History and Theory courses run over all five years of a students study at the AA. Overall the courses have the function of introducing students to the nature of architecture, not solely through the issue of design but also in the larger context of architecture’s relation to culture now, in the past, in the future and across different cultures. The courses are also linked to another and major function – writing. Architects are increasingly expected at a professional level to describe and analyse both designs and buildings in a written form. Writing is a central skill for the architect and the lack of it would stunt the individual professional development. As a consequence History and Theory Studies is renewing those aspects of the courses enabling students to develop their own point of view in seminars by enhancing their writing skills.
In the first three years the intention of the courses is to provide a fundamental framework for the student’s comprehension of architecture at several levels. This is envisioned through a series of distinct stages in the student’s development, moving from a broad background on the theories and concepts of architecture, to architecture’s role in the materialisation of cultural ideas and then an understanding of contemporary buildings in detail. We think it is important that students are given the tools to understand the histories and theories behind architecture. It is for the student to decide what he or she thinks; it is for the course to enable the student to articulate their thoughts and choices; it is for the seminar to allow an open discussion of the choices.
In the first year the course presents a series of exemplary texts and projects addressing architectural form, space, tectonic, subject and context that will highlight fundamental instruments within the history of architecture and urbanism. In the second year the student is introduced both to the past of architecture and to the nature of architecture in different cultures. It considers the different ways in which architecture has been used as the material support of different religions, forms of political power and forms of family life. In the third year the students will study a variety of twentieth-century buildings, critical texts and other forms of representation providing the student with a more experienced way of analysing architectural devices. Students in the Intermediate School follow the courses outlined in the course document while students in the Diploma School choose from a number of optional courses taken in the First Term only. The courses are designed to be much more focused and specific, covering a wide spectrum of contemporary topics that are continuously changing from year to year. Student can choose to write either a thesis or two separate diploma essays. At the end of the Diploma School we would hope and expect that students would be able to independently research a topic and write about a problem clearly and with a definite argument.
A full account of the courses and reading lists will be given in the Complementary Studies Course Booklet which, will be available at the beginning of the academic year.
The courses in First, Second and Third Year take place in Terms 1 and 2.
Introduction to Design, Building and Writing
Term 1 Lecturers: Christopher Pierce, Brett Steele Term 2 Lecturer: Pier Vittorio Aureli Course Tutor: Mollie Claypool Teaching Assistants: Fabrizio Ballabio, Emma Jones, Zaynab Dena Ziari
These first lessons of history and theory of architecture will address a series of fundamental aspects within the discipline of architecture. The purpose of this, apart from the obvious objective of enabling students to know exemplary projects and positions in architecture, is to understand the relationship between architecture and its past as a form of knowledge constituted by forms of writing, designing and buildings.
In the first term the course will present a series of exemplary texts and projects addressing architectural form, space, tectonics, subject and context. This will lead to the second term when the same conditions will be highlighted as fundamental instruments within the history of architecture and urbanism. Both terms will underline that knowledge of architecture’s past is indispensable for an intelligent and critical point of view in the practise of architecture.
Architecture and its Pasts
Course Lecturer: Mark Cousins Course Tutor: Ryan Dillon Teaching Assistants: Ross Adams, Gabriela Garcia de Cortazer, Alexandra Vougia
This course introduces students to the historical and cross-cultural range of built forms. It does so by looking at buildings that are related to the institutions of politics, of religion and of private life. But it also considers architecture from the point of view of modernisation in which architectural forms are increasingly both internationalised and globalised. It considers the bases upon which new organisations of variation can be thought about in architectural terms.
Architectural Coupling [+1]
Course Lecturers: Mollie Claypool, Ryan Dillon Course Tutor: Sylvie Taher Teaching Assistants: Shumi Bose, Emanouil Stavrakakis, Konstantinos Kizis
This course will couple architectural projects from the rise of modernism until the early 1990s exposing important architectural trajectories of the twentieth-century. By pitting a series of architectural projects, practices, educational models and, occasionally, architects themselves against one another, the course will take on a twoterm project of comparative analysis. Pairings such as the Situationists versus Archigram and the Vienna Secession versus the Bauhaus will be discussed. Each coupling will be supplemented by a key device (the +1) such as theoretical writing, drawings, film publications, photography, etc, which link these projects to other contemporary disciplines outside of architecture. Through the act of writing students will dissect key terms and how to decipher their multiple meanings bringing theory, writing and the analysis of architectural projects into a succinct body of work.
