Contemporary history of Luxembourg

The Twentieth-Century Ministerial Office Building as a Laboratory of Government

Within the historiographical field of “political architecture”, ministerial office buildings
have always been a somewhat marginal subject, undeservedly deemed of secondary
importance in relation to more “representative” types of political buildings.
Dwelling on the insights of the nineteenth-century essayist Bagehot and the office historians
Duffy and Gardey, my contribution postulates that from the early twentieth
century onward, ministerial office architecture has become an essential functional
component of any political configuration, as well as a phenomenon defined by a
complex interrelationship between physical realities and managerial norms. Even
though various historiographical contributions from the last two decades have successfully
scrutinised the reciprocal conceptual relations between politics and architecture
in relation to ministerial offices, the huge influence of internationally circulating
managerial norms such as Taylorism has strangely remained under the radar. Using
the example of Belgium during the interwar period, I seek to demonstrate how such
norms were strongly mobilised when new ministerial office buildings were planned,
and how their propagators even considered “modern” and “efficient” office architecture
to be an agent of broad social reform. With this case study, I would like to call attention
to the need for a transnational comparative perspective covering the intermingled
domains of politics, architecture, and management.

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