Fall 2021

ARC 327R (00804) ARC 386M (01139) 


This Theory III seminar is intended for graduate and undergraduate students of architecture. It will be taught as far as possible face-to-face, on Tuesday mornings. (See note on Covid precautions at foot of page.) The usual format will be: discussion of previous week's readings and past lectures, followed by a presentation by instructor, followed by questions and further discussion. Students will be asked to produce a mid-term essay as well as a final essay. Both can be 'multi-media'.
Metaphor, Meaning, and Magic will engage students in an investigation of the ways in which the medium that is a building is transformed into the art that is architecture. Our persistent questions will be: (1) what is the nature of that transformation, and (2) how important is that transformation at a time in history when a building's technical performance (economic, environmental, social) seems to be all that matters?
The answer to the first question is "no one knows exactly." But here are the hypotheses we will explore: it depends on the operation of abstract analogies to, and metaphors of, the cosmos, biological life, machinery, language (or communications), social memory, or the evolution of consciousness itself. Metaphors and meaning set each other off subliminally. The transformation (from building to architecture) seems also to rely on our native desire to experience magic: moments of defiance/transcendence of the laws of nature and logic. Between these three factors, architecture seems always to be about something—including itself as a medium, and the effort, sometimes, not to be about anything. (How does that work?)

The answer to the second question (about the importance of the building-to-architecture transformation), is "very; and for surprising reasons." People need architecture more than ever.
To gain some command over these ideas, we will rely on several required readings.
Architecture, Mysticism and Myth, by William Lethaby
Changing Ideals of Modern Architecture, by Peter Collins (excerpt),
For an Architecture of Reality, by Michael Benedikt
Metaphors We Live By, by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson
Excesses, by Alphonso Lingis (excerpt)
Architecture Beyond Experience, by Michael Benedikt (excerpts)
There will be several, shorter, recommended readings as the semester unfolds.
Metaphor, Meaning, and Magic is intended to enrich the student of architecture's vocabulary of concepts, arguments, and sources of inspiration. It is intended to help them be better designers as well as better people.


A Note on Covid-19 (and Delta Variant) precautionary measures. Although it is against state law to require students to vaccinate, mask, or distance as a condition of participation in any class, this Instructor (who is fully vaccinated) is asking students---for their own sakes as well as for their fellow students' and Instructor's sake---to be fully vaccinated and to mask while in class or indoors with others.