Extracanonical Buildings

In “Radical Thought,” Vittoria Di Palma argues for the value in studying the faraway in time and place to challenge preconceptions of architectural precedent. Rather than seek historical corollaries in the recent past and in familiar contexts as a way to legitimize work, Di Palma calls for a fundamentally destabilizing—and therefore radical—presence of history in design. In the context of this seminar, the broader implications of this action, while present, will remain secondary to its instrumentality. That is, the course will primarily be concerned with the underexplored design potentials of these underrepresented histories, especially as they bear on questions related to the disciplinary act of formal analysis.

Thinking about their power to unsettle the discipline, the seminar concerns itself with the selection and study of buildings not included in officially sanctioned bodies of work. Through initial reading discussions, the class will define the concept of the extracanonical and theorize its implications for pedagogy and practice. Using these criteria, students will describe and interpret a building for the semester project, looking critically at received methods of formal analysis and rethinking those methods with respect to the newly established extracanonical body.

The first part the seminar will entail weekly readings, a related student presentation (each student will be responsible for one 20-minute reading response) and collective discussion. In the second part of the semester, students, working alone or in pairs, will design and produce an in-depth formal analysis, comprising drawings, animations, and/or models, of their chosen extracanonical example. After an initial project proposal, weekly progress will be expected for feedback from the instructor and collective engagement from the class with the aim of displaying of the work at the end of the term.