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.

PROGRAMME BRIEF

History and Critical Thinking provides a platform for enquiry into theoretical debates and forms of architectural and urban practice. The aim is three-fold: to connect contemporary arguments and projects with a wider historical, cultural and political context; to produce a knowledge which will relate to design and public cultures in architecture; to inquire into new forms of theoretical research and architectural practice.

The strategic position of the programme in the AA and London, a city with unique cultural opportunities, can only underline an understanding of architecture that responds to the intensity and challenges of a global intelligence.

Programme

The 12-month programme is designed to enable students to develop critical thought and engage with contemporary architectural knowledge and culture ‚ its arguments, debates and practices, through an informed and dynamic relation to history. A common concern of the different courses is the relations of theoretical debates to practices and particular projects in order to develop a deep understanding of the arguments put into the design and the knowledge produced through its mechanisms and effects.

Central to the course is an emphasis on writing, as critical practice of thinking. Different forms of writing such as essays, reviews, short commentaries, publications, interviews allow students to engage with diverse forms of inquiry and articulate the various aspects of their study. Conversations with writers, critics, journalists and editors expose the students to a diversity of perspectives and skills fostering the critical and effective role of writing in architecture. Students are encouraged to publish their work and to present it at conferences and seminars within and outside the school.

The organization of the course around a number of lectures, seminars, workshops, writing sessions and debate series offers students a range of approaches to expanding and reinterpreting disciplinary knowledge in a broad political and cultural arena.

The investigation of the questions of history and modernity is our point of departure towards an understanding of the contemporary.

Term 1 has three main objectives: to help students understand the discipline of architecture; to investigate issues engaged in the writing and use of history; to interrogate the notion of modernity through a critical reading of histories of modernism and the emergence of the modern field of aesthetics.

Term 2 provides a platform for critical enquiry into current arguments and contemporary forms of architectural practice and urban research. The aim is two fold: to frame the question of the contemporary from a historical, theoretical and cross-disciplinary point of view; to investigate current and potential ways for architects to engage with new cultural and political formations.

The organisation of the year centres on a core of six lecture and seminar courses, Architecture Knowledge and Writing (Marina Lathouri / Mario Carpo / Tom Weaver), Architecture, Aesthetics, History (Mark Cousins), Narratives of Modernity (Marina Lathouri), Contemporary Forms of Architecture and Agency (Douglas Spencer), The Post-Eurocentric City (John Palmesino) and HCT Debates: City, Politics and Spaces (Marina Lathouri / John Palmesino). In addition, two one-week workshops will take place: Architectural Photography (Erieta Attali) in term 1, and, Critical Fabrications (Pedro Alonso) in term 2.

Term 3 is devoted to the development, through individual research and a specifically designed seminar to support and guide this research, of the final thesis. The theses outlines and main arguments are publicly presented to an invited audience of architects and critics. Related to the thesis investigations, and in order to foster an external and collective pursuit of architectural issues, the course organises also during the term an annual trip. In combination with architectural visits to study specific aspects of a city or an architect’s work, students discuss their research on a daily basis. Recent destinations have included Marseille, Porto, Basel, Genoa, Seville and Como.

Term 4 is devoted to the individual work needed to finalize the 15,000-word thesis.

Another area of action concerns the programme’s involvement with the design work produced in other areas of the school. Regular collaborations ‚- joint seminars, workshops ‚- with Diploma Units bring HCT and design students together to discuss current arguments primarily through on-going design research. The HCT students also act as critics in design juries and comment on the current design production in AA publications such as the end of the year Projects Review.

The course’s staff members come from a variety of backgrounds. They are involved in a wide range of academic, professional and research activities at the AA and elsewhere. Their combined teaching experience, research, publications and professional activities are a core asset of the programme, enabling the programme to compete successfully in an international context with other world class programmes. It draws upon that international context to provide the MA students with visiting lecturers and seminars that provide, both at the level of the school and of the programme, a continuous input of innovative and challenging material. Recent visiting lecturers include Stan Allen, Pier Vittorio Aurelli, David Crowley, Cynthia Davidson, Keller Easterling, Adrian Forty, Catherine Ingraham, Philippe Morel, Michael Sheringham, Robert Somol, Anthony Vidler and Sarah Whiting.

The course recruits a wide range of students. Not all of them are trained architects, and some come from the humanities and social sciences, having developed a particular interest in issues of space, architectural and urban debates. The question of professional training underlies all of the courses and activities. Students might be using the programme as a necessary step towards doctoral research, as a way to reorient their professional development from the practice of architecture into other fields such as museum and gallery work, journalism, or other architecture- and art-related fields, or become involved in teaching in the field of architectural history, theory and design. Every year a small number of graduates depending on academic excellence and ability act as seminar tutors for the History and Theory Studies in the Undergraduate School. This provides HCT graduates with teaching experience in the vibrant environment of the AA.

At last, the HCT programme also provides research facilities and supervision to research degree candidates (MPhil and PhD) registered under the AA’s joint PhD programme, a cross-disciplinary initiative supported by all of the Graduate programmes.