ARC 327R / ARC 386M 
Instructor: Michael Benedikt

Metaphor, Meaning, and Magic will engage students in thinking about the ways that buildings are transformed into architecture. Can a building be functional and stylish and not be architecture? Can a building be non-functional and awkward and be architecture?

The answers have something to do with meaning. Buildings are meaningful. But architecture is meaningful in a meaningful way, and it is this extra layer of meaning that is interesting. For that layer depends not just on memory or reference, but on how and whether a building embodies larger principles and “things,” like the Cosmos, or Life, or Technology, or Language, or Nature/Landscape, or Being. It seems also to depend our desire to experience magic: moments of defiance/transcendence of the laws of nature and logic.  

This seminar is intended for graduate and undergraduate students of architecture. It will be taught face to face, with occasional online meetings, on Monday mornings. Format will be discussion of readings and past lectures, a break, a roughly one-hour slide lecture by instructor on one of the major metaphors listed above, a break, and then questions and discussion. Students will be asked to produce a mid-term essay as well as a final essay. These can be written or take the form of videos. Use of AI is permitted, even encouraged, within guidelines.

We will rely on several readings. 

  • Architecture, Mysticism and Myth, by William Lethaby (excerpt pdf supplied)

  • Changing Ideals of Modern Architecture, by Peter Collins (excerpt, pdf supplied),

  • For an Architecture of Reality, by Michael Benedikt (please buy)

  • Metaphors We Live By, by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (please buy)

  • Excesses, by Alphonso Lingis (pdf supplied)

  • Architecture Beyond Experience, by Michael Benedikt (excerpts, pdf supplied)

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 insofar as the ideas brought to the table bear on life generally. Past CIS Scores: 4.9 and 5.0/5.0




Fall 2023