Architectural History I


ARCH 504




2019W Term 2: Architectural Imaginations of the Environment: Histories of 18th and 19th century buildings, cities, and worlds

Sara Stevens

Resilience and sustainability might be the terms du jour, but architecture’s relationship with its environment, as well as its desire to overcome this environment, is baked into the discipline. This course will study pre-1900 architecture across a set of global geographies to understand how thinking about the environment and the natural world has influenced architecture. By addressing imaginations of architecture, we will take as a given that one’s ideological frameworks influence how space is conceptualized. This supposition also enables an inclusive definition of architecture, ranging from the vernacular to the unbuilt and from the scale of landscapes to that of clothing. Organized thematically, rather than chronologically or geographically, the course will examine the contingent relationships between buildings, climates, and understandings of science. Students will select a case study project and thematic lens through which they will write a research paper related to the course topic. Short assignments will build capacity toward this research paper through structured workshops, while taking advantage of students’ creativity.

Topics covered in the course will range from the understanding of air flow in eighteenth-century French fireplaces to planetary urbanization seen through Chicago’s nineteenth-century meat markets. Jules Vernes’ visions of human undersea inhabitation will provide one type of architectural imaginary; another will take up Dipesh Chakrabarty’s idea of “provincializing” Europe to reframe our too often Eurocentric lens. A close look at eighteenth century political and economic theory will reframe our understanding of picturesque garden design. Studying nineteenth century ideas in science, from Darwin’s evolution to understandings of geologic time, as presented through the architecture of museums, will be another way the course engages questions of architecture and environment. Finally, the class will engage with contemporary theories of the Anthropocene, Capitalocene, and Chthulucene to reflect further on these histories.