Taxes, architecturally considered

Seminar Architektur und Stadt I/III (056-0001-01)
Organizer: MAS GTA ETH
Lecturers: Dr. André Bideau, Dr. Susanne Schindler
Time: 2.00–5.30 pm
Location: HIT H 42

The seminar Taxes, architecturally considered is focused on the interplay of taxation and the built environment. How do architectural configurations—the superdense office towers of Hong Kong or an artificial product like «Andermatt Swiss Alps»—contribute to globally rising inequality? How do they indirectly also shape related tax systems? Conversely: How do fiscal formulas like imputed rental values or appreciation taxes, the OECD minimum tax on corporations or philanthropies’ tax exemption effect the buildings, public spaces, and infrastructure of Switzerland? Where, how and for whom does taxation become operative spatially? Our aim is to identify, through the analysis of the built environment, the societal priorities codified in the tax system. In a democracy, these priorities are negotiated, including the redistribution of wealth through tax policies.

In order to approach the interplay of taxation and the built environment, we need to consider this environment in its spatial qualities and at different scales: from the window detail specified in a home renovation to the way in which the boundary is drawn for an urban renewal area. Architects play a key role in the creation and ordering of the values created by any project or plan. Just as construction and development are typically premised on the speculative accumulation of capital, architecture relies on the speculative dimension of design.

In this way, Taxes, architecturally considered is also an endeavor at social and economic critique through the medium of architecture. The goal is to make visible, through careful observation and description, correlations that are often hard to grasp. The correlation between architecture and socio-economic inequality is one. We will do so by situating specific buildings and spaces within contemporary and historic tax policies. In this way, the seminar seeks to contribute a decidedly architectural dimension to the otherwise rarely spatialized debates prompted by Thomas Piketty's bestseller Capital in the Twenty-first Century (2013).