COURSES

Term 1 lectures and seminars focus on the philosophy and writing of history and the ways in which constructs of the past relate to architectural and visual practices. Modernity is interrogated through a re-reading of histories of modernism and reappraisal of critique, criticism and the modern field of aesthetics. In parallel, different approaches to writing are explored so that students develop their own writing voice.

 

In Term 2 the historical process of the formation of the discipline is studied along with contemporary architectural and urban thinking. Techniques, epistemological assumptions, traditions and innovative practices as well as contemporary theories of language are examined offering the students a range of approaches to interpret and expand disciplinary knowledge in an historical, cultural and political arena.

 

Readings of Modernity, Marina Lathouri

Through a detailed examination of modes of architectural writing – manifesto, historical narrative, canon, typological analysis, critical essay and theoretical speculation, this seminar series examines the role key texts played during the first half of the twentieth century in the construction and subsequent critique of the early histories of modern architecture and the city. The course interrogates an identifiably vocabulary and discourse that was carefully crafted and propagated but came to be dismantled in the years immediately prior to 1968. The texts register and articulate formal and functional considerations, economic and ideological constraints, material technologies and cultural products. Through their very discrete languages, they create a particular reality of their own, which projects a way of seeing and thinking the building and the city and evokes aesthetic norms and distinct topographies.

 

QUESTIONING MODERNISM: Eileen Gray, Jean Badovici and Le Corbusier at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, Tim Benton

In this seminar, complementary to the Readings of Modernity, we will be evaluating the place of a building and its contents in history; what historical documentation can tell us about its design but also what the building as it has survived and is being restored, has to contribute to the history of Modernism. For various reasons, the ‘house by the sea’ – E-1027 – designed by Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici (1926-1929) has always been surrounded by mystery, myth and misconception. Working with the building’s history and the issues raised by its restoration helps to bring to focus a number of issues and tensions which continue to confuse our understanding of the origins of modern architecture.

 

Versions of the Critic, Brian Hatton

The motive for this course arose from a conference titled ‘Critical Architecture’. The title puzzled; for what architecture of any value would not be in someways critical? Nevertheless, the title reminded that criticism is done not only to architecture, it is also done by architecture. Yet, if that is so, how is designing different from criticizing? No answers to this question emerged in the conference, but two motives became apparent. One was a wish to emulate in architectural practice the political practice named by the Frankfurt School philosopher Max Horkheimer as ‘critical theory’. Secondly, the conference sought to follow Horkheimer in deriving the adjective ‘critical’ not from ‘criticism’ but from the philosophic term ‘critique’, used by Kant, Hegel and Marx. Our aim here is to survey the range between ‘critique’ and ‘criticism’, and to describe their activities in engagement with those of theory, history, and those of artists and architects. We will do this in two parts. The first examines the terms of theory, history and criticism as they have engaged with and distinguished the disciplines of art and architecture. The second half looks at Dan Graham’s cross-disciplinary practices and collaborations in sculpture, writing, media, performance and architecture, in order to examine the critical discourses on which they have drawn but redirected into new terms.

 

The Essay as Form, Caroline Rabourdin

In ‘The Essay as Form’, published in Notes on Literature, Theodor Adorno writes that the essay is classed among the oddities, neither scientific in its approach, nor purely artistic, it “catches fire, without scruple, on what others have done”. The essay form is therefore intrinsically critical, and its fragmentary nature, often regarded as a weakness, is in fact particularly suited to multidisciplinary enquiries. Operating so to speak “methodically un-methodically”, the literary essay offers the architect a truly mobile space of enquiry.

 

The course is underpinned by a critical as well as creative and literary methodology, using a wide corpus of texts ranging from essays by Montaigne to those of surrealist writers and post-structuralist architects. Each session, like Butor’s Improvisations, will invite the students to a journey through a series of texts, while Adorno’s astute analysis of the ways in which essays operate will guide us throughout the readings.

 

Conceived as a series of seminars and workshops, the course considers the act of writing as a very direct and performative experience.  In a first instance, students will select a written piece of their choice and/or a building they have access to, which will become both the primary material and site of their writing project. They will then be encouraged to share their own writing with the group in the midst of crafting their essay. The course will give students the opportunity to develop their own writing practice, learning from the writers featuring in the corpus as well as from their peers. They will be testing their writing in front of an audience, exchanging ideas and identifying writing techniques most suited to them. Students will be expected to apply a high degree of rigour and criticality to their written work.

 

Architecture Knowledge and Writing, Marina Lathouri

The course examines the multiple ‘languages’ of architecture in the light of institutional and economic constraints, cultural specificities and political ideologies. From the early renaissance treatise the economy of the literary object elicits an intricate relation to the economy of the built object – its modes of production, its aesthetic norms, its didactic and historical value, its uses and effects and produces a disciplinary (public) space which cannot be found anywhere in the singular statement, built or written.

