The following GSD courses are approved for Architecture Studies, Harvard Undergraduate Concentration.

Design Studies Distributional Electives

Digital Representation:

2223 Immersive Environments

This course seeks to posit the role of digital media within the broader context of digital practice and to examine the generative capacities of the medium to design and communicate ideas in the virtual realm.  The goal of the course is to establish a core visual literacy in digital media by considering work across a range of disciplines, including: photography, film, lighting design, synthetic imaging and animation. The course will examine the construction and representation of environments through the integration of form, light, material, color, atmosphere and photography.  Investigations will vary in scale from one to one virtual simulations of materials and details, to interior and architectural scales, through to urban and landscape scales. This course is aimed at developing foundational skills in still image development with extensive development of topics in lighting design and analysis, material exploration and prototyping, site modeling and scene population, through to photography, compositing and post production.  Although the emphasis will be on still image development, there will be extensive use of animation, serialized imagery and iterative workflows to develop dynamic representations of the built environment across a range of perceptual models.

Software will be based on a Rhino modeling workflow, with scene management, population, and rendering development in 3dsmax and Vray, and a post production workflow based on After Effects and Photoshop. Weekly lectures, workshops and assignments will be organized around a series of intensive autonomous investigations in representational themes which will provide the point of departure for the development of a personal visual language. Evaluation will be based on project content, proficiency in the media and class participation.

Theories of Landscape:

3241 Theories of Landscape as Urbanism, Landscape as Infrastructure: Paradigms, Practices, Prospects

Responding to contemporary urban patterns, ecological pressures and decaying infrastructures, this course brings together a series of influential thinkers and researchers from the design commons across North America to discuss different methods, models and measures of large scale, long range design for the 21st century. Organized around a sequence of weekly topics and readings, guest presentations focus on the future of the region that, with the predominance of landscape ecology and the revival of geography worldwide, challenge the laissez-faire dogma of neo-liberalist economics, Fordist forms of civil engineering, and Euclidean planning policies that marked the past century. From Geddes to Gottmann, Mackaye to Mumford, Olmsted to Odum, the first part of the course re-examines a series of influential plans, projects, and practitioners to trace a cross-section through the history of urbanization in North America and the industrialized world to chart the trajectory of an emergent regional paradigm. Foregrounding the nascent reciprocity between ecology, economy and energy, the second part of the course opens a horizon on pressing issues facing cities today to recast the infrastructural and geopolitical role of landscape as operating system for future urbanism. Drawing from an array of contemporary projects and historic public works, the course concludes with student-led presentations of mapping projects that focus on transboundary watershed regions throughout the world; regions where, according to the United Nations, more than 60% of the world population will be living by the year 2030. Foreshadowing the preeminence of ecology in cities and infrastructures, the motive of the course is to construct a clear, multivalent discourse on the field of landscape as it becomes the locus of intellectual, ecological and economic change of significance, globally.

3242 Theories of Landscape Architecture

This course will explore the ‘know why’ of landscape architecture since the Second World War, juxtaposing both the built works and the writings of landscape architects with texts that address methodology or the discipline’s larger theoretical and cultural contexts.

Within this broad framework, the course will examine a series of topics: the quest for a modern language for landscape architecture in the 1950s and 1960s; the challenge to the profession in the later 1960s from ecology on the one hand and from art on the other; the complexity and heterodoxy of the contemporary situation, in which the social, ecological, phenomenological, and artistic dimensions of the practice struggle for reconciliation; the growing hybridization of landscape design with urbanism and architecture; and the more speculative effort on the part of some practitioners to address globalization, commercialization and simulation.

The goal of the course is to learn to read in greater depth and to see in greater detail-to recognize the visual and verbal languages that people use, how they use them, and to what end.

Evaluation will be based on class attendance and participation; brief weekly written responses to the readings; and a final paper.

Urban Theory:

3302 Designing the American City: Civic Aspirations and Urban Form

This course takes an interpretive look at the American city in terms of changing attitudes toward urban life. City and suburb are experienced as the product of design and planning decisions informed by cultural and economic forces, and in relationship to utopian and pragmatic efforts to reinterpret urban traditions in search of American alternatives. Topics include: persistent ideals such as the single-family home; attitudes toward public and private space; the rise of suburbs and suburban sprawl; cycles of disinvestment and renewed interest in urban centers; and impacts of mobility and technology on settlement patterns. 

