Maarten Delbeke

A first area of Maarten Delbeke’s research concerns the question of how, over the course of the 16th up to the 19th century, art and architecture are legitimised as cultural practices in different genres of texts. Special attention is paid to the way in which artistic literature, such as treatises and biographies, interacts with other bodies of literature, such as devotional literature or poetry. In particular, Maarten Delbeke’s recent articles and lectures have explored how language reflects mechanisms of sociability and authority that shape the discourse on architectural ornament in late-17th and early-18th century Italy and France. This work examines as well the role and the importance of beauty as a theoretical and critical construct in architectural discourse. It also informs Maarten Delbeke’s involvement in the PRIVACY Centre of Excellence at the University of Copenhagen. A particular focus of teaching and research is the cornice, a seemingly secondary yet ubiquitous architectural element that raises questions about the aesthetic, stylistic, constructive, symbolical, urban and legal aspects of architecture. This work explicitly aims to connect research on historical architecture to the present, and vice versa, as an opportunity to engage with, and be critical of, the renewed interest of contemporary architects with the long history of architecture.

A second, closely related area of research concerns the construction and mediation of architecture in the book, the journal and their digital counterparts. The place of architecture in print culture is the topic of the ongoing HERA-project, “Printing the Past”, where Maarten Delbeke is principal investigator. A current pilot project explores the potential of computer vision for the analysis of early-modern architectural treatises. A second ongoing project, “Xenotheka”, developed in close collaboration with the Chair of Computer-Aided Architectural Design (Ludger Hovestadt), aims at providing a teaching and research environment where treating books like computational objects allows for simultaneous engagement with entire digital libraries. Finally, the interest in the mediation of architecture has led to work on the medium of the journal, both as an actor (involvement in journals such as “Architectural Histories”) and a researcher.