The HCT Publishing Wall is the rolling platform for work by students in the History & Critical Thinking M.A. 2010-12 programme at the Architectural Association School of Architecture, London.

Courses

TERM 1

The lectures, seminars, public talks, writing sessions and workshop in Term 1 have three main objectives: to help students understand, mainly through the written text, the history of the discipline, the emergence and development of a distinct form of knowledge and set of practices; to reflect upon the writing of architectural history and its relevance to practice; to investigate the notion of modernity through the multiple histories of modernism and the modern field of aesthetics.

Narratives of Modernity – Marina Lathouri

This seminar series examines the role key texts played in the construction of a canonical history of modern architecture. Through a detailed examination of forms of architectural writing, the seminar interrogates an identifiably modernist vocabulary that was propagated during the first half of the twentieth century but came to be dismantled in the years immediately prior to 1968. The careful reading of these texts aims to examine among other the ways in which social and political aspirations become effective arguments in the production of particular accounts of architectural and urban modernity.

Modern, Modernism, Modernity – The Manifesto – Historical Narrative – Architectural Canon – The Plenitude of Form – From Design to Theory – Semiotics and Typological Studies – Operative Criticism and the Critical Project

Architecture, Aesthetics, History - Mark Cousins

Architectural education and discussion is dominated by the problem of design. Aesthetics is frequently dismissed as a philosophical irrelevance to the nature of design. Aesthetics is misunderstood as an attempt to impose norms of beauty, etc. In fact, since Kant aesthetics has been attempting in different ways to address the question of the subjective response to art and architecture. The course will cover the issues involved in this transformation in modernity.

The course starts by placing this issue in the context of philosophies of art in Antiquity and in the Renaissance. It follows the rise in the transformation of taste in the eighteenth century and its culmination of a subjective aesthetics in Kant’s Critique of Judgement. It follows the fate of Kant’s work through Hegel, to Clement Greenberg, and pays particular attention to the construction of architectural history as a discipline. It concludes with contemporary work on the nature of the art and architectural object in the work of Derrida’s The Truth in Painting and in the work of Jean Luc Nancy.

Antiquity and the Renaissance – Taste and the 18th Century – Kant and Aesthetics – The Sublime – Hegel – Wolfflin and Architectural History – Greenberg’s Modernism – Deconstruction

Architecture Knowledge and Writing - Marina Lathouri / Mario Carpo / Thomas Weaver

The course has two parts. The first part, a lecture series, seeks to show how a body of knowledge and operations specific to architecture developed as part of broader historical, intellectual and political situations. By looking, in particular, at the rise of architectural history and theory in relation to the emergence of the figure of the architect in late Renaissance, the notion of the autonomous architectural project in the C18th, the concept of space and the establishment of architecture as distinct discipline and profession in the C19th, it provides the students with the historical terms necessary to move towards a contemporary sense of the discipline. It pays particular attention to technologies and the multiple formats within which this knowledge is produced and communicated and which include apart from buildings and drawings, printed books, professional journals, exhibitions, digital variations, and so on. Architects participate in a broader public culture, and in fact, they operate in diverse combinations of all these different media. Therefore these technologies are understood not only as a mechanism for the dissemination of ideas but also as sites for architectural production.

Writing Architecture (Lathouri) – Writing History (Lathouri) – The ‘point of view’: Architectural History and Modernity (Lathouri) – Writing as Architecture: The Space of the Community and Politics of Inhabitation (Lathouri) – Hand-making, machine-making and digital making (Carpo) – Brunelleschi, Alberti and the Invention of Modern Architectural Authorship (Carpo) – The Digital Turn and the Reverse of the ‘Albertian Paradigm’ (Carpo)

The aim of the second part, running in three weeks, is to look more closely at a specific mode of architectural writing through three short writing assignments. (Weaver) These exercises will focus on the essay, quite distinct from other forms of architectural writing, such as the manifesto, the treatise, the journal or, indeed, the academic paper, and will highlight within this model a distinctly English characteristic (again, quite separate from the largely German strain of most architectural history (Winckelmann, Wittkower, Pevsner, Giedion et al). Accordingly, the assignments will study texts by a number of English architectural essayists (Summerson, Rowe, Colquhoun, Banham and Evans) alongside additional readings that give further historical and contemporary context to the essay form.

Architectural Photography – Erieta Attali

The scope of this one-week workshop focuses on using the medium of architectural photography as a critical tool, to enable the visual depiction of both buildings in them and in the new relationships of building and context. Photography is capable of intentional or unintentional deceits in terms of scale, context and physical condition – sometimes legitimate, sometimes not. Photography has also proven an excellent tool for displaying the shortcomings and sensations unidentifiable by plans and sections. Architectural photography helps us to understand the architect’s ideas and intentions, and can provide us with insights into a building’s meaning. It provides us not only with documentary evidence but also serves as a stimulant for the critical mind.

The workshop will give students the opportunity to engage in a similar quest. During the week, students will explore the city of London by producing in a daily basis a series of images that cover a range of architectural themes: cityscape, urban landscape, including residential, commercial and public spaces together with natural landscape. Technical, historical and aesthetic aspects of photography will be covered while the city itself will enable the students to examine and interpret work outside of the classroom environment.

