The History of Construction is a new and rapidly growing scientific field. Based on a common interest in construction history, scholars of various academic disciplines of the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) combined forces to strengthen the Brussels/Belgian expertise in this field. They established a joint research group: Construction Histories Brussels [CHsB].
CHsB studies key topics within the field of Construction History. Hereby, four research lines are proposed which will benefit from the inter‐disciplinary ULB‐VUB research environment:
CHsB currently brings together scholars from six different research teams: BATir (ULB), CReA‐Patrimoine (ULB), HOST (VUB), MMC (ULB), sociAMM (ULB) and the Re-use team of ae-lab (VUB).
While many actors, such as property developers, investors, architects, consulting engineers, building contractors, and craftsmen, are involved with planning, designing, erecting or transforming a building or engineering structure, actual research is not covering them to the same extent. Studies on the achievements of developers and investors, consulting engineers, building contractors and craftsmen are still uncommon. This contrasts sharply with the large output devoted solely to the contribution made by architects. The expertise of the VUB and ULB scholars involved will help to redress this imbalance, aiming at a broader understanding of the various actors, their interaction and their role in the construction sector, on the local, national and international level.
In the last decade, several studies were published on local developments and innovations in construction materials and building techniques. However, international comparative studies are still lacking. The CHsB group can contribute to the study of trans‐national influences of these developments and analyse their technical, intellectual, social and economic dynamics. This approach is entirely novel as it studies not only the impact of innovations in construction on an international scale, but also addresses the impact of international developments on regional events.
This CHsB group will bring together multi‐disciplinary teams to study and confront the findings from a broad variety of sources. Engineers, architects, lawyers, scientists, historians, art historians and archaeologists will study historical sources such as drawings, designs, calculation sheets, regulations, specifications, contractors’ bills, payment orders, investment strategies, handbooks, manuscripts, and education and training curricula. As such, the CHsB group will add original insights to the organisation, creation, capturing and exchange of knowledge within the field of construction.
Construction history is a young field of research, which currently develops mainly along two complementary approaches: the 'history of structural design’ and the ‘history of building practices,’ each requiring specific expertise and proper methods, combined with an expertise in historic research. Traditionally, these fields are ranked in different faculties: faculties of engineering, faculties of architecture, faculties of philosophy/literature/history. Construction history comprises the research domains of history of technology, history of economy or labour, history of architecture, engineering, (construction) law, and so on. Over the last years, the multidisciplinary nature of construction history has been the topic of discussions and publications. We are convinced that the composition of our team will give rise to new experiences and insights which will allow us to contribute to this international discussion. Moreover, the different profiles in the team allow to engage in new research tracks and to develop a broader understanding of appropriate methodologies.