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.

At the end of the course, students should have gained an enhanced understanding of the relationship between architecture and construction, and more generally between architecture and technology, an understanding which is especially necessary for a designer today. Beyond this immediate goal, the course also wants to promote a better appreciation of how architecture, both as a technological and cultural production, answers the challenges of its time. Building technologies and construction are not only tools for design; they contribute to the overall relevance of architecture.

Students are expected to attend at the GSD the in-person lectures, or in real time on their computer when given on Zoom. Readings related to the course content or expanding its perspectives are provided for each meeting and will be available on Canvas in pdf format. Because of the addition of four asynchronous lectures to the course, required readings have been substantially reduced. In addition to these required readings, suggested readings are also proposed. In addition to the previous requirement, students will be asked to submit written questions for at least two of the classes. Finally, students will produce a short end-of-the-semester paper of approximately 2,500-3,000 words, including footnotes/endnotes, on a topic of their choice related to the course.