December 16, 2022 | Publication: Architectural History of the "Aachener Schule"

  Cover of the "architectura" Journal © AGes  

The Architectural History of the "Aachener Schule"


The architectural historian and architect Jan Pieper, who held the Chair of Architectural History (the former "Lehrstuhl für Baugeschichte") at RWTH Aachen University until 2013, developed an architecture-based, holistic research approach that also underlies today's research on the history of architecture in Aachen.

Anke Naujokat and Daniel Buggert address the desideratum of describing the characteristics and special features of this research approach from the perspective of his students in their essay "Die Architekturgeschichte der Aachener Schule" in the current issue of architectura. Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Baukunst – Journal of the History of Architecture (50/2022).

Research projects that follow Jan Pieper's approach usually begin with a building survey of the specific structure reaching into the details. The oftentimes long stay on-site and the meticulous observation and drawing of the building create a familiarity with the substance that cannot be achieved in any other way. The "precise recording of the building in ground plans, sections and views [is] an important tool and a central prerequisite for understanding the building in its (...) conditions and dependencies and in this way ultimately to get back to the building ideas of the designer" – an approach to the object that functions entirely in the sense of "designing backwards", of which trained architects are usually capable.

Thus, it is the historical building that is considered the first and at the same time most important source of its own, and which must be carefully questioned in terms of construction research during and after the drawing documentation. "It is not uncommon for observations on the building to reveal completely new insights and questions that had previously remained hidden from purely writing-based architectural history research."

Based on and constantly incorporating the results of the in situ work, the building is analyzed and comprehensively interpreted "in its historically unique form, conditioned by time and place, with the help of tools and methods from art and architecture studies." This type of contextualization allows for the deciphering of a building's often manifold layers of meaning.

In addition to researching the built object and its architectural-historical classification, a third level of knowledge is the search for the "general in the specific: To what extent are established building types used or deliberately modified? Which "archetypal architectural gestures and superordinate building ideas (...) in the sense of Pieper's »architectural topoi«" do we find again in the example under investigation? In other words, the architectural history of the "Aachener Schule" is devoted to the manifold architectural manifestations of the "constant and enduring". Accordingly, it understands its research not as mere, isolated case studies, but also as contributions to specifying architectural history in general.


Full text

Visit the library of our Chair: Here you will find the respective issue of architectura. A digital version is available via DeGruyter (fee required).


Univ.-Prof. Dr.-Ing. Anke Naujokat