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1 Constructing the Past

Exploring Forth and Digging Under

1-1: It has been suggested that archaeological artefacts removed from their contexts and introduced into the sterile environment of the museum create an alienation between the object and its perceived “origins”. Other counter-arguments have suggested that it is precisely this distantiation from an organic environment that enables the construction of “context” in the first place. Discuss, through examples, the nuances of this debate. How are either of these arguments, or both, operative in a particular site or project that interests you?

1-2: The eighteenth and nineteenth century necessarily threw up a vast repository of “fragments”. Show, through an example or two, how a SENSIBILITY regarding fragments emerges in modern architecture.

1-3: Examine critically, through an example or two, how archaeological discourse is critical to the construction of national patrimony in the modern period.

2 Prelude to an Architecture of Globalization: The Transatlantic Slave Trade 2-1: Explain how the logic of the “Big House” and “Slave Quarters” might have structured an entire territorial system in the United States.

2-2: Inasmuch as Jeremy Bentham’s proposal described a concrete proposal for a prison, the French writer Michel Foucault has emphasized that the key innovation of the panopticon lay in the voluntary submission of its participants. Can you give one or two contemporary examples of a panoptical mechanism? Elucidate in detail. (Hint: Airports, Surveillance cameras, university dormitories).

2-3: Last week, in the session on archaeology, we observed how the disinterring of ruins created the positive terms for constructing a memory for the nation-state. Hortense Spillers’ theorization of the “vestibular space” in the trans-Atlantic slave ship suggests that, for some populations at least, such positive terms of patrimony may have become irrevocable in their emergence into modernity. Expand on this concept. Can you think of any other examples of such vestibular spaces? Qualify.

Responses to Question 2-1 (PDF)

Responses to Question 2-2 (PDF)

Responses to Question 2-3 (PDF)

3 Landscape

The Politics of Site

3-1: Show, in brief, the principal differences in which varying notions of landscape may have underpinned different patterns of land “settlement” in Britain, France, India, and the United States.

3-2: Comment on the different ways in which the “natural” was constructed in eighteenth and nineteenth century speculations on landscape.

3-3: Speculate on, by way of example, how the creation of maps, inasmuch as they document the existing state of the ground, relies as much on the pre-existing conceptions and interests of the mapmaking persons and institutions involved.

Responses to Question 3-2 (PDF)

Responses to Question 3-3 (PDF)

4 Architecture and Industrialism, Part 1: The Ghosts of Technology 4-1: Compare and contrast Walter Benjamin’s and Sigfried Giedion’s respective interpretations of iron construction.

4-2: As the essay by Wohlfarth tried to suggest, the key crisis faced by architects and aesthetes in the 19th century was not a function of technology but of the aesthetic. Architects and aesthetes were both at a loss when faced with the effects of technology and mass reproduction. What are the kinds of problems that we are talking about here?

4-3: How do you explain the “webbing” and “filigree” in buildings like Eiffel’s 1889 Tower and the Galerie des Machines in the context of the engineering advances of the nineteenth century?

Responses to Question 4-1 (PDF)

Responses to Question 4-2 (PDF)

Responses to Question 4-3 (PDF)

5 Architecture as Ornament 5-1: Can you discern some critical distinctions between critiques of ornament in the 19th century and those in the 20th? Describe by using one building that you would offer as an example of each.

5-2: Describe the grounds on which the critique of decoration describes a modernist agenda in architecture.

5-3: What is, and what is not, ornament? What is its use?

Responses to Question 5-1 (PDF)

Responses to Question 5-2 (PDF)

Responses to Question 5-3 (PDF)

6 Architecture and Industrialism, Part 2: Masses, Classes and Regions 6-1: In the demographic upheavals created in the wake of the industrial revolution, “morality” became one of the key areas of concern for those seeking to manage social behavior efficiently. Describe some of the spatial responses to this perceived moral turpitude of the “industrial classes”.

6-2: The era of industrialism has largely been identified in terms of the move to the city. However, as the readings make clear, this move also brought with it corresponding transformations in the notion of landscape. Show how the understanding of landscape was transformed as a response to the advance of industrialism.

6-3: Compare the idealist and utopian proposals for cities and communities made by architects to the paternalist strategies adopted by industrialists.

Responses to Question 6-1 (PDF)

Responses to Question 6-2 (PDF)

Responses to Question 6-3 (PDF)

7 Domesticity

Gender in Space

7-1: How do you see larger social notions regarding gender and domesticity affecting the work of any one architect? Take one building or one architect, not included in the readings or discussion, and illustrate.

7-2: Comment on the manner in which the collectivist experiments of early communism addressed questions of gender and class.

7-3: Describe some key areas or objects around which gender differentiations might be said to unfold in domestic space.

Responses to Question 7-1 (PDF)

Responses to Question 7-2 (PDF)

Responses to Question 7-3 (PDF)

8 Making of the Modernist Avant-Garde and the Operative Historian 8-1: Explain how the “flatness” of paper architecture may have fed into actual avant-garde conceptions of a new architecture for the future.

8-2: What aspects of the old, “modernist” avant-garde are retained, in your mind, in the work of the so-called “post-modern” or “deconstructivist” architects (The New York Five, Tschumi, Koolhaas, Hadid, etc.)?

8-3: Are all examples of paper architecture - idealistic manifestoes of forward looking architecture by vanguard architects - a form of publicity?

Responses to Question 8-2 (PDF)

Responses to Question 8-3 (PDF)

9 Body Talk

Body as Metaphor in Architecture

9-1: How does the “capture” of the body by a scopophilic regime or gaze transform its functioning in space and power?

9-2: Describe some ways in which mechanization or technology transformed the body’s occupation of space in modernity.

9-3: Differentiate, if you can, the spatial implications of workers, robots, and cyborgs.

Responses to Question 9-1 (PDF)

Responses to Question 9-2 (PDF)

Responses to Question 9-3 (PDF)

10 Ludic Spaces

The Architecture of Play

10-1: How does the theme park offer us a mirror to the city? Can the two be separated?

10-2: How do more “critical” projects of pleasure such as the Situationists, Constant, Archigram, etc. compare to consumptive theatres such as Disneyland? Is there a difference?

10-3: What do you make of the fact that some of the most radical achievements of technology in architecture have been realized in the context of the ephemeral sites of pleasure and consumption: the exhibition, the World’s Fairs, and so on?

Responses to Question 10-1 (PDF)

Responses to Question 10-2 (PDF)

Responses to Question 10-3 (PDF)

11 Lines Across the City

Architecture and the State

11-1: What is power in architecture? Explicate this through the relationships of the state, clients, architects, the function of design, architecture’s audience, the public sphere, architecture as a social field, etc..

11-2: Explain the new relevance of Neo-Classical architecture in the age of the dictators - Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini.

11-3: Particular acts of insurgency necessarily engage certain forms of architecture. Do you agree? If so, or not, explain with examples.

Responses to Question 11-1 (PDF)

Responses to Question 11-3 (PDF)

12 Post-War Narratives of “Development” 12-1: What are the commonalities and differences you see between First World and Third World theories of “development” in the post-war era?

12-2: Why do you think authoritarian figures such as Robert Moses and Lee Kuan Yew are able to seize initiatives on architecture and building to such a large extent?

12-3: How do you compare more recent examples of public works projects such as the Boston artery project to the kind of projects initiated during the New Deal?

13 Final Lecture    

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2004
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments with Examples