The Picturesque: Nature // Artifice

This seminar explores the legacy of picturesque image-making from the eighteenth century to the present. From its roots in eighteenth-century debates on the English landscape, the picturesque has never been far from broader political questions of localism, indigeneity, and the management of land and labor. The course situates the picturesque within the empiricist tradition of Edmund Burke and Adam Smith before tracing its expression in the built environment, with the goal of reading European encounters with colonial landscapes back into histories of modern architecture and urban planning. We will pair writings on the eighteenth-century landscape garden (William Gilpin, Uvedale Price), nineteenth century vernacular revivalism and medievalism (John Ruskin, Camillo Sitte), and twentieth century Townscape (Nikolaus Pevsner, Reyner Banham) with examinations of the circulation of ideas, forms, artifacts, and architects across colonial space. We will also pay close attention to the embodied nature of the picturesque and its gendered and raced dimensions, as well as the potential of digital tools to redefine traditional picturesque methodologies. The final third of the course will examine the possibilities the picturesque offers for contemporary practice, reflecting on design approaches to climate change, urban informality, and urban regeneration and place-making.

Students will be evaluated on class discussion and short writing assignments, and will submit a final paper alongside a design project.

This is an advanced history elective open to students across GSD degree programs. Some previous coursework in the history and theory of architecture is recommended, but not required.