ARC 387G / ARC 318L

This is the second course in the School of Architecture’s two-part introduction to the history of architecture and is concerned with the world/global/planetary history of architecture from the Industrial Revolution to the present. There are two basic problems with this aim. First, what are we studying? Are we considering the history of the built environment as a whole or only the portions of it that the practice of architecture has affected? If the former, how do we draw distinction between built and natural? If the latter, how do we define which practices are and which are not architecture? Second, and more problematic, is the issue of scale. How can we possibly study architecture over almost 300 years across the globe in one semester? Not only is this too much stuff, but also our efforts to think globally always begin from a local position. While it is a noble ambition, neither you nor I can ever get a view from everywhere. Our efforts will always be incomplete.

Thus, we begin this course with a certain sense of inadequacy (and maybe doom). But perhaps we can make this into a strength. Understanding that what is and is not considered “architecture” is contingent and that planetary history is always more than we can get into view, we can proceed in a way that acknowledges our finitude and the possibility that we can be wrong when we say that we know what architecture is or who and what it is for. We can find optimism in the fact that history remains contested–there is always more to understand and more points of view to consider. Thus, we can and should use history to actively try to understand what matters to us and our future.

This course is organized into four thematic modules, each of which will trace a particular history of architecture from roughly the mid-18th century to the present. Every class will begin with a timeline and map orienting that day’s material in relation to our past discussions. The fundamental goal is to emphasize that historical thinking about architecture is not the work of constructing a singular narrative, solution, or problem, but rather a recursive process in which the present and past are entangled in ever-changing ways.

Each thematic module aims to position architecture within material, cultural, political, and ideological contexts in a unique way (although the themes will inevitably intertwine). The materials module traces a history of architecture through five building materials: lumber, iron, glass, concrete, and aluminum. The labor module is organized around five types of work: extracting, farming, learning, assembling, and domesticating. The land module is organized into five modes of categorization and occupation: colony, frontier, camp, south, and access. The final module, money, is organized by five aspects of architecture’s intersection with money: financialization, socialism, credit, neoliberalism, and planetary urbanization. Each module will conclude with a discussion with a guest lecturer.

Prerequisites: For students in the School of Architecture, Architecture 318K with a grade of at least C; for others, twelve semester hours of college coursework is recommended


Architectural History
Community and Regional Planning
Historic Preservation
Interior Design
Landscape Architecture
Sustainable Design
Urban Design


Fall 2023