Eco Folly- History and Technology

Whether at the scale of the structure, garden, or machine, the folly has emerged as an object of excess—a playful moniker in which the useless, the mad, the extreme, the theatrical, and the daring intervene in intimate as well as civic spaces. Such descriptors attest to how designers throughout history have been drawn to the folly’s programmatic theatricality and liberation—qualities with which we will grapple in order to focus on the exploration of net zero techniques and the potency of super raw materials (earth, wind, fire, light, stone, wood) to generate innovation in form.

This seminar, which runs in tandem with the design research studio STU-1318, takes the folly as a typological springboard for coalescing formal creativity and sustainable imperatives. Our seminar foregrounds the study of historical and technological examples, which are set against writings in aesthetic philosophy, the history of science, environmental history, and architectural technology: these might range from the Renaissance sun-machines of Salomon de Caus and the Ruined Column House at the Désert de Retz to the Folly/Function competition (co-sponsored by the Architectural League) or the Rock Garden at Chandigarh (constructed entirely out of industrial refuse). Our aim is to insist on the environmental implications grounding such works, which oscillate between art and techne and in which the concepts of pleasure and beauty can be daringly connected to concepts of green architecture. How can the folly act as a precursor to the act of building itself, nesting responsive design parameters into design thinking?

Invited expert consultants will play a role in the studio and seminar through presentations, workshops, and discussions. The studio and seminar are generously funded by the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities.

NB: Taught in conjunction with the studio STU-1318. While studio participants are strongly encouraged to enroll in the seminar, additional space is made for students from the professional and ASP programs who want to conduct historical/theoretical research on the topic. Students enrolled in the studio, 1318, who select 4480 first in the limited enrollment course lottery will be prioritized for enrollment.


This course will be taught online through Friday, February 4th.