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Syllabus, Modern Architecture, p. 2

These different strands of the modern are all interwoven, but this course will seek to unravel them somewhat, in order to investigate what “modern architecture” might, in fact, have meant under different historical conditions – and what it might still mean today. It is said that architecture is the most overdetermined of the arts. In other words its form is the most dependent on function, patronage, structure, social representation, conditions of labor, etc. It is also called an inherently spatial art on a large scale. For these reasons, architecture can become an index of many other historical developments, not least of all that of modernity. The course will investigate, not only the ways in which modern society has shaped its buildings, but also how its buildings shaped (or were expected to shape) Modern society. As an art form which is not only vast in scale but also vastly expensive to produce, architecture has always been directed by an elite minority while having visual and physical impacts on the vast majority. It is an art form, not only of visual impressions but also of bodily disciplines, literally enclosing and organizing the spaces of those who inhabit it. Through field trips, this course will also explore this embodied dimension of architecture as a social and aesthetic medium.

Purpose of the Course: This is a writing-intensive course, and students will be expected to do a significant amount of writing and revision. More specifically, students will be evaluated on their ability to synthesize knowledge through the medium of writing. In other words, a major goal is to provide students with a comprehensive experience writing to learn and learning to write. At the same time, this course is introductory and assumes no background in architecture or architectural history. In addition to developing writing skills, it seeks to provide students with an introduction to three basic foundations for studying Modern architecture: 1) a set of conceptual and visual tools for analyzing buildings and architectural images in general; 2) a critical overview of issues and problems faced by architects in the last three centuries; and 3) a historical sense of the major periods and developments in cultural and social history that directly impacted modern architecture. Through textbook readings, lectures and field trips, students should be able to look at the buildings all around them in a new, historical light and begin to recognize the major movements and building types within modern architecture. Students should also become more aware of the material and visual qualities of architecture general, while also learning how to translate observation and knowledge into persuasive verbal analysis. In addition, students will be expected to begin to develop research skills through an original investigation into a particular aspect of modern architecture.

Class Format: This course will be a lecture course, with opportunities for questions, discussion, writing development and independent research. The lectures and readings are intended to provide a broad, historical overview of Modern architecture in its international context. This historical background will then be supplemented by one or more field trips. Through various writing exercises, students will be expected to communicate knowledge about architecture and develop abilities in critical thinking, style, mechanics, organization and reasoning. Knowledge will also be tested in mid-term and final examinations. Consequently, the final grade will hinge as much on writing quality as on knowledge of course content.

Required Texts: Barry Bergdoll, European Architecture, 1750-1890, (Oxford: 2000); Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, (Yale: 1977); William J.R. Curtis, Modern Architecture since 1900, (Phaidon: 1996). All books are available at the Temple University Bookstore. All other readings will be available on e-reserve through Temple University’s Diamond catalog.

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