Why do buildings need words, or do they? For most of the world and most of history, buildings are made without the benefit of formal architectural thought. But at various times, ideas about the aesthetics of buildings, their cultural and philosophical meaning, and their underlying principles, have been matters of great public interest. And architectural theory–in the form of treatises, manifestos, and critical reviews–has exercised an enormous effect on building. This theory can be prescriptive, presenting categorical rules for making good buildings; it can be descriptive, looking at how buildings perform in the real world; and it can be radical, seeking to change the essence and definition of architecture. Theory seemed very important to architects twenty years ago, but no longer. Why is that? We will investigate. Students will give short presentations on key theorists, such as Vitruvius, Alberti, Palladio, Laugier, Boullée, A. W. N. Pugin, Viollet-le-Duc, Gottfried Semper, Le Corbusier, and Robert Venturi. The semester will conclude with a 15- to 20-page seminar paper, based on comments and discussion following a classroom presentation.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
class participation, writing assignments
MA students, then advanced undergraduates