The courses in the Diploma School take place in Term 1 only
Conjuring Consent – Secular Magic and the Politics of Power
This course elaborates upon ‘secular magic’ that is the kind of magic that makes no claim to draw its power from any form of supernatural or paranormal source. Secular magic can thus be most commonly understood as the magic of the conjuror or stage illusionist, a figure of cultural agency whose influence extends far beyond our everyday perception of the magician as simply a benevolent entertainer. From warfare and religion, to politics, economics and architecture, secular magic technology and dramaturgy, and magicians themselves, can be seen as key components in modernity’s development and conception of itself.
Aporias in Translation
A familiar procedure: as architects we bring projects to design juries projects that we believe have embodied a set of concepts. Thus the unpacking of translation from idea to form is deemed direct and under the full mastery of the designer; the success of the project is dependent on it. This assumption often leads to the conjugation of a plethora of theoretical notions to particular formalisations: deconstruction to fragmented form, field energy to net form, algorithm to swarm form, biomorphic to growth form, and so on. This course proposes an antithesis to the direct formalisation of concepts by conducting a set of forensic exercises and in the process uncovering doubts, deceits and digressions in the translations between idea and form. Three parts – ‘Shapes that Came Before Ideas’, ‘Images that Came Before Stories’ and ‘Pictures that Came Before Realities’ – attempts to trace incidental and erratic leaps between thinking and forming, between imagining and shaping, between materialising and embodying, not to rectify the lost, but to grapple with what is found in translation.
By Any Measure
Architecturally speaking, it’s always been difficult to hide the bodies. This seminar examines how different notions of human subjectivity have informed architectural discourse from the Italian Renaissance to the avant-garde of the 1970s. We begin by discussing how the Renaissance conception of perspective inscribed the human body at the centre of architectural space, before examining how this figure inspired Heinrich Wölfflin’s theory of the psychosomatic inhabitation of architecture. Following these positivistic conceptions, we review the hypochondriac body of Geoffrey Scott, wracked and exhausted by architecture, and the spilt psyche of Sigmund Freud, fractured by the experience of modernity itself. And finally, we conclude by examining how the mechanically enabled subject of Siegfried Giedion, Reyner Banham and Archigram mutated into the disillusioned human figure of Superstudio.
The Incorporation of the Body
It has recently been argued that the affective experience of architecture has historically been wholly constituted from the experience of the masculine, not the female subject. Architectural experience is, effectively, finite and as macho as the mighty John Wayne (or Piranesi or Boullée or Le Corbusier or Eisenman). However, since Giedion’s Mechanisation Takes Command (1948) architects have been increasingly interested in how to reconstitute the female, the either/or and the this/and; the amputee and the paraplegic through the use of prosthetics and the advent of new technologies; or the incorporation of the body as architecture. Using these categories of subjects and the Wellcome Collection’s exhibition ‘Superhuman’ as a starting point, this course will explore the concept that the experience of the contemporary architectural object has become the experience of these now ever-more-so reconstituted bodies.
Media, Medium and Form
Mark CousinsThis course links the fundamental theoretical work of Friedrich Kittler with questions that arise in the architectural past. It starts by linking the emergence of writing to the development of architecture. In particular it considers the architecture of ancient Greece as having a significant relation to the diffusion of writing and texts. It then links the Renaissance and the classical tradition to the emergence of printing. The course concludes with an investigation of Kittler’s arguments about electronic media and the digital to contemporary architecture.
An Architectural Straightjacket
In an attempt to understand Igor Stravinsky’s claim that ‘The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself of the chains that shackle the spirit...the arbitrariness of the constraint only serves to obtain precision of execution’, the willing participants of this course will be placed in an architectural straightjacket of sorts, impeded by constraints that are both self- and externally-inflicted. With Oulipian writer Georges Perec as our muse we will attempt to understand that no artist can work from a blank canvas by understanding that a variety of constraints, be they architectural, social or literary, can foster an artist’s ambitions and inventions. Each student will construct their own architectural palindromes, lipograms and snowballs in a personal codex that will result in a piece of architectural literature that is not an essay but a project.
The Irrelevance of the North When Seeing from the South
Francisco González de Canales
‘Eurocentric literature on cities and architecture is often patronising and does not understand Americanness’. – Mario Galdensonas Is the modernity that we know the only possible one? Is the model of social and economic development that is so prevalent today ineluctable for the advance of modern democratic societies? As derived from the medieval notion of canon, the historiography of modern architecture has constructed its own narrative around a fixed set of western references. Opposed to this widely assumed framework, some marginalised figures of Latin-American architecture such as Juan O’Gorman, Jose Antonio Bonet, João Vilanova Artigas, Amancio Williams and Germán Rodríguez Arias prove how alternative notions of modernity emerge throughout the twentieth century as independent from traditional western models.
