While historically, institutions shaping architectural discourse have been primarily academic, recently, architecture museums and institutes have emerged as increasingly influential platforms in furthering architectural debate. As nexus of architectural knowledge, these institutions have become particularly operative in contemporary society, primarily by involving a wide audience. By not only engaging the concerns of a broad audience, but allowing a broad audience to engage with the stakes, processes and concerns of architecture, architecture museums have effectively democratized the architectural discipline, inevitably altering architecture's perception, blurring its boundaries and exploring new territories for presentation, reflection, and discussion.
This dissertation attempts to precisely elucidate the question of how architecture museums have continued to impact the production and consumption of architecture, particularly as primary interfaces between the interiority and exteriority of the discipline. It is thus argued that architecture museums occupy a unique position within the discipline (and among their institutional counterparts), as they both are defined and define architecture's present perception. Given their fundamental connection, by interrogating the architecture museum, an original understanding of the architectural discipline was produced.
Founded on the premise of architecture's social and political engagement with society, the Netherlands Architecture Institute (Nederlands Architectuurinstituut, or NAi) became paradigmatic of this condition. With a modern organization and a systematic engagement with different audiences, in less than twenty-five years the Rotterdam institute emerged as a forceful voice in the globalized discussion of architecture, while also influencing the development of a remarkable architecture culture in the Netherlands. Therefore, by analyzing the conceptual and institutional dimensions of the NAi grounded on a thorough historical examination, this doctoral research advances not only the existing scholarship on the institute (and on architecture museums), but also produces a novel insight into the contemporary moment of the discipline through the under-analyzed perspective of architectural museological institutions.