4.205 | Fall 2009 | Undergraduate

Analysis of Contemporary Architecture


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

The goal of this course is to investigate with students backgrounds on some of the pivotal events that have shaped our understanding and approach to architecture. Emphasis of discussion will be primarily on buildings and works of individual architects. Canonical architects, buildings and movements that have exerted significant influences on the development of architecture will be studied in detail. We will visit some of these buildings for a first-hand look and to evaluate for ourselves their significance or lack thereof. As a final project, each student will analyze a building through drawings, text, bibliography and a physical model in a format ready for documentation and exhibition.

Not only will a larger visual vocabulary enable students to communicate more effectively about design, it can also aid in developing their own design ideas in studio. Gaining an insight into the canonical architectural works and movements in the past beyond just the forms will give the students an opportunity to place their own design ideas within the architectural tradition. “The buildings of the past are studied so that the student will acquire from their significance and greatness a sense for genuine architectural values, and because their dependence upon a specific historical situation must awaken in him an understanding for the necessity of his own architectural achievement.” Mies van der Rohe.

Course Format

This course will include short film documentaries, lectures, in-class discussions, assigned readings for each class and building visits. There will be no final exam in this course. Instead, there will be a final class project that will be scheduled for exhibition. Class attendance is counted toward the final grade and the TA will note any lateness of over 20 minutes.

There will be weekly assigned readings to be done prior to class and these readings will provide students with some backgrounds for in-class discussion. Active student participation is mandatory. Students will come to each class prepared with two thoughtful questions related to that day’s reading material to be emailed to the TA prior to class. I also encourage you to take a look at the recommended readings.


Completion of reading assignments on time 40%
Class participation and attendance 30%
Final project 30%


1 Introduction
2 Louis Sullivan: Adler and Sullivan
3 Frank Lloyd Wright
4 Adolf Loos, Peter Behrens and the German Werkbund
5 De Stijl and Schrader Schroder house
6 Walter Gropius: Bauhaus and Harvard
7 Visit Gropius House, Lincoln, MA

Le Corbusier buildings and cities

Documentary: La Tourette


Mies van der Rohe: Berlin and America, less is more

Documentary: Mies

10 Philip Johnson and the International Style of 1932
11 Alvar Aalto
12 Louis Kahn
13 Eero Saarinen, Paul Rudolph
14 Case-study house program
15 Field trip to Yale, overnight stay with Sunday trip to Exeter Library
16 Urbanism CIAM and Team X
17 Aldo Van Eyck
18 James Stirling
19 Aldo Rossi and Carlo Scarpa
20 Five Architects: Eisenman, Graves, Gwathmey, Hejduk, Meier
21 Post Modernism: less is a bore
22 Deconstructivist architecture

Rem Koolhaas and Frank Gehry

Documentary: Sketches of Frank Gehry

24 Suburbia, sprawl, Congress for New Urbanism, Duany Plater-Zyberk
25 William McDonough, green building practices
26 Final review exhibition

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2009
Learning Resource Types
Projects with Examples