Syllabus, Fall 2011 Grad ARCH/URBAN History/Theory ARCH 638.
FALL 2011 SYLLABUS, 638, ARCHITECTURE AND URBAN HISTORY/THEORY
“If, roughly from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth, a coded language may be said to have existed on the practical basis of a specific relationship between town, country, and political territory, a language founded on classical perspective and Euclidean space, why and how did this coded system collapse? Should an attempt be made to reconstruct that language, which was common to the various groups making up the society—to users and inhabitants, to the authorities and to the technicians (architects, urbanists, planners)?”
Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 1974 (Oxford, Blackwell, 1991) 17.
This critical survey on architecture and urban theory from the 15th to the 19th centuries will concern itself with the question of the evolution and eventual devolution of the Western architectural canon. This course will investigate the making of the urban master-narrative in relationship to 20th century modern architecture and urban theories.
In the case of this particular subject and timeline, the master-narrative can be substituted for the master-plan. The building up of this history, the instrumentalizaton of various aspects of Renaissance, Mannerist, Baroque and Enlightenment architectural and urban histories have served to institutionalize over the course of the late 19th and early 20th centuries a scientific urban practice. The crises effecting architecture and urbanism in the post-WWII era were part of a much broader series of deep interrogations into the legitimacy of the meta-narrative effecting philosophy, the arts, and ultimately the sciences. We intend to examine how the emergence of the master-narrative—predicated on a series of highly exclusive canonic events, becomes further structured and authoritative.
Over the longer duration, however, such structures have proven to be increasingly problematic and marginal when considering the much more complex environments that make up today’s global society. The post-war (WWII) crisis in modernism and the rising supremacy of Post-Modern thought, finally punctuated by the shock of the revolutions of 1989 (see Francis Fukuyama’s end of history thesis, in End of History and the Last Man, New York, Simon&Schuster 1992. *) and subsequent aftershocks, with an endless number of crises, political, economic, social and environmental, have precipitated numerous rational and irrational counter-tendencies.
Today architects and urban designers are engaged in a dialectical debate over strategies and tactics that might either loosely guide—or tightly control the future of our great cities. This course is structured on a set of overlapping studies: an examination of the history of architecture and cities and their consequent critical interpretations that include recent theoretical developments and a weekly survey of different aspects of urban cultural production- from dance to rap, from theater to street art, from the printing press to internet as a means of gauging the city’s position within the transformation of public life and public space.
“The environment should be perceived as meaningful, its visible parts not only related to each other in time and space but related to other aspects of life: functional activity, social structure, economic and political patterns, human values and aspirations, even individual idiosyncrasies and character.
The environment is an enormous communications device…”
Kevin Lynch, Site Planning, Second Edition.
(Cambridge, MIT Press, 1971) 226.
Students will be required to develop a series of semester-long assignments and give class presentations on these assignments. Each student is asked to keep an updated web-blog linked to the class Tumblr site:
1. RESEARCH CITY: East student at the beginning of the semester is asked to choose a city that experienced significant demonstrations, protests, assemblies or frequent mobbing (for this project cities already covered in previous classes are still eligible) and develop a semester long project that investigates the urban context’s multiple characteristics and physical dimensions (with an emphasis on distinguishing traditional histories from more recent events). Final presentations will be set to a specific template (See below) and consist of original diagrams, maps, charts, and axonometric drawings. A 2000 word text should accompany the presentation. (50%grade)
2. ON LINE BLOG: Students are invited to create and continuously update their Blog site on their topic’s research (statistics, topography, politics and economics, but also cultural and visual documents) The assembly of information on your selected city will assist you and others in the class and also invited outside observers to review and comment on your ongoing research. (35%grade)
3. RECENT EVIDENCE OF NEW CULTURAL PRODUCTION: The student will be invited to present in class a geography of resistance intrinsically linked to the city they have chosen to study. (15%grade)
*Francis Fukuyama “End of History” for online text see:
David Grahame Shane, Recombinant Urbanism: Conceptual Modeling in Architecture, Urban Design and City Theory, London, Academy Press, 2005.
