Architectural History II


ARCH 505




2018W term 1: Domestic and foreign: Architecture and sites of conflict 

Sherry McKay

In everyday parlance, the juxtaposition of “domestic” and “foreign” implies an opposition, between the local and alien, familiar and unfamiliar, indigenous and exotic, known and unknown. In architectural parlance the terms speak of vernacular and imported vocabularies. However, how do these oppositions hold up in the contemporary world of global architectural practices, ownership patterns and financial flows? How does the domestic and foreign survive in a world of hybridity and cosmopolitanism? “Domestic” and “foreign” are slippery terms, at one point opposed, at another colluding and at yet another seemingly indistinguishable.

Modern and contemporary architectural practice and theory were and are often forced to negotiate the issues raised by politics, culture, finance and ideology. Domestic and Foreign looks at these colonial, post colonial and third world sites of conflict and their architectural results in the design and construction decisions made in the context of the imperial project, welfare state, and neoliberal economics. Issues of politics and culture produced by late 20th century imperialism and 21st century globalization are explored in the complicated pressures for cultural expression in Algiers housing projects of the 1930s; the “rephrasing” of a colonized past for a present day China in Shanghai; and the challenging interweaving of foreign and domestic in contemporary First Nations sites at UBC. Issues of finance and ideology are examined in the neoliberal landscapes of workers’ camps and gated communities that are part of the “expo-ization” of Dubai. “Geographies of conflict” are traced in Shigeru Ban’s refugee housing and the urban acupuncture of Teddy Cruz.


2018W term 1: 1935: One year, many modernisms

Joseph Watson

We usually think of history as a chronological sequence of events. In linguistics, this is called diachronic analysis, that is, studying change “through time.” Diachronic narratives explain how something like the modern movement in architect emerged from diffuse nineteenth century beginnings, cohered around a collection of figures and events in the 1910s and 1920s, transformed after World War II, and eventually fractured into numerous strands of postmodernism. One potential drawback of this type of historical thinking is that its narratives tend to give the past a sense of inevitability, i.e. things had to happen the way that they did. What might happen if we consider history synchronically, as a cross-section of a moment in time? Would the past appear more contingent, less stable? Would this make us think differently about what makes architecture “modern”?

This course explores these questions by focusing on a single year, 1935. Amidst an ongoing worldwide economic depression and signs of another world war, Frank Lloyd Wright debuted an exurban utopia at Rockefeller Center in New York. Le Corbusier visited New York and declared its skyscrapers “too small.” Roberto Burle Marx made plants political in public gardens for Recife, Brazil. Boris Iofan helped Joseph Stalin remake Moscow in the dictator’s own image. In Nuremberg, Albert Speer and Leni Riefenstahl combined architecture, light, and fascism into a terrifying spectacle. The aim of this course is not to fit these and other episodes into one narrative. Rather, our goal will be to use their contemporaneity as a means of understanding how different social, cultural, and political conditions produced a plurality of modernisms.

We will explore these topics through lectures, readings, student presentations, and group discussions. Assignments throughout the term will build toward a final research paper that investigates a focused topic drawn from the course content. Attendance at all course meetings is mandatory. So is active participation in discussions and other activities.