The meaning of art and architecture in modern society and the articulation through art and architecture of group identities and identity processes have great societal relevance. They are an important topic in the public debate about high-low culture; national identity; the international reputation of Dutch art, architecture and design; government subsidies for the arts; national heritage, to name just a few. The researchers of our group collaborate with many people and institutions outside the academic world, in order to communicate research results with a larger audience. We valorise our expertise in jury’s, funds, editorial and advisory boards, contributions to exhibitions, public debates and lectures for a larger audience. We have long lasting, intensive relationship with the Amsterdam Centre for Architecture, the Architecture Film Festival Rotterdam, Vereniging Hendrick de Keyser, Heritage Days, that reach a larger audience.

28 August 2014