Obligatory, Semester 8, ECTS: 4
“I loved the city. We were anonymous, and even then I had the sense that cities were yielding; that they moved over and made room.”
– Sheridan Hay, The Secret of Lost Things (2008)
“Quelles bizarreries ne trouve-t-on pas dans une grande ville, quand on sait se promener et regarder? La vie fourmille de monstres innocents.”
This is an advanced course in the area of architectural History and Theory. It uses 'space' and 'culture' as a conceptual compound by way of which it proceeds to a thorough grasp of the city and its architecture. Historically, it extends from the rise of modernity (i.e., late 17th century) to the end of the 19th century. Geographically, it focuses on the western (European) city in due reference to, and interconnection with, the past culture of the south, i.e., the so-called classical world, which comes into special prominence in the given period.
The western metropolis, as we experience it today, is considered the result of fundamental economic and social changes which took place over the past three centuries. These changes have redefined both its spatial and cultural identity as modern, meaning significantly different from its former traditional counterpart (i.e., the pre-industrial town), now with a definite orientation toward the future. The centers of modernity – many of them geographically identified with such traditional urban nuclei, transformed over time into the great metropolises of industrial civilization – exhibit a selective relation to both time and history. They retain elements from their predecessors properly adapted to modernity, while they reject others that do not substantiate their desired self-image. Instead, they look up to the classical south as their authentic past, certain aspects of which they seek to emulate turning them into markers of their modern identity (i.e., neoclassicism). On the other hand, such ideas as functionality, hygiene, control/ surveillance, and symbolism (all filtered through the modern light of science), define their overall organization into what is known as the 'modern city'. The principal feature of this city is its centralized planning identified with its programmatic central control mechanism in the name of the harmonious coexistence of the heterogeneous populations it hosts. The ever-increasing specialization of functions – architecturally translated into an ever-expanding range of building typologies – guarantees the proper functioning of the city while it ensures an advanced level of physical heterogeneity which bespeaks its democratic constitution. However, this heterogeneity, as subject to the city’s centralized control mechanism, bears a strong element of monumentality. The monumentality of the modern metropolis systematically strips public space of the vital imprint of its everyday user, whose role is thus limited to that of the casual and uninvolved observer (i.e., flâneur).
It is however interesting that this model of western city, with all its cultural self-centeredness and self-control, is characterized by a peculiar sort of intelligence: it constantly creates space for the strange and the alien. This intelligence is conducive to the city’s survival. Specifically, the stranger/ alien secures a part in the ‘theatre’ of a modern city even though, by and large, he/she leaves no physical traces in it. This shadowy, peripheral, and seemingly ineffective presence of the stranger in the modern city provides ample ground to the contemporary researcher for critical reflection upon both the city and its structures (architecture included), through conspicuous instances of conflict, hybridization, alienation, or paradox, ready to track and study in depth.
The present course, on the one hand, aims at the factual description of the western city, its spatial structuring as a cultural realm, and the historicity of the phenomena that comprise it; on the other hand, it invites our critical view on how its 'monumental' image (whether public or private) is potentially undermined through the aforementioned instances involving the stranger as the principal actor. In effect, it calls for an interpretive analysis of those structures which are to a large extent accountable for the psychosocial constitution of the modern subject.
The course is based on the close collaboration between the instructor and the students. The students are advised to attend the weekly lectures and actively participate in class by creating opportunities for a constructive dialogue with the instructor through their questions and comments.
The course meets every Thursday in the Amphitheater, 18:00-21:00.
The students will be evaluated through one of the following two processes:
1) A written comprehensive examination at the end of the semester on all the material of the lectures.
2) A research paper on a subject of their choice, which they will deliver in the form of a class lecture at the end of the semester and in a paper form.
The paper should count a minimum of 3,000 words plus a thorough documentation of its sources. It will be discussed and supervised by the instructor through the semester during regular meetings. The students are encouraged to work on it individually or in teams of two members (max.).
The selection of the paper’s subject and the first meeting with the instructor should be arranged for no later than March 27, followed by two more meetings (reports of progress and advising) before the presentation date.
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- Pérez-Gómez, Alberto, Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1983.
- Watkin, David, A History of Western Architecture. London, Great Britain: Laurence King Publishing, 2011.
- Mallgrave, Harry Francis, Modern Architectural Theory: a historical survey, 1673-1968. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
- Middleton, Robin, Watkin, David, Neoclassical and 19th Century Architecture. London: Faber and Faber, 1980 / Milan: Electa, 1980.
- Loyer, François, Le siècle de l'industrie. Paris: Skira, 1983.
- Girouard, Mark, Cities and People: A social and architectural history. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.
- Benevolo, Leonardo, History of Modern Architecture(2 vols.), Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999.
- Pevsner, Nikolaus, Sir. A History of Building Types. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976 (1997).
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- Bourdieu, Pierre. The Logicof Practice. Cambridge: Polity. Press, 1990.
- Benjamin, Walter. Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism. London: Verso, 1983.
- Benjamin,Walter. The arcades project. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1999.
- Douglas, Mary. Purity and danger: an analysis of concepts of pollution and taboo. New York: Praeger, 1966.
- Elias, Norbert. The Civilizing Process.Oxford: Blackwell, 1994.
- Sennett, Richard. The Fall of Public Man. New York: Knopf, 1977.