Lewis Mumford, The Culture of Cities, New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970
Kenneth Frampton, Modern Architecture: A Critical History, London, Thames and Hudson, 2007.
Lieven De Cauter, The Capsular Civilization, On the City in the Age of Fear. Rotterdam, Nai publishers, 2004
“There are also probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places—places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society—which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality. Because these places are absolutely different from all sites they reflect and speak about, I shall call them heterotopias.”
Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias” 1964 cited in Shane, Recombinant Urbanism,
USERS MANUAL FOR THIS SYLLABUS: Monday classes are dedicated to open discussions called “BLOBS,”* on historical and emergent cultural production and their role or contribution to city identity. Wednesday’s are dedicated to lectures or “TALKS” where the presentation follows closely readings from the Class Textbook and examines historical relationships to Western “canonic” events related to architecture and the city. Specific web source readings and video excerpts are noted when available for each week’s assignment. NOTE: A number of Friday classes will be announced when scheduling conflicts arise with regularly scheduled classes on Mondays or Wednesdays.
The term *BLOB” is inspired by the Italian RAI 3 program that each evening edits together random sets of news, soaps and features, under the direction of Enrico Ghezzi.
Monday August 28. INTRO: Course Structure, The Web Page, Student BLOGS,
ASSIGNMENT DUE September 5. PLEASE SUBMIT TWO POSSIBLE CHOICES FOR YOUR CITY PROJECT, BASED ON THE ISSUE OF RESISTANCE AND URBAN SPACE. WITH THE INSTRUCTOR’S APPROVAL YOU WILL BE ASKED TO FIRST WRITE A BRIEF 500 WORD HISTORY OF THE CITY FROM ITS ORIGINS TO
PRESENT. MAKING the City Identikit. Cities can be studied as artifacts, (urban context, roads, centers, public spaces and architecture), as the structures supporting the social-economic fabric (trade, class, immigration, daily life, urban culture), and through creative representation, (manifestations of urban identity: humanities, poetry, prose, cinema, dance, photography, etc.,) Each student will be expected to track their assigned city over the course of the semester, diagramming, mapping, developing a bibliography, image library, and updating historical sources and current events. Assignment 1 will be the basis for the project paper for final grading.
WEDNESDAY August 31TALK: Reflections on the City.
Recombinant Urbanism: “What is City Theory?” 1.1-1.3
Urban Spectacles and Performances:
Street theater, ballet, Surrealist walks, International Situationists, Parkours, Skate,
Mumford, on the City –CITY AS THE PLACE OF OUR MORE VIOLENT MANIFESTATIONS:
Alive in Joburg, Neill Blomkamp Director, 2006 (District 9 predecessor) This a short film from, which the movie District 9 is based off of Neill Blomkamp was originally set to produce the halo movie, which is now on hold indefinitely.
MONDAY November 21, BLOB The Avant-Garde 2. The Sixties to now: Minimalism, Pop, etc. Reading: Jack Kerouac, On the Road. Conceptual Art, Land Art, New Media, Post-Human, Global Art, Graffiti Art, Street Art.
WEDNESDAY November 23 TALK: Recombinant Urbanism: 4.1: A Preliminary Definition of the Heterotopia, Recombinant Urbanism: 4.3, Rhizomic Assemblage and Heterotopias of Illusion. Workbund, Bauhaus, Ulm, US: Eames, Buckminster Fuller, Contemporary: Global Tools, Fabrica
Cedric Price, author, Hans Ulrich Obrist ed., Re:CP, Birkhauser, 1999.
Peter Cook, Archigram, New York, Princeton Architectural Press, 1999.
Peter Lang, William Menking, Superstudio, Life Without Objects, Milan, Skira, 2003,
Simon Sadler, Archigram, Architecture without Architecture, Cambridge, MIT press, 2005
Hadas A Steiner, Beyond Archigram, The Structure of Circulation, London, Routledge, 2009
FURTHER READINGS: Bentham, the Panopticon, Insane Asylum,