Building, Texts, and Contexts: Between Origins and Modernity: 18th- and 19th-Century Architecture
Any account of architecture’s history over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries is faced with the challenge of addressing the general rupture caused by the rise of modernity—that is, by the social, economic, technological and ideological transformations accompanying the political and industrial revolutions marking the end of the European Enlightenment. The transition of architecture to the modern world gave rise to a series of fundamental questions, which might be framed as follows: How did historical conditions place pressure on the time-honored foundations of architecture, on its origins, theories, and pedagogies? How did new conditions of scientific possibility actively reconfigure architecture’s relation to engineering? And finally, how did aesthetic conceptions and approaches, which followed an arc from Beaux-Arts eclecticism and historicism to Modernist avant-gardes, intersect with society and politics?
This course weaves these questions through topics and themes ranging from technology and utopia to ornament and nationalism. We begin with late Baroque polemics and the academic foundations of architecture as discipline. We then consider the multifaceted nature of 18th-century architectural expressions insuch examples as Rococo space, origin theories from Laugier to Piranesi, and the formulation of building typologies. The 19th century, which for us is inaugurated by a utopian imaginary (in Ledoux and Fourier), covers key episodes such as the Beaux-Arts system in Europe and America, architecture and national identity (in Schinkel and Wagner), and, finally, the dream of colossal structures and the infrastructural programs of the modern metropolis. Course requirements include attendance at lectures and sections, responses to readings, and several written assignments.