Buildings, Texts, and Contexts: Origins and Ends

In the first semester of the Buildings, Texts, and Contexts sequence, our goal is to address architecture in the context of 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 after the eighteenth century—and the rise of the general cultural, aesthetic response to this rupture, which is modernism. Modernism in architecture has fundamentally to do with the emergence of new kinds of objects and events and, at the same time, new conceptualizations of their appearance, of changing event structures and temporalities, and of the relationships between objects, their producers and maintainers, and their audiences and consumers. Specific features of the object/subject dialectic—global capital markets and the rise of nationalism; colonial expansionism and lingering regimes of social inequality and structural racism; aspirations to universality and the entrenchment of local interests; in general, the contradictory conditions of the modern world—marked a fundamental change in the way architecture’s history could be conceived. Our work in this course will look at the three pillars of buildings, texts, and contexts in order to construct the historical origins of the architectural objects themselves as well as that less tangible but equally material historicity of the concepts and categories by which we use and interact with those objects. This dialectic of object and subject, and of origins and ends, leads to another important dimension of the course: the question of how architecture can have an effect on thinking as well as perception. Not how can architecture be the object of thought, but how can architecture be thought-like.

Please note this course will meet online through 9/15. 

Six of the lectures will be in-person with the remainder on Zoom. All Sections will be in-person including one in Loeb Library Special Collections.  One of the paper assignments is based on materials in Special Collections, another requires conducting preliminary research in the Library. In-person lectures are scheduled as follows: 9/21, 10/7, 10/21, 11/11, 11/30, 12/2.