The Labourification of Work: The contemporary modes of architectural production under the Danish Welfare State

Publications: Book / Anthology / Thesis / ReportPh.D. thesis


What architects do, when they do architecture, is neither a hobby nor fun. To be named a profession, the architectural one has to be able to generate a turnover to sustain the life of a multitude of actors (workers) that operate within the same industry; moreover, it needs a substantial amount of money to reify its outcomes (works). To understand the nature of the architect condition, this research departs from a clarification of the terminology used to address what architects do. It instrumentally detaches the work itself, from the labour, thus from all those toils and painful activities that architects endure in their daily workflow; and it migrates a series of theoretical concepts from political theory to architecture, useful to interpret contemporary modes of architectural production. Specifically, based on the assumption that the architectural profession is bound to the political and economic system in which it operates, this current research addresses the case of Danish architectural profession. It aims to address the neoliberal turn, as a turning point of the Danish Welfare State. It looks thus at the co-existence of local and supranational spheres in which architects operate. Those have had, in fact, many implications on the modes in which architects produce architecture. Such research focus concerning Denmark has not yet been addressed by the architectural discourse scattered, instead, among different focus: typological, urban and sociological studies in which mainly the outcomes are at stake, and not yet their production. The main research question thus is: how the modes of production by architectural practices have been affected by a neoliberal turn of the Danish Welfare State? To answer such a question, the research after having investigated the origin of Danish architectural professionalism and then addressed two timespans. The first one, after WWII (1945-75) covers the Golden Years of Welfare State and the modes of production blossomed the international gospel of productivity under the Cold War. This timespan is a first juncture instrumental in identifying and stressing, which were the fundamental implications by the Welfare system at its beginning. The second one, instead, concerns the neoliberal turn (1993-2016) focusing on: the national policies aimed to flex-secure the labour market; the supranational agreements of the European Union related to the tenders and the free circulation of service; and, the national counter-legislation to support architectural procurement. In both timespans, the modes of architectural production will be addressed. The research employs a mixed methodology (archival review, literature review and grounded theory), supportive by the inscriptive tool of architecture (theoretical diagramming, exhibition design). It theorises two substantive grounded concepts: the shapes, seen as the adaptions by Danish practices to the neoliberal implications concerning procurement, and the mechanisms, that are the inward and outward operational activities developed by the practices to metabolise the structural conditions in which they operate. The overall argument of the current thesis, instead, regards the labourification of work. This latter is the formal grounded theory developed by the research, theorised as a general contemporary architect's condition, that can be recognised with different intensities in Denmark and on a global scale. The labourification implies that labouring painful activities (e.g. administration, public relations, underpaid commissions, unpaid competitions, unpaid overtime, underpaid internships, and so on...) are accepted at all level among architects for the sake of an exciting reification of work as a yearned reward.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages516
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2020


  • professionalism
  • labor
  • professional culture
  • neo-liberalism
  • Danish welfare state
  • velfærdsstatens historie
  • history and theory

Artistic research

  • Yes

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