The post-graduate course in History and Critical Thinking is a unique platform for engagement with contemporary architecture and city cultures through critical enquiry into history. Over the past 20 years, the 12-month programme has been continually developed positioning itself within current arguments, debates and practices. 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, the course attempts to transform those into a resource through which processes, spatial artefacts and built forms can be analysed and better understood.

The programme’s ambition is three-fold: to connect contemporary debates and projects with a wider historical, cultural and political context; to explore writings of history and the ways in which, social, political and cultural aspirations become effective arguments in particular accounts of architectural and urban modernity; to investigate technologies of production and distribution of knowledge in the context of recent cultural and geo-political changes that relate to practices and public cultures in architecture.

Writing is essential to the course, both as practice of thinking and tool of communication. Different modes of writing – thesis, 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 invited distinguished practitioners from different backgrounds – historians, critics, writers, designers, artists and curators bring into the course a diversity of perspectives and skills. Architectural writings, philosophies of language, translation studies, literature, drawings, photographs, film are introduced and considered for an analysis of the connections between the textual, the visual and the graphic.

The organization of the course around a number of lectures, seminars, workshops, writing sessions and open debates offers students a range of approaches to expanding and reinterpreting disciplinary knowledge in a broad historical, political and cultural arena. Collaborations with AA Design Units, participation in juries and architectural visits enable students to engage with design speculation.

The programme also benefits greatly from the dynamism of one of the foremost global centres of architectural and urban culture, and provides research facilities and supervision to degree candidates (MPhil and PhD) registered under our joint PhD programme, a cross-disciplinary initiative supported by all of the Graduate programmes.

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