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Engineering > Architecture > Thinking About Architecture: In History and At Pre
 Thinking About Architecture: In History and At Pre  posted by  duggu   on 12/1/2007  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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Institut du Monde Arabe.
Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France, by the architect Jean Nouvel. (Image courtesy of Keith McCluskey, ©

Course Highlights

This class contains an in-depth look at the theory behind architecture, and the substance of it can be seen in the calendar and secondary readings sections.

Course Description

This course studies the interrelationship of theory, history, and practice as it relates to architecture and the architect. It looks at theory not as a specialized discourse relating only to architecture, but as touching on many issues, whether they be cultural, aesthetic, philosophical, or professional. Topics and examples are chosen from a wide range of materials, from classical antiquity to today.




This course will be constructed as a lecture-discussion, the purpose being to engage important theoretical issues while simultaneously studying their continuing historical significance. To enhance discussion, there will be three debates to be held in class. Each student will be required to participate in one. Each student will also be required to write three short papers. Class participation is essential and will be factored into the final grade.

All texts will be handed out in advance and will also be available in the library in the reserve list for the class. The texts will be extensively discussed in the class. The purpose of the discussion is to both learn the texts as well as use the texts to provoke questions about contemporary architectural and aesthetic practices.

The semester will be divided roughly into three sections to coincide with the debates. The discussions and debates are intended to demonstrate differences of opinion and enhance awareness of the consequences that these differences have had in specific historical context.

The first section will deal with the definition of the architect and the role of the profession as the discipline of practice. Too often professional practice is seen as the true domain of the architect. We forget that the profession as such is only about 1900 years old and that the debate about its role and its impact on the intellectual fabric of the discipline can still be debated.

The second section will revolve around the idea of nature and metaphysics. Though these too are issues that are rarely discussed, they are essential elements to understanding the philosophical issues that have been raised in aesthetics for centuries.

The third section will focus on Kantian, post-Kantian and phenomenological theories. It will lay the ground work for a deeper understanding of modernist and postmodernist thinking.

The course will portray the history of theory neither as the history of architectural theory exclusively, nor as a series of pre-packaged static pronouncements, but as part of a broader set of issues with an active history that must be continually probed and queried.

Aims of the Class
  • To get a better understanding of the disciplines of architectural speculation.
  • To gain a broad understanding of the complexities involved in current "theory debates."
  • To improve one's interrogative skills with relationship to reading.
  • To improve research and writing skills.




      CLASS       TOPICS       READINGS    
      1       Introduction       Lucian (c.125-180 AD). From The Dream or Lucian's Career. From Works. Translated by A. M. Harmon. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Editions, vol. III, 1921, pp. 213-233.    
      2       The Making of the Quasi-divine Architect       Vitruvius (born c. 84 BC). Preface to De architectura libri decem, or On Architecture (written c. 33-14 BC). Translated by Frank Granger. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Editions, book I, chap. 1: "On the Training of Architects", 1970, pp. 3-25.    
      3       Architecture and Social Anxiety       Alberti (1414-1472). Excerpt from De re aedificatoria, or On the Art of Building in Ten Books (completed c. 1450). Translated by Joseph Rykwert et. al. Book IX, chap. 10, "What it is that an Architect ought principally to consider, and what Sciences he ought to be acquainted with." Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press, 1998.

    "Dream." In Intercoenlaes (1438). Translated by Mark Jarzombek.
      4       Defining the New Profession       Latrobe, Benjamin Henry (1764-1820). "Letter from to Robert Mills" (1781-1855), dated July 12, 1806, Washington, from Correspondence (edition), pp. 239-244.    
      5       The Meta-profession of "Total Architecture"       Gropius, Walter (1883-1969). Passages from The Scope of Total Architecture. New York, 1945.

