Fieldwork in-between architecture and anthropology:
The case of Marxloh - Duisburg
Architecture and anthropology have long had similar interests regarding the built environment and its relationship to social life. While architecture has traditionally held the material aspects of the built form as its focus, seeing the built structure as an end in itself, anthropological studies considered the built form as a means to gain further insight into different sociocultural practices. Developments over the last few decades have changed the direction of both disciplines. With architecture’s break from modernism and universalism, more architects began creating buildings for culturally specific contexts (Stender, 2017). At the same time, anthropology, along with other branches of the social sciences, took a “spatial turn,” developing an interest in space, place and their human and non-human interaction with an emphasis on the performative nature of the built environment: what architecture does, rather than what is represents (Buchli, 2013). Despite different foci, the approaches of anthropology and architecture to the same subject allowed for significant methodological and theoretical overlap, and therefore potential for collaboration. In this paper, I explore this potential. In order to so do, I examine the historical links between anthropology and architecture as academic disciplines, identify religious architecture as a potential area of collaboration, and present the preliminary results of my ethnographic fieldwork in Duisburg, Germany.