Much of the diversity of modern Europe would be missing without its defining building culture. This culture can be understood as the sum of actions, organisations and mediality involved in social interactions aiming at shaping their surroundings by the means of architecture. It is closely linked to contemporary mental, political, religious and aesthetic backgrounds. Thus, any definition has to consider its dependency on history as well as a lack of clear-cut boundaries.

The network will be dedicated to a period of history that saw a dynamic development of the building culture and its emergence as an important factor of social practice. The focus lies on the building culture north of the Alps during the late Middle Ages, i.e. the 14th to 16th century. The geographic target area derives from the areas of responsibility of certain ‘main’ building lodges mentioned in the ordinances of the lodge in Regensburg (1459). From a west-east direction, these areas stretch from the Alsace to Hungary and, in a south-north direction, from the Alps to the North and Baltic Sea. The region is thus broadly identical with the so-called Germania of the Holy Roman Empire, however exceeding it by far in an eastern direction. The historical period under examination will be defined by the initial emergence of a codified building organisation at the end of the 13th century and the consequential structural changes of the 16th century, which will be considered as the ending phase. This was caused by the dissolution of the then leading lodges of the cathedrals (e.g. Basel) as a result of the Reformation or the growing irrelevance of others (e.g. Cologne) and amounted to the discontinuation of the building of large parish or collegiate churches. At the same time other building causes such as residential chapels or the expensive renovation of fortifications based on new developments of military technology gained further importance. This was accompanied by the increasing dominance of mainly courtly discourses about architecture of Italian origins. This period thus limits the work of the network although structural continuities make it possible to form a connection with other research. Germania des Römischen Reiches, da er vor allem nach Osten weit darüber hinausgreift. Historisch wird die Periode untersucht, die zwischen der Entstehung erster kodifizierter Bauorganisationen am Ende des 13. Jahrhunderts liegt und den folgenreichen strukturellen Zäsuren im 16. Jahrhundert, welches als „Auslaufphase“ betrachtet wird. Denn damals wurden in der Folge der Reformation die bis dahin tonangebenden Bauhütten der Kathedralen (z.B. Basel) aufgelöst oder (z.B. Köln) irrelevant und der Bau von großen städtischen Pfarr- und Stiftskirchen eingestellt. Gleichzeitig stiegen andere Bauaufgaben wie die Residenzkapelle oder die kostspielige Erneuerung des Festungsbaus infolge der veränderten Militärtechnik auf und neue, vorwiegend höfische Architekturdiskurse italienischen Ursprungs wurden dominanter. Daher ist mit dieser Epoche der Netzwerksarbeit eine Grenze gesetzt, wenngleich wegen erkennbarer struktureller Kontinuitäten die Anschlussfähigkeit zu anderen Forschungen gewahrt wird.

The content of the research is marked as an era of an innovative building culture with an advanced complexity – the remains of which can still be witnessed in the form of several historical monuments, illustrations as well as written sources. Together they document the importance that was attributed to these forms of architectural expression, particularly since the majority of the buildings themselves or the sources about them exhibit a representative or ecclesiastical function such as churches, city halls, manors and castles, city walls etc. The project acknowledges the thesis that the ability and intention to engage in visual and spatial representations promoted the building culture and that reciprocally this more elaborated building culture made it possible for individuals, groups and institutions to produce more refined presentations of their significance in building. Not only is this reflected in the general appearance of the buildings but it is also mirrored when analysing their technology and construction. In addition, a multitude of written sources of different genres – from building accounts to literary descriptions – provide further insights. Some forms of textualisation closely connected to the building industry such as account books only came into existence in this context. They bear witness to an increasing degree of technological and administrative organisation within building which in turn express a general sociocultural differentiation and management – the two processes mutually accelerating each other. The phenomena stretch from gradually further codified agreements between contractors and executors – both of them will be rather regarded as groups or institutions rather than individuals – to arbitrary attempts of legal enactments by powerful institutions like the minster lodges and the so-called Landesbauwesen. Those attempts reached imperial significance since they invoked conflicts between local agents that could not be solved on a regional level. The conflicts can be understood as the product of the more elaborated building culture and the accompanying claims of exclusiveness. Whether they can be connected to similar phenomena such as the later confessionalisation or evaluated as their precursors will not be the focus of the network but hints at potential dimensions of the research hypothesis.