This interdisciplinary research seminar affords students an opportunity to engage in independent research on a theme of their choice; this might be directed toward potential thesis topics or related areas of discourse. Following an introduction to research methods, the course will involve weekly lectures examining the significant disciplinary shifts in architecture and landscape architecture theory and practice emanating from faculty and graduates of Cambridge-based educational institutions—Harvard, MIT, and the Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture—during the period 1930-1970. The bulk of the course will involve conversations among participants from a range of disciplines concerning their research endeavors, as well as a series of class trips to a variety of examples in the region, many not normally open to visitors. These will include the Philip Johnson House and the Sert House in Cambridge, as well as the Gropius House and related examples in Lincoln, Massachusetts. In a day trip to Connecticut we will visit the Connecticut General Life Insurance headquarters (now CIGNA) by MIT graduate Gordon Bunshaft, with landscape architect Joana Dimon and sculptor Isamu Noguchi, as well as their collective effort at Yale, the Beinecke Rare Book Library.
Topics for research might include the regional, national, and international work of Cambridge trained architects, landscape architects, and urban planners, as well as the broader disciplinary themes that were inspired by that training. Students can take advantage of the remarkable volume of archival material available locally at the GSD’s Frances Loeb Library, MIT, and Historic New England, among other sources. The course will involve few required readings; instead, following an introduction to Special Collections in the Frances Loeb library and a series of lectures providing background information on the general themes of the course, the class will focus on regular discussion of our ongoing collective research. A research paper of 15-20 pages, including footnotes, is required, with a draft due at mid-term.