Architecture's Red Tape

Erik Sigge

Project Period: 2011-2015
Type: Phd Project
Program Area(s): Critical Historiography


The research project Architecture’s Red Tape is a critical study of public architecture’s relation to bureaucratic State organizations during the 1960s and 1970s. The research is focusing on the work of the Swedish National Board of Public Building, KBS, which was a Governmental agency in charge of providing premises for the Swedish State. KBS expanded its construction of new buildings during the 1960s and did extensive research and development work into finding new rational and efficient working methodologies and building systems. The development of KBS culminated in the implementation of an official architectural philosophy in 1968, the so-called “KBS's structure philosophy” that at large was a pragmatic structuralist approach to building.

The architectural ideas were preceded by the Government’s implementation of a new budget and planning model called Program budgeting, in which KBS’s operations were adapted to conform to a rational decision-making model that aimed at evaluating results and assessing performance. The analysis suggests that program budgeting favored economic perspectives and generally quantifiable justifications of choices over other perspectives and legitimizations. Simultaneously, it disfavored architects' traditional knowledge, skills and expertise, as these were not primarily based on rational quantification or quantitative statements but rather on problem solving through design. Program budgeting and other administrative-economic reforms were signs of approaching fundamental changes of society around and after 1970, from Keynesian welfare state to late capitalism, from Fordism to post-Fordism, from modernism to postmodernism. These changes, coupled with new working processes and procedures in the building sector, in the aggregate led to a de-professionalization of the architecture profession in Sweden that has had far reaching consequences for Swedish architects and architecture.

Researcher(s) Bio and Publications