Architecture and Construction: From the Vitruvian Tradition to the Digital

The course aims to contribute to a better understanding of the relationship between architecture and construction through the study of key historical episodes such as the rise of modern tectonic ideals in the 18th century, the development of iron and concrete buildings, the 20th-century quest for light structures, or more recent developments in materials, structure and building technologies. The course will also raise theoretical questions such as what the terms material and structure truly mean, or how does architecture differ from mere construction. Beyond its historical and theoretical scope, the ambition of the course is also to foster students' reflection on the contemporary evolution of the relationship between architecture and construction. Indeed, the rise of digital technologies and more recently the development of strong environmental concerns challenge our received understanding of tectonics, materials, and ultimately design.

The course will consist of live lectures given online followed discussions. Lectures will be recorded and made accessible to the students of the course. Apart from regular attendance, the students will be asked to produce a short end-of-the-semester paper on a topic related to the course. 

Plan of the course:

– Towards an Architectural History of Construction, Introduction
– Construction and Solidity in the Vitruvian Tradition
– The 18th-Century Crisis of Solidity and the Rise of the Structural Approach
– Early Iron Construction Development
– From Iron to Steel
– The Origin of Modern Concrete
– The Industrial Challenge from Ruskin to the Arts and Crafts
– Building Technologies in the 19th Century
– Structure and Ornament in the Industrial Age
– Modernist Architecture and Technology
– Concrete Engineering
– Concrete Architecture
– Early Space, Inflatable and Tensile Structures
– Buckminster Fuller, Jean Prouvé and the Search for a Revolution in Design
– Postwar Technological Utopias and Dystopias from Archigram to Radical Architecture
– The High-Tech Temptation
– Contemporary Advances in Materials and Structures
– Digital Architecture and the Rise of a New Materiality
– Digital Fabrication, Between Futurism and Nostalgia
– The Environmental Challenge: From Mechanics to Thermodynamics?
– Architecture, AI: What is Next? Conclusion