Solid intentions: an archival ethnography of corporate architecture and organizational remembering

Michael C. Rowlinson, Andrea Casey, Per H. Hansen, Albert J. Mills, Stephanie Decker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research on organizational spaces has not considered the importance of collective memory for the process of investing meaning in corporate architecture. Employing an archival ethnography approach, practices of organizational remembering emerge as a way to shape the meanings associated with architectural designs. While the role of monuments and museums are well established in studies of collective memory, this research extends the concept of spatiality to the practices of organizational remembering that focus on a wider selection of corporate architecture. By analyzing the historical shift from colonial to modernist architecture for banks and retailers in Ghana and Nigeria in the 1950s and 1960s on the basis of documents and photographs from three different companies, this article shows how archival sources can be used to untangle the ways in which companies seek to ascribe meaning to their architectural output. Buildings allude to the past and the future in a range of complex ways that can be interpreted more fully by reference to the archival sources and the historical context of their creation. Social remembering has the potential to explain why and how buildings have meaning, while archival ethnography offers a new research approach to investigate changing organizational practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-542
Number of pages29
Issue number4
Early online date8 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014

Bibliographical note

© Sage 2014. The final publication is available via Sage at


  • archival ethnography
  • history
  • modernist architecture
  • organizational remembering
  • organizational space


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