(listed as “Intro to Describing Arch”)
ARC 342R 
Instructor: Ulli Unterweger

Translating visual observations into language is both an art and a craft. To describe architecture is to abstract, enrich, guide, or precisely define our perceptions of space and form. Architectural terminology is a crucial component in this task. Yet the vast number of specific terms that fill glossaries and dictionaries—from abacus to ziggurat, and beyond—can be quite overwhelming. Many courses in architectural history contribute to developing a solid passive knowledge of relevant terminology through lectures and reading assignments, but the active use by students is often limited to their specific research or design projects. Discussions and considerations in design studios, on the other hand, provide a more active engagement but can be limited in their scope.
The course “Describing Architecture: A Starter Kit” aims at increasing students’ proficiency in architectural terminology through a combination of different assignments that are based on the methodologies of language courses. Its content seeks to supplement the various widths and depths of knowledge about the built environment that students from within and outside the School of Architecture bring to the class. Students will complete pre-class assignments to prepare them for visits of buildings on and around campus and to provide the basis for discussions in class.
The course will also provide an introduction to different historical and contemporary descriptions of architecture, including US National Register forms or ekphrases. In reading, analyzing, and discussing these texts, we will reflect on how architecture is portrayed, by whom, for whom, and to what end. Additionally, we will look at select case studies where descriptions served as inspiration for design projects or the bases for reconstructions of lost sites and objects.




Spring 2023