 

It starts by looking at the early architectural writings, the ways in which they identify and describe the various components that are part of the ‘production’ of the object of architecture and the figure of the architect. It follows the transformations of this knowledge paying particular attention to the search for origins, universal language and autonomy in the C18th, the concepts of history and space alongside the establishment of the first schools of architecture in the C19th and the introduction of architectural historiography as distinct field of study. The series provides the students with the historical terms necessary to move towards an understanding of contemporary architecture cultures, the technologies and the multiple formats within which these are produced and communicated.

 

Introduction to Linguistics and Philosophies of Language, Caroline Rabourdin

This series of four lectures, is an introduction to theories of language —relating essentially to continental philosophy— and their relationship with the discipline of Architecture. Contemporary in its scope, the course will focus on the 20th century and begin with the birth of Linguistics, otherwise known as the ‘Science of Language,’ established by Ferdinand de Saussure. Students will be introduced to the ensuing notions of Structuralism, Semiology and Post-Structuralism before moving onto an ontological, performative and embodied theory of language with the work of Merleau-Ponty.

 

The Subject of Architecture, Douglas Spencer

Theories and practices of architecture have, especially since the 1960s, engaged at length with questions of the relations between the self and its environments. The subjects of architecture have been conceived as operatives in cybernetic systems, cognitive mapmakers, deconstructive readers, and post-critical participants in the network of flows. This course addresses such constructions of the architectural subject through the analysis of a range of related themes, texts, and projects. Considering a range of key texts and projects in a series of seminars, this module addresses these constructions of the architectural subject through the analysis of themes such as cybernetics, semiotics, the non-plan, managerialism and the emergence of neoliberalism within architectural culture. This course will be concerned not only with the relationship between the subject and its architectural environments, but also with developing the theoretical instruments through which this relation can be critically analysed.

 

Polity and Space | The Post-Eurocentric City, John Palmesino

The seminar investigates what it means to live in cosmopolitan cities, where we don’t agree on almost anything. What are the structures of political engagement facing architecture at a time of almost- semi- quasi- post- neo-colonialism? Can the city be thought again through the modernising notions of citizenship and globalisation? How to address the relations between institutional forms and material transformations of the contemporary city?

 

Thinking the city in the shadow of the acropolis today entails thinking through the notions and consequences of independence, of being alert to thinking a postcolonial and contemporary 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. The course analyses 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.

 

 

History and Critical Thinking + PhD Debates

Dis-locutions | Architecture and the Political, Marina Lathouri

 

The Debates, a joint MA and PhD seminar, provide a venue for exchange of ideas and arguments. External speakers are invited every week, to position multiple voices and make possible a process of thinking in common, by definition a pedagogical practice different from the seminar or the lecture. The sessions are open to the public.

 

Every time brings specific conditions to the manner in which the claims on architecture are made. New technologies and modes of design, and different forms of production have prompted elaborate arguments on economic policies, organisational models, environmental strategies and sustainable development patterns. There seems to be, however, a lack of reflection on the fundamental question of architecture as a composite form of knowledge with specific traits, and a distinct set of practices, yet in difficult connections with cultural economies and material configurations. Processes involved in the constitution of these multiple territories – professional, disciplinary, cultural and legal – and the negotiation of frontiers – conceptual, practical and technical – are proposed here essentially as a dispute over their proper locus.

 

Is it possible to proceed through a critical body of architectural references, existing or to be constituted, in order to engage existing material organisations and their institutional frameworks? Is it possible that the various regimes of the architectural project might still enable us to rethink conceptions of space, conflicts of appropriation and norms of use nearing the juridical delimitations of public and private domains? These among other questions will be discussed from different standpoints, with the visiting speakers as well as tutors and students from within and outside the school.

 

Drawing Matter, Tina di Carlo

In this one-week intensive workshop, drawing is considered as a pedagogical tool. Specific focus on the collection and exhibition of architecture is to reveal a historiography and a critical approach and method through the history and connoisseurship of objects. Private collections and current exhibitions in and around London comprise part of the curriculum.

 

Design by Words, Fabrizio Gallanti, Marina Lathouri, Caroline Rabourdin

In this four-day workshop, writing is considered as practice of thinking and a tool to communicate ideas in a clear and direct way. The objective is to introduce the students to formats and techniques of writing, with particular emphasis on the strategies to advance and develop ideas at an early stage of work. For such purpose a book proposal will be developed over the course of the four days and will be read and discussed in-group on the last day.

 

In Term 3, the Thesis Research Seminar focuses on the most significant component of the students’ work, the final thesis. The choice of topic, the organisation of the field of research and the development of the central argument are discussed within the Research Seminar where students learn about the nature of a dissertation from the shared experience of the group. The unit trip, which takes place in the third term, includes intense sessions to help students solidify their thesis. At the end of term and during the summer, work in progress is presented to invited critics.

 

In Term 4 the students complete the writing of their thesis to be submitted in September.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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