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Syllabus, Modern Architecture, p. 1

Art History W300: Modern Architecture, 1750-Present [Writing Intensive] Temple University, Department of Art History

Fall Semester 2006 Main Campus: Ritter Hall, room 109 Tuesday, Thursday 11:40 AM – 1:00 PM

Instructor: Anthony Raynsford awraynsf@temple.edu Phone x 1-6932, Office: Ritter Annex, 850 Office hours: Tuesday, 1:30-4:30 PM

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    E-mail is generally the best method of contact during non-office hours.

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      Please allow 48-hours for an e-mail response.


Topic and Scope of the Course: This course provides an introduction to the history of modern architecture in Europe and North America, between 1750 and the present. It will explore the relationships between historical developments in architecture and wider changes in the social, technological and aesthetic realms. In this sense, the study of architecture will serve as a window into broader aspects of cultural history. Simultaneously, however, the course will examine architecture as a unique medium, with its own visual codes, spatial forms and material structures. In this sense, the history of architecture will seen in terms of the internal dynamics and ongoing issues of what it means to make a building in any context. As the course progresses, students will be expected to develop visual literacy in the forms and trends of modern architecture. Emphasis will be placed on learning to look as buildings and architectural representations in a deeper way. Textbook readings will help to introduce some of the basic issues while primary texts (written by architects) will supplement textbook readings. The course will place architecture within the broader history of modernity even as it also examines the particular responses of architects. In this way architecture will be read both from the outside, as a consequence of certain social, economic and ideological forces, and from the inside, as a problem of the professional architect.

What is meant by modern architecture? There is no simple, universally agreed-upon answer to this question. However, this course will explore three major strands of the modern: political modernity; technological modernity; and self-conscious aesthetic modernity. Political modernity has to do with the emancipation from static, inherited social hierarchies, illustrated in the 18th century by the American and French revolutions, and more recently by civil rights movements around the world. For Western architecture, this political change meant that architects were no longer as exclusively concerned with designing churches and palaces, the symbolic sites of traditional authority. Technological modernity has to do with the mechanization of production and communication, noticeable in England in the late 18th century. For architects, such technological changes meant the manufacture of new building materials, the decline of craftsmanship, urbanistic conditions of sprawl and the mass reproduction of architectural images. Self-conscious, aesthetic modernity has to do with architects understanding themselves as having broken with history and with the architectural traditions of the academy. This sense is captured by slogan of the Vienna Secession: “To each age its art, to each art its freedom.” Self-conscious modernity meant that architects had to, not only prove that they were modern, but also decide what modernity should look like.

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