Essaying Architecture

The word "essay" began its life as a verb—"to ascertain the weight of a thing." As an attitude toward writing, essays take stock of their object from multiple angles, always accounting for the author's own subjectivity. Neither strictly "criticism" nor "research," though they draw on both, essays are testing grounds for an author's intellectual commitments (theoretical, political, architectural) as they refract those ideas through the work of others. We will start from the possibility that the essay genre can be a potent tool for connecting architectural ideas with political life.

This seminar—equal parts reading group and peer-feedback writing workshop—aims to discover something about essay-writing by practicing it. We will examine essays (architectural and otherwise) that offer distinct sensibilities about how we read the world around us, and we will consider current trajectories within architectural writing and publishing. After some introductory weeks that explore various histories and theories of the critical essay, our reading list will evolve collaboratively based on your topics of interest. We will undertake a series of short writing experiments together, before spending the second half of the semester developing your own essay (tailored to a real or imagined publication).