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 Contemporary Architecture and Critical Debate  posted by  duggu   on 12/1/2007  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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Dutta, Arindam, 4.665 Contemporary Architecture and Critical Debate, Spring 2002. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare),  (Accessed 08 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Stairs in Memory.

Stairs in Memory, photograph by Severin Koller, 2005. (Image courtesy of

Course Highlights

This course features a complete list of readings from the class, and a series of lecture notes which list all the images and precedents discussed in the class.

Course Description

This class, required of all Master of Architecture students, presents a critical review of works, theories, and polemics in architecture in the aftermath of World War II. The aim is to present a historical understanding of the period, and to develop a meaningful framework to assess contemporary issues in architecture. Special attention will be paid to historiographic questions of how architects construe the terms of their "present."

*Some translations represent previous versions of courses.



Introduction: Doing History Backwards

The course will look at key shifts in architectural thought and debates over the last four decades. The approach of the course will be to address current day problems, projecting back into the past in order to offer something of a historical "frame" to understand the present. The course begins by looking at four or five issues in architecture understood to be critical for present times: globalization, technology, cognitive sciences, the environment, and cultural politics. The course then reaches back over the last fifty years to establish precedents for these current-day preoccupations in architectural and critical terms. The above topics will be seen to have formal or theoretical resonances in a host of architectural movements: the technofantasist movements of the 1960s, "post-modern" semiosis, phenomenology, Third World "social modernism", vernacularism, post-modernism, cybernetics, and so on. Students will look at buildings, writing and movements as part of the evolving critiques of modernism from the 1950s onwards; in doing so, the students will come to examine the manner in which modernism was both critically unraveled and reinvented at different moments of its aftermath.

Course Requirements

Two Presentations (Leading the Class in Debate and Discussion) 20%
Two Exams 30%
Regular Attendance 15%
Final Paper 35%



LEC # TOPICS Discussion
1 Introduction  
2 Megacities  
3 Blobs, Curves and the Formless Buildings to Study: Frank Gehry - Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles; Greg Lynn - Artists' Space Installation, New York
4 Theory Outtake 1  
5 Bodies  
6 CTRL [Space]  
7 Environmentalism  
8 Architecture and Deconstruction Buildings to Study: Bernard Tschumi - Parc de la Villette; Projects featured in the MOMA show of 1988
9 The New York Five Buildings to Study: Peter Eisenman - House II, VI, X; Charles Gwathmey; John Hejduk; Michael Graves - Benacerraf House addition
10 First Interim Exam Questions will be based on readings. Length of total required responses: 1500 words. Students will have a choice between more standard, explicatory questions relating to the readings already done, or more interpretive essay questions. The former will have higher weight.
11 Architecture and Post-Modernism Buildings to Study: James Stirling - Neue Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart; Robert Venturi - National Gallery Extension, London
12 Kenneth Frampton and Critical Regionalism Buildings to Study: Alvar Aalto - Saynatsalo Town Hall; Tadao Ando - Koshino House, Osaka; Jörn Utzon - Bagsvaerd Church
13 Modernisms Elsewhere Buildings to Study: Jo Noero - Soweto Career Center, House Nxumalo; Charles Correa - Belapur Township
14 Vernacularism Building to Study: Hassan Fathy - New Gourna Township
15 Critiques of Modernism Buildings to Study: Atelier Lucien Kroll - Medical Faculty Building, University of Louvain; Ralph Erskine - Byker Wall, Newcastle; Candilis, Josic and Woods - Berlin Freie University
16 Theory Outtake 2  
17 Phenomenology and Place  
18 Minimalism and Monumentality - Louis Kahn Buildings to Study: Louis Kahn - Salk Institute, Kimbell Museum, Dhaka National Assembly Building, Philips Exeter Building
19 Second Interim Exam Questions will be based on readings. Length of total required responses: 1500 words. Students will have a choice between more standard, explicatory questions relating to the readings already done, or more interpretive essay questions. The former will have higher weight.
20 Voyages into the Surface - Robert Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown Buildings to Study: Venturi and Denise Scott Brown - Vanna Venturi House, Guild Hall
21 Aldo Rossi and the Archetypes of Memory Building to Study: Aldo Rossi - San Cataldo Cemetery, Modena
22 Manfredo Tafuri and the Venice School Building to Study: Carlo Aymonino and Aldo Rossi, Gallaratese quarter, Milan, 1967-73.
23 Theory Outtake 3  
24 Superstudio - Italy between First and Third Worlds Buildings to Study: Compare Archigram and Superstudio Projects
25 1968  
26 Traces on the City Buildings to Study: Situationist projects; Projects by Constant
27 Technofantasy / Megastructure Buildings to Study: Cedric Price - The Fun Palace; Archigram projects
28 Late CIAM and the Architecture of the Welfare State Buildings to Study: James Stirling - Engineering Building, Leicester University, History Faculty Building, Cambridge University; Alison and Peter Smithson - Sheffield University Extension
29 Final Paper (4500 words) Due Paper should be a research paper on a topic decided upon by consultation between the student, the instructor and the teaching assistant.   Tell A Friend