Topics in Architectural History II, 1900 - present

COURSE NUMBER

ARCH 505

CREDITS

3

Description

Hybrid lecture-seminar course on a focused topic covering one thematic aspect of the history of architecture during the time period of 1900–present. Through in-depth study of a particular thematic topic, students will engage with the latest research and approaches to understanding the history of architecture as embedded within cultural, political, and economic contexts. Students will produce individual research papers. The topic of this course will be unique from other architectural history courses offered in the previous three years.


Winter 2022 term 2

ARCH 505L: Utopia / Dystopia

Prof. Tijana Vujosevic, Ph.D.

At the present historical moment, the architectural profession is defined by utopian and dystopian visions alike. In the face of climate change, as well as the rise of totalitarian political ambitions, we are operating in a condition in which the future of the world looks bleak – the condition that can be termed the “avant-apocalypse”. There is still, in the “avant-garde” tradition, a hopefulness, the belief in the capacity of architecture to take the lead in changing the world for the better – politically and physically. These conditions coexist and we are alternating between horrific and idealistic visions of the future – dystopia and utopia.

The word “utopia” was invented by Thomas More in the 16th century in his canonical work by this title. Based on Greek roots, refers to both “nowhere” (ou topos) and “happy place” (eutopia). More presented the idea in two parts – as a critique of the society of his time and as a political and spatial project - a system in which injustice and social ills will be overcome. In the 18th century, Stuart Mill introduced the opposite term – dystopia as the “bad place” (dys topos). Both hopeful and apocalyptic visions of political systems are main markers of modernity. They consist of fictional narratives, on the one hand, and descriptions of physical spaces and everyday life that transpires in them. Both are, “site-less” – awaiting their placement in reality, yet meant to direct the course of history.

In this course, we will examine the theory of utopia, canonical fictional works (treatises, novels, film) as well as architectural precedents. Student assignments consist of a critical and propositional component. Over the course of the semester, students will write weekly reflections on the readings/precedents and collate them into a “reading log”. At the very end of the course, they will design a utopia or dystopia which consists of the written component (political proposal) and drawings that chart a new imaginary world on a multiplicity of scales.