Architecture: Histories of the Present

“Poets and prophets, like magicians, learn their craft from predecessors. And just as magicians will invoke the real or supposed source of an illusion as part of their patter, or distractions from what his hands are doing, the most ambitious poets also take some stance about sources in the past, perhaps for an analogous purpose.” John Hollander 1973    

This seminar investigates the role of architectural practice and thinking both geographically and thematically since WWII. The focus of the seminar will be on the work of architects as well as the ideas/writings that have helped shape contemporary practice. Why do you practice the way you do? What are the forces (architecture, concepts, texts) that have inspired and influenced the direction of your work? These are among the questions that we will be asking of ourselves as well as a diverse group of contemporary architects from divergent geographies. The seminar will discuss significant projects/buildings and ideas/ theories from the 1950’s to the present. In the process, seeking to make discoveries about the work of figures both remembered and seemingly forgotten. The tension and the relations between the present and the past will be discussed through specific architectural projects. How did an earlier generation of architects imagine the future of the discipline and the promise of its outcomes? How have the conceptual and practical operations of terms such as history or culture influenced contemporary architecture and the way it is practiced? What role does precedent play in the work of an architect?

The structure of the seminar is organized according to a series of case studies that compare and contrast the work of different figures and their ideas-from Africa to Asia, from Latin America to Europe and beyond. In addition to weekly lectures and presentations, the seminar will include class discussions with a diverse range of contemporary architects. The aim will be to study the role and value of site-specific contributions and yet to unravel the nature–even the burden- of influence and its porosity beyond geographical boundaries. How and what should the future of practice learn from its past?

Course structure: the course will meet online on Tuesdays from 10 am to 12 pm EST to discuss visual and reading material presented by Mohsen Mostafavi and guests (practitioners or scholars). Pre-recorded interviews with design practitioners/scholars or films (60 min on average) will be included as required materials for some weekly sessions. Students can watch these recordings in their own time prior to the class meetings. 

 

Up to four seats will be held for MDes students.