ARTH 405
Seminar in Architectural Criticism Fall 2019
Division I

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How does one judge a building? According to its structural efficiency or its aesthetic qualities? Its social responsibility–or just its pizzazz? Depending on the building, and the critic, any of these questions might be pertinent, or impertinent. This seminar explores architectural criticism, that curious genre between literature and architecture, and looks at its history, nature and function. We will read and discuss classic reviews by historical and contemporary critics as John Ruskin, Mariana van Rensselaer, Lewis Mumford, Ada Louise Huxtable and Herbert Muschamp. Insights gained from these discussions will be applied by students to writing their own reviews, which will likewise be discussed in class. Early assignments will concentrate on mechanics: how to describe a building vividly and accurately, how to balance description and interpretation judiciously, how to compare. Subsequent ones will be more synthetic, encouraging students to write bold, lively and critical essays. The ultimate goal is to develop a distinctive and effective voice, and to gain a better understanding of the nature of criticism in general.
The Class: Type: seminar
Limit: 11
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: students will write and revise six papers (5-7 pages) during the semester
Prerequisites: any 100 level ARTH course or permission of instructor
Enrollment Preferences: junior Art History majors
Distributions: Division I
Attributes: AMST Space and Place Electives

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