The History and Critical Thinking in Architecture programme is a unique postgraduate platform for engagement with the contemporary through critical enquiry into history and the politics of historiography.

Over the past twenty years, the 12-month programme has been continually developed and revised to remain positioned within current and emerging debates. The boundaries of what might be regarded as a legitimate object of study are being constantly interrogated and expanded. Rather than dealing with history, architecture and the city exclusively through buildings and methodological classifications, HCT attempts to transform these into distinct resources through which historical and political processes, spatial configurations and built forms can be analysed and better understood.

Writing is essential, both as a practice of thinking and a tool of communication. Different modes of writing – theses, essays, short experimental pieces, critical reviews, commentaries, book proposals and interviews – are explored to articulate the various aspects of study. Seminars with members of staff, as well as distinguished practitioners from different backgrounds – historians, critics, writers, designers, artists and curators – bring a diversity of perspectives and skills to the programme. Architectural writings, philosophical and political thought, ecology, literature, drawings, photographs and film are introduced and considered in analysing the connections between the textual, the visual and the graphic. The aim is to be able to explore, adopt and adapt elements of these disciplines and practices in one’s own writing, while preserving one’s own voice.

The ambition of HCT is three-fold: to explore writings of history and the ways in which social, political and cultural aspirations shape particular accounts of architectural and urban modernity; to connect current debates and projects with a wider milieu and interpret the contemporary from a historical, critical and cross-disciplinary point of view; to investigate technologies of research, production and distribution of knowledge in relation to practices and public cultures in architecture and in the context of recent cultural and geo-political changes.

Seminars, workshops, writing sessions and open debates offer students a range of approaches to expanding and reinterpreting disciplinary knowledge within a broad historical, political and cultural arena. Six courses are to be taken during Terms 1 and 2. Students will then attend a Thesis Research Seminar and produce a written thesis in Term 3. The thesis is the most significant component of students’ work. During the summer term, formal presentations to internal and external critics, as well as individual tutorials, help students to test and refine their ideas. A final presentation of the completed thesis to HCT staff and guests, as well as the new students to the programme, in September provides a formal conclusion to – and celebration of – the work of the year and an inspiring introduction for newcomers.

Collaborations with AA design Units, participation in juries and architectural trips and visits throughout the year enable students to engage with design speculation, as well as particular projects. Other courses outside of HCT can also contribute to the submission requirements for the programme – these must be approved by the programme director. HCT also provides research facilities and supervision (with the assistance of specialist advisers) to research degree candidates registered under the AA’s joint PhD programme, a crossdisciplinary initiative supported by all the Taught Postgraduate programmes.

Courses and events in Term 1 help students to reflect upon and challenge practices of historiography; to develop a deep understanding of the ideological, political and aesthetic issues inherent to the notion of modernity; to interrogate conceptual assumptions that have dominated modern architectural histories and criticism; to start exploring writing as a practice through which to think and to articulate ideas and arguments.

Courses and debates in Term 2 provide students with knowledge of the history of the discipline, primarily through textual and visual sources; expand disciplinary knowledge in a broad cultural and political arena and investigate modes of engagement with emerging issues. Joint MA and PhD Debates on History and Translation provide a venue for the exchange of ideas and arguments. Each week, guest speakers are invited to position multiple voices and make possible a process of thinking in common, by definition a pedagogical practice that differs from the seminar or the lecture. These sessions are open to the public. Using the concepts and processes of translation to discuss history will produce an interesting resonance with many of the talks and events on translation that will take place at the AA during the 2019–20 academic year.

As students begin to develop their theses in Term 3, their choice of topic, the organisation of their research and the development of their central argument are discussed during the weekly Thesis Research Seminar – a collective space where students learn about the nature of a dissertation through shared experience as a group. The thesis outline, objects of study and primary research questions are individually presented to a jury of invited critics in June. The Thesis Research Seminar will be supplemented by a reading and writing seminar/workshop with Anthony Vidler.

Term 4 is devoted to finalising the 15,000-word individual theses for submission in September. Informal presentations and individual tutorials provide students with support and guidance in the final stages of their research and writing.


TIM BENTON is Professor Emeritus of Art History at the Open University and has served as a Visiting Professor in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University and at the Bard Graduate Center, New York. He is a scholar of the works of Le Corbusier, has worked on Italian architecture in the 1930s, Art Deco, and has co-curated several major exhibitions including Art and Power, Art Deco 1910-1939 and Modernism: Designing a New World 1918-1939. Recent publications include The Rhetoric of Modernism: Le Corbusier as Lecturer (2009) and Le Corbusier: Secret Photographer (2013).

FABRIZIO GALLANTI has wide-ranging and international experience in architectural design, education, publication and exhibitions. He was the Associate Programme Director at the CCA in Montreal and the first Mellon Senior Fellow at Princeton University School of Architecture. He curates exhibitions, frequently writes for international architecture magazines and journals, and has conducted several cycles of lectures and international seminars.

MARINA LATHOURI studied Architecture and Philosophy of Art and Aesthetics. She lectures at the University of Cambridge and has been Visiting Professor at the Universidad de Navarra (Spain) and the Universidad Católica in Santiago (Chile). She co-authored Intimate Metropolis: Urban Subjects in the Modern City (2008) and City Cultures: Contemporary Positions on the City (2010) and has published numerous articles.

JOHN PALMESINO is an architect and urbanist. He founded Territorial Agency, an independent organisation that combines research and action for sustainable spatial transformations. Recent projects include Oceans in Transformation, the Museum of Oil with Greenpeace, and Anthropocene Observatory with HKW Haus der Kulturen der Welt. He is Unit Master of DIP4 at the AA and previously led the research of ETH Studio in Basel and the Jan Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht. He is also a founding member of multiplicity, an international research network based in Milan.

GEORGIOS TSAGDIS is a Fellow at the Westminster Law and Theory Lab. He has taught at the universities of Greenwich, Surrey and UCL, as well as Leiden University and Erasmus University, Rotterdam. His essays have been published in various book collections and international journals, including Parallax and Philosophy Today. He was the organiser of the Seminar of Neoplatonic Studies, an intercollegiate study and research group hosted by the Warburg Institute.

ANTHONY VIDLER, historian and critic, is Vincent Scully Visiting Professor of Architectural History at Yale University and the former Dean of the Cooper Union School of Architecture. Previously, he taught at Princeton University and UCLA. His most recent books include The Scenes of the Street and Other Essays (2011), James Frazer Stirling: Notes from the Archive (2010) and Histories of the Immediate Present: Inventing Architectural Modernism (2008).

Architectural Association is approved by The Open University as an appropriate organisation to offer higher education programmes leading to Open University validated awards.

The Architectural Association (AA) has been granted the power to award its own degrees. Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) give UK higher education institutions the right to award bachelor’s and master’s degrees. As of 1 October 2019, the AA has the right to establish new academic programmes and degree awards. Therefore, from September 2020 students admitted to the taught postgraduate programmes at the AA will be awarded AA degrees.

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