By the end of the week, each student will be taught how to select and compile a photographic portfolio based on his/her work. With this, each student will include a short written contribution that explains their choice of project(s) and discusses the co-relation between building and his/her visual interpretation of it.

TERM 2

The courses, debates and events of term 2 provide a platform for critical enquiry into contemporary arguments, modes of design research and architectural practices. The aim is two fold: to frame the question of the contemporary from a historical, theoretical and cross-disciplinary point of view; to expand disciplinary knowledge in a broad cultural arena and investigate current and potential ways for architects to engage with emerging territorial, spatial and political formations.

 

Forms of Contemporary Architecture and Agency - Douglas Spencer

This seminar and lecture series critically engages with the different modes of practice to be found within the field of contemporary architecture. The discipline’s expansion into organizational and environmental management, its engagement with matters of marketing and publicity, its mediation of cultural production within museums, galleries and stadia, and its projection of sustainable visions of the future, all speak of its desire to secure its relevance and significance within the contemporary world. At the same time however, as will be explored here, each of these moves also places architecture in a precarious dynamic where its disciplinary specificity, alongside the possibility of its own critical agency, may be significantly compromised.

Research and Development – Organisation – Mediation – Projection

 

Post-Eurocentric City - John Palmesino

Anti-political, a-political, post- semi- quasi-western: thinking the city in the shadow of the acropolis today entails thinking through the notions and consequences of independent thought, of being alert to thinking a postcolonial anxiety, re-evaluating the courage to think what creativity is today and what kind of knowledge production architecture is expressing in its own right.

The course explores the transformations of contemporary polities and their spaces of operation through the presentation of critical languages on urbanisation processes, cosmopolitanisation, post-colonial geography, mobilities, cultural theory and creative practices. At a time of vast re-organisation of territorial structures and expansion of the urban couple with reformulations of modes of design and production of architecture, the course aims at articulating the theoretical conjunctions of a series of lines of development of the contemporary city.

The course will analyse the links between the transformations in international and sub-state polities with the construction processes of the inhabited space in a number of selected locales. It investigates the subtle and nuanced modes of streamlining architectural and urban differences in the contemporary human territories, of unleashing oceanic processes of institutional change and re-organising both discourses on modernity, sovereignty and the material structures of human environments. It will investigate a series of spatial products linked to these transformations and articulate notions of the postcolony, extraterritoriality and world-systems away from the traditional model of expansionism and diffusionism of the European city. The course will enquire into the consequences of these changes for the notions and practices of the project at a time of dirty cosmopolitanisation.

Polity, Space, Territory – Transformations – Circulations – Independenc – Charting Differences – The Post-Colony – War – Uncertain States of Europe

 

MA HCT Debates: City, Politics and Spaces - Marina Lathouri / John Palmesino

To enable students to pursue questions and problems in a debate setting, the HCT programme holds a series with invited designers, writers, artists and critics. Each session includes an introductory presentation of the issues followed by discussion. Students are asked to prepare questions and observations based upon preliminary reading.

The theme of the discussions this year is the city. Although the continuing urban growth has prompted elaborate arguments on economic policies, new organisational models, environmental strategies and sustainable development patterns, there seems to be a lack of reflection on the fundamental question of the city as a composite environment and political space.

Every time brings specific conditions to the manner in which the claims on the city are made. Many of the emerging urban formations and forms of urbanity are partially or completely novel institutional orders or systems of relations. What is it, then, that we are trying to name with the term city? Would that mean that the emerging spaces are also spaces for a new politics? Is it possible to proceed through a critical body of architectural references, existing or to be constituted, in order to rethink urban space against a background of a recent political philosophy that has questioned the communal? Is it possible that the various regimes of the architectural project might still engage conceptions of space, conflicts of appropriation and norms of use nearing the juridical delimitation of the public and private domains?

 

Critical Fabrications – Pedro Ignacio Alonso

In the form of a one-week workshop, these 3 lectures/discussions will examine the contemporary notion of ‘fabrication’. How it has come to acquire the status that the notion of ‘construction’ – and in particular the one of the ‘new construction’‚ had within narratives of the modern. We will examine these contemporary debates within design speculation and current modes of production by historically situating issues that are not purely technical, or practical, but imply the involvement of techniques into the formulation of powerful theoretical assumptions in architecture.

Fabrication as From – A genealogy of component design in architecture – Contemporary modes of production and the question of fabrication

TERM 3

Research Seminar - Marina Lathouri with visiting critics

The thesis is the largest and most significant component of students‚Äô work within the overall MA structure. The choice of topic, the organisation of research and the development of the central argument are all organised within the Research Seminar which takes place in term 3. This may be supplemented by individual tutorials, but central to the development of the thesis is the collective seminar. From the point of view of the individual student, this has the advantage of receiving not only the comments and suggestions of an individual tutor, but those of the student’s peers in a collective setting. From the point of view of the other students, the seminar provides a means not only of developing their own thesis, but also of experiencing the development, difficulties, and solutions of all the other students. In this way, students are provided with an invaluable tool in learning about the nature of a dissertation from the shared experiences of the group.

At the end of term 3 the thesis outline is individually presented to a jury of invited guests. In term 4 the students are asked to develop their thesis independently.