This course is a lecture in the college’s core curriculum, with a weekly graduate section for GSD and other graduate students. Enrollment is limited to 20 graduate students.  Gen Ed course

4359 Urban Form: History + Theory

The course is historical and theoretical. It is concerned with the economic, social, and political factors that shape urban processes and environments and the efforts of individual actors, interventions, conceptual models, and practices to comprehend, gain control over, regulate, and reshape those processes and environments.

The course will span the period from the First Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century, through the Second (technological) Revolution in the late 19th century and the Third (information) Revolution in the last quarter of the 20th century. The focus is on Europe and North America. The emphasis of this critical history is on the dialogic relationship between urban planning and urban design and the technological, economic, political, and cultural contexts and institutions in which they operate.

5205 Planning and Environmental Law

This course examines the law, embodied in local ordinances, state and federal statutes, constitutions, judicial opinions, administrative regulations, and private agreements, governing the use, development, and preservation of land. The purpose of the course is to provide students with a basic understanding of the theories, rationales, techniques, and implementing institutions involved in legally controlling or influencing the use of land, and to show how law’s approach to land-use and environmental issues is similar to or different from that employed by other fields and disciplines. Particular emphasis is placed on law’s intended and unintended consequences on the physical pattern of built and natural environments, on the overlap between planning law and environmental law regimes, and on the tensions between protection of individual rights and advancement of community goals. The role of the non-lawyer (planner, designer, public policymaker, etc.) in dealing with law will be regularly addressed. Among the legal techniques explored in the course are zoning, new urbanism codes, transfer of development rights, subdivision controls, local and state growth management, environmental impact assessment, laws dealing with endangered species, wetlands, solid waste, exactions and impact fees, design review and guidelines, historic preservation, billboard/sign/cell tower controls, and eminent domain. Course readings include primary legal materials of statutes, constitutions, judicial opinions, and secondary critical materials. The course focuses principally, although not exclusively, on planning and environmental laws in the United States. When appropriate, class time will be devoted to comparisons with legal regimes in other countries. No prior legal education or experience is assumed for the course.

Architectural Technology:

6121 Materials and Construction: 2 units

This module introduces students to fundamental properties and behaviors of buildings and other structures. Principles of design and construction are discussed in a comprehensive manner involving conceptual, historical, and technical analyses. Students learn to evaluate empirically various types of constructs and use analytical skills to enhance their design capabilities. Lectures will cover fundamental statics; types of loads and reactions; material properties and fabrication; types of joinery; classifying families of building structures; and other related topics. Abstract and architectonic exercises involving both intuitive and analytical design approaches will take place in a workshop format, with students working both individually and in teams.

6122 Energy, Technology, and Building: 2 units

This lecture course introduces students to energy and environmental issues, particularly those that must be faced by the discipline of architecture. An overview of the basic principles of energy generation and energy use will be provided, and the fundamental climatic precursors and patterns will be discussed. Building design issues in relation to basic energy needs and interior environmental requirements will be briefly outlined, and students will be exposed to the underlying complexity of developing solutions that address a wide range of local and global concerns. In addition, the technological response to interior environmental control will be contextualized within the larger framework of the scientific and socio-cultural influences that shaped the building systems we currently use.

History and Theory Distributional Electives

4121: Buildings, Texts, and Contexts I: Classical and Baroque

This course is structured as a dialogue between the historical and theoretical frameworks that have shaped the formulation of architectural principles – what the architectural historian Rudolf Wittkower called the “apparatus of forms” – by means of selected case studies. The organizing principle here is thematic as opposed to chronological, and synoptic rather than merely factual. We treat a selected range of concepts developed by philosophers and historians to explain the Classical and the Baroque as dialectical systems of thought that arise in history but transcend this history to mark modern and postmodern practices.

4121 Buildings, Texts, and Contexts II

Any account of architecture’s history over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries is faced with the challenge of addressing the general rupture caused by the rise of modernity—that is, by the social, economic, technological and ideological transformations accompanying the political and industrial revolutions marking the end of the European Enlightenment. The transition of architecture to the modern world gave rise to a series of fundamental questions, which might be framed as follows: How did historical conditions place pressure on the time-honored foundations of architecture, on its origins, theories, and pedagogies? How did new conditions of scientific possibility actively reconfigure architecture’s relation to engineering? And finally, how did aesthetic conceptions and approaches, which followed an arc from Beaux-Arts eclecticism and historicism to Modernist avant-gardes, intersect with society and politics?

