The Fifth Plan

In this seminar, we will consider the evolution of the floor plan across five iterations: proto-modern, modern, post-modern, plan-non-chalant, and, most importantly, the present. We will begin with a simple hypothesis about the present, namely that there is a new plan afoot. This plan has been making its way into architecture across a long gestation, declaring what it isn’t more often than what it is. Its terms are not those of the suck-the-air-out gangly hollowness of proto-modern experiments in iron and steel (as seen in train stations, department stores, and exhibition halls), nor the give-me-liberty-or-give-me-death plan of modernism (universal, free), nor the we-used-to-do-it-like-this-plus-je-ne-sais-quoi plan of post-modernism (neo-historical, juxtaposing, typological), nor the plan-non-chalant of recent reinvigorations of modernist architecture (data-driven, a-formal). Given it descends from these four earlier paradigms of plan thinking, I’ve provisionally labeled this new plan the ‘fifth plan.’

This seminar is not intended to provide a conclusive fifth plan definition. On the contrary, our aims will focus on the fifth plan’s continuing evolution and, most importantly, on the relevance of its various speculative threads for contemporary practice.

The course format – think ‘salon’ – will center on readings (of both the visual and textual sort) of a range of examples forming the last century of plan-thinking. We will evaluate case studies of historical and contemporary relevance. This is not a history course. Our aim will be instrumental: how might a conceptual re-positioning of the contemporary plan inform your work as a designer? The course threads will include seminar discussions, student presentations, visual/graphic analyses, and the development of hypotheses concerning the rule-sets defining the contemporary plan.

The weekly submittals are meant to make your weekly participation more fruitful, and to rebalance the seminar’s workload distribution in favor of a week-to-week effort rather than a single ‘big’ paper at the end of the semester. There will be a final paper/analysis requirement, but that paper will be limited to 5 pages, along with visual analyses.

Evaluation will be based 40% on class participation, 40% on weekly submittals, and 20% on your final paper.