    Meyer, Hannes. "Building." Hans M. Wingler, Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1978, pp. 153-154.
      6       Modernism: The "Good" versus the "Bad"       Loos, Adolf (1870-1933). "Architecture." In Sämtliche Schriften. Translated by Mark Jarzombek. Vienna: Herold: pp. 301-318. [Originally published in 1910.]    
      7       Debate 1
    "The architect must embody some higher principles than those defined by society at large."
    "The architect must be committed to the social contract of the profession."
      8       Knowledge, Education, Identity and Ethics: The Individual in Society       Plato (428-348/7 BC). "The Myth of the Cave." In The Republic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Edition.    
      9       Ethics and Aesthetics: Mimesis in Classical Thought       Plato. "Collected Dialogues, Book VI." In The Republic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Edition, pp. 720-767, 819-827.    
      10       Taking Control of Creativity: Work versus Product       Saint Augustine (354-430). De musica.    
      11       Kant's Aesthetic Theory       Kant, Immanuel (1724-1804). Critique of Judgment. Translated with intro. and notes by J.H. Bernard. (London: Macmillan & Co, Ltd., 2nd rev. ed., 1914): Part I, Division I, Book II: 'Deduction of Pure Aesthetical Judgments', 'On Taste, Genius, and Art (paragraphs 40-50)'; 'On the Beautiful Arts' (paragraphs 51-54).    
      12       Continuation of Kant's Aesthetic Theory            
      13       Avant-garde and Kitsch       Greenberg, Clement (1909-1997). "Avant-Garde and Kitsch." First published in the Partisan Review (Fall 1939). Reprinted in Volume I, Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism: Perceptions and Judgments 1939-1944. Edited by John O'Brian. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 5-22.    
      14       Modernism in the Streets      

    Baudelaire, Charles (1821-1867). "The Painter of Modern Life." In The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays. London: Phaidon, 1964. 

    Benjamin, Walter (1892-1940). Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism. London: NLB, 1973.

      15       Debate 2
    "Architecture derives from, and belongs to, the higher realm of nature."
    "Architecture speaks to the question of use and culture."
      16       The Impact of Kant on Later Aesthetic Theory       Dilthey, Wilhelm (1833-1867). Passages from Poetry and Experience. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985.

    Vischer, Robert (1847-1933). "On the Optical Sense of Form: a Contribution to Aesthetics." Written 1873 from Mallgrave, Harry Francis and Eleftherios Ikonomou. Translated and introd. Empathy, Form and Space: Problems in German Aesthetics, 1873-1893. Santa Monica, CA: Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1994.
      17       The Impact of Kant on the Definition of History       Kuhn, Thomas. Passages from The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962.

    Trachtenberg, Marvin. Architecture from Prehistory to Postmodernism: the Western Tradition. New York: H. N. Abram, 1986.
      18       From Kant to Psychology       Arnheim, Rudolf. Visual Thinking. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969.

    Dynamics of Architectural Form based on the 1975 Mary Duke Biddle lectures at Cooper Union. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977.
      19       Formalism as Context       Rudofsky, Bernard (1905-??). Architecture without Architects: a Short Introduction to Non-Pedigreed Architecture. New York: Museum of Modern Art, Doubleday, 1965.

    Eisenman, Peter (1932-). Five Architects: Eisenman, Graves, Gwathmey, Hejduk, Meier. New York: Wittenborn, 1972.
      20       Phenomenology and the Search for an Alternative "Science"       Husserl, Edmund (1859-1938): from Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology, trans. W. R. Boyce Gibson (New York: Collier, 1969). Originally published in 1913.

    Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy. Translated by Quentin Lauer. New York: Harper and Row, 1965.
      21       Phenomenology and Architecture       Heidegger, Martin (1889-1976). "Building Dwelling Thinking" In Basic Writings. Translated by David Farrell Krell. San Francisco, 1977, pp. 347-363. Originally published in 1951.

    Norberg-Schultz, Christian (??-2000). Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture. New York: Rizzoli, 1980.
      22       Debate 3
    Diane Ghirardo and Peter Eisenman's Respective Positions in the Controversy Surrounding Ghirardo's Article "Eisenman's Bogus Avant-Garde" Published in PA, November 1994
      23       The Crisis of Textuality in the History and Theory of Architecture       Jarzombek, Mark. "The Disciplinary Dislocations of Architectural History." In The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (Winter 1999), 488-493.    
      24       Final Exam   Tell A Friend