This course weaves these questions through topics and themes ranging from technology and utopia to ornament and nationalism. We begin with late Baroque polemics and the academic foundations of architecture as discipline. We then consider the multifaceted nature of 18th-century architectural expressions in such examples as Rococo space, origin theories from Laugier to Piranesi, and the formulation of building typologies. The 19th century, which for us is inaugurated by a utopian imaginary (in Ledoux and Fourier), covers key episodes such as the Beaux-Arts system in Europe and America, architecture and national identity (in Schinkel and Wagner), and, finally, the dream of colossal structures and the infrastructural programs of the modern metropolis. Course requirements include attendance at lectures and sections, responses to readings, and several written assignments.

4223 Buildings, Texts, and Contexts III: Architecture in the 20th Century

This course will examine the discourse and practices of modern architecture in the context of the political, economic, aesthetic, and cultural changes that occurred across the span of the twentieth century. Organized around thematic concerns proposed and debated by architects, the course will address the foundational dimensions of architectural practices during the first of the century as well as the subsequent reactions and revisions to those practices in the latter half of the century. Lectures, discussion sections, and other formats will incorporate different techniques of historical and theoretical investigation of several different trajectories of discourse, to produce not a chronological survey but a synthetic pre-history of the architectural present.

4141 History of Landscape Architecture 1

This course addresses a series of topics in contemporary landscape architecture, and invokes a selection of texts in their support; the topics and some of these texts take up current issues, others suggest a historical hinterland of relevant materials. This is not a historical course, which students will encounter later, but one that confronts contemporary issues with some hints as to their provenance. The course is structured as a weekly lecture, with questions; this will be followed by discussion seminars, for which the group will be divided into two, led by an instructor in landscape architecture and by Professor Hunt, who will meet them in alternate weeks. Students who meet in weeks with the instructor will submit a brief (2+ pp) commentary on the week’s lecture, readings or the discussion of them, invoking whatever relevant material they would like to cite. Thus by the end of the course each student will have a portfolio of four responses; this, along with the proposal required at the end (see Week 14) and a prefatory note on the scope and range of the student’s thinking, will constitute the final submission. Attendance at lectures, reading of the weekly materials, and participation in seminar discussions are required. The topics are by no means a full agenda of issues that contemporary landscape architecture needs to address, and some of them are deliberatively provocative; there will be opportunities to raise others in a discussion at the end of the semester. Among the issues to be canvassed are: the role of theory; nature & anti-nature; sublime & picturesque; the role of history in contemporary practice; meaning, narrative & metaphor; time & process; the role of gardens in landscape architecture, and the latter’s relation (if any) with land art; identity of place, locality; theatre and scene.

4142 History of Landscape Architecture 2

GSD 4142 is a lecture course, meeting once weekly for three hours with a discussion section. It covers the formal/cultural history and theoretical underpinnings of gardens and public landscapes from the Baroque to City Beautiful. Beginning in early modern Europe, the course moves from the Italian villa and palazzo to French royal landscapes and English rural estates, to nineteenth-century urban parks in Britain and North America. This private/public evolution involves shifts within amateur and professional “landscape gardening” towards the consolidation of professional landscape architecture by 1900. The multi-disciplinary origins of modern landscape architecture — crossing borders with architecture and urban planning — are examined in a variety of contexts that include:

  • The question of style within politics and culture and in relationship to science, technique and piety
  • The social reception of gardens, the networks of collecting, and the visual culture of natural history
  • The rise of technology, social reform, and ecological concerns during industrialization and urbanization
  • The emergence of ideologies of nature, from the Picturesque to the “Wild Garden” and “Prairie Style”
  • The development of historicism, landscape preservation, and National Parks as land conservation
  • The roots of professional practice, and the emergent role of women in the landscape profession

Landscape design is analyzed through the methodologies of art history, geography, social and urban history, horticulture and ecology, and studies in land-management. Adjunct to his design practice, Professor Laird’s involvement in multi-disciplinary books (from Empire’s Nature, 1998, to Mrs. Delany and her Circle, 2009, to Gardens in the Age of Empire: 1800-1920, forthcoming) makes his lectures rewarding for students from varied backgrounds. Evaluation is by two assignments and two exams.