ARC 386C

As architects we are faced with a dual reality that forces us to constantly negotiate between the realm of the physical object on the one, and the world of ideas on the other hand. As designers, we seek to give form to our ideas, while as critical thinkers we interrogate our built environment and extract from it the ideas that shaped it. In many cases, when architects have put their pens to paper, the implication was that each line could potentially contain the beginnings of a universal system to order the(ir) world.
From the sum of visions of what architecture ought to be has emerged a multi-faceted, often controversial picture that makes it impossible to find a singular answer to the simple question: “What is architecture?” today. Just as traditions of construction have been passed on and evolved, architects have taken up the ideas of their predecessors and adapted, critiqued and rejected them. This body of ideas - in treatises, manifestoes and built projects - has created a disciplinary discourse across the history of architecture. 

The goal of this class is to provide an introduction to some of the debates that have occupied and continue to occupy architects’ minds and practices. You will encounter multiple and contradictory positions that have emerged in response to often similar questions. Focusing on the connection between the world of ideas and the world of forms, we will operate on both ends of the spectrum: Through original and secondary texts we will study fundamental positions that have emerged in architectural discourse. On the other hand you will be introduced to canonical buildings and practices as physical manifestoes of these positions. Some terms and conversations you encounter in this class you will encounter many more times throughout your studies and likely your career. As you proceed through your education, you will increasingly be able (and expected to) make connections between your own studio production and the conversations of the discipline. This feedback between what we do and how we think about our activity allows us to be specific about the issues we want to address through our designs and gives us a basis for evaluation of our own work.


  • Introduce crucial debates and trajectories in recent architectural discourse
  • Familiarize students with a selection of canonical projects
  • Develop students’ ability to critically evaluate precedents with regard to discursive trajectories
  • Develop students’ ability to critically analyze precedents (graphic analysis)
  • Develop students’ ability to critically evaluate precedents (writing)
  • Give students the opportunity to use acquired knowledge and skills to develop their own positions with regard to the issues introduced in class





Fall 2023