Cedric Price – In Forward-minded Retrospect
A series of seven sessions will cover the life and work of Cedric Price (1934–2003). By studying this most singular of British architects, students will discover the full extent of Price’s oeuvre to gain a greater understanding of his theory and practice of an anticipatory architecture, and the context from which his ideas and methods grew. Based on the draft material for a forthcoming publication, the content of the sessions will focus on original archive material: drawings and text documents – much of it previously unpublished. Students will have the unique opportunity to work with the material as a basis for articulating specific themes within the work in relation to such topics as life conditioning, indeterminacy, planned obsolescence and delight in the unknown.
The Case of the National Gallery Extension
Frances MikuriyaIn the spring of 2013 the AA will host an exhibition about the competitions for the National Gallery Extension. The first competition, in 1982, provoked Prince Charles’ attack upon contemporary architecture and caused the cancellation of ABK’s winning entry. This led to the second competition in 1985 with Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown’s proposal emerging as the winner. The course will provide a detailed analysis of these events and how they fuelled architectural arguments about post-modernism, modernism, tradition and innovation. We will also include an analysis of the Prince’s exhibition and catalogue, A Vision of Britain (1989), which demonstrated that he had considerable public support for his antagonism to twentiethcentury architecture.
Dismissed as an archaic or artificial mode of representation by the twentieth- century avant-gardes, the use of perspectival projection in image making is actually inherent to our visualisation of space, carrying with it a rich historical and theoretical importance. There resides a fascinating give and take between vanishing-point pespectival drawing and built architecture, which is true at its inception in the fifteenth century, but also carries through to today. To better understand this importance, we shall undertake an investigation of the aspects of its ‘birth’, Brunelleschi’s famous Baptistery experiment, the picking apart of which will enable an unfolding out into a multitude of areas, enriching the understanding of such an important mode of representation.
Friday Evening Lecture Series, 5.00pm
Where is Everyday Life?
This year the Friday evening lecture series will deal with the architectural and artistic use of the category ‘everyday life’. It appears to be a realm that is immune to interpretation – it is just there. The course seeks to show that everyday life has a strong relation to the issue of the cliché, the topic of last year’s lectures. The course demonstrates that the phrase is imbedded with philosophical presuppositions. Sometimes it means the given, the appearance, sometimes the concrete. It frequently involves the use of what the course will represent as the imaginary. It proceeds by looking at aspects of architecture and design from both the point of view of the cliché and the imaginary.
Mark Cousins is a guest professor at South Eastern University, Nanjing. He was a founder member the London Consortium and has been a member of the Visual Arts Panel and of the Architectural Panel of the Arts Council. He is the co-author with Athar Hussein of Michel Foucault, has written the catalogues for the Wilson twins and Anthony Gormley and has published in journals including October, Harvard Design Review, AA Files.
Christopher Pierce studied at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and gained a PhD from the University of Edinburgh. His recent publications are essays on Jordi Bonet Armengol, ‘Gaudi’s Gatekeeper’ (2011) and Cero 9, ‘Bump and Grind’ (2011). He formed Mis-Architecture (mis-architecture.co.uk) with Christopher Matthews in 2000.
Brett Steele is Director of the AA School. His research and writings can be found online at brettsteele.net
Pier Vittorio Aureli is an architect and educator. He is the author of The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture (2011), The Project of Autonomy: Politics and Architecture Within and Against Capitalism (2008), and other books. His writings and research focus on the relationship between architecture, the city and political theory. Together with Martino Tattara is the co-founder of Dogma.
Mollie Claypool has held teaching positions at the AA since 2009 in the DRL and History and Theory Studies programme. She has taught at the University of Reading and University of Brighton, and has worked with the RCA, AA Publications and Phaidon Press. She studied architecture at Pratt Institute and received her masters from the AA.
Ryan Dillon has studied at Syracuse University and the AA. Currently he teaches in the History and Theory programme as well as working as a designer at EGG Office. Previously he worked at Moshe Safdie Architects.
Sylvie Taher is a writer and architect based in London. She trained at the AA where she wrote a thesis titled ‘Architects Versus the City or the Problem of Chaos’. She has since written for Publica, The Architectural Review, AA Files and Blueprint.