MA History & Critical Thinking Extract from Words and Voices poster, for Words and Voices symposium, designed by Boris Meister, AA Print Studio, 2018


Director: Marina Lathouri
Staff: Tim Benton, Yve Lomax, John Palmesino, Georgios Tsagdis
Visiting Tutors: Tina di Carlo, Fabrizio Gallanti, Anthony Vidler

The MA's History and Critical Thinking in Architecture, is a unique postgraduate platform engaging contemporary architectural and urban cultures through critical enquiry into history, conceptual paradigms and methodologies. The boundaries of what we regard as a legitimate object of study are being constantly interrogated and expanded and – over the past 20 years – this 12-month programme has been continually developed to position itself within present-day debates and practices. Rather than dealing with history, architecture and the city exclusively through buildings and methodological classifications, the course transforms these research topics into discrete resources through which processes, spatial artefacts and built forms can be better analysed.

The programme's ambition is therefore threefold: to explore writings of history and the ways in which, social, political and cultural aspirations shape particular accounts of architectural and urban modernity; to connect current debates and projects to a wider critical milieu and interpret the contemporary from historical and cross-disciplinary points-of-view; to investigate technologies of research, production and distribution of knowledge in relation to practices and public cultures in architecture and in the context of recent cultural and geo-political change.

This year, HCT will incorporate Opening Lines: Sketchbooks of Ten Modern Architects into its curriculum: an exhibition dedicated to an investigation of the sketchbook. The installation will include a variety of media – considering the sketchbook both in practice and on show – to contest and counter our pre-existing notions of scholarship. The gallery space will exact a means of cultural transfer and inscription; itself a pedagogical tool, both what is on display and the means of display will be considered. With HCT classes held in the space, sketchbooks presentation, conversations with the architects, discussions on drawing and writing and seminars on curatorial practice with co-curator Tina di Carlo will complement our weekly seminar sessions. Architectural writings, theoretical studies, literature, drawings, photographs and film are explored to articulate our various aspects of study and analyse a connection between the textual, the visual and the graphic. The HCT programme also provides the opportunity for collaboration with AA Design Units and offers supervision from specialist advisers to research degree candidates (MPhil and PhD) registered under the AA's joint PhD programme.


Lectures and seminars focus on the philosophy and writing of history and the ways in which constructs of the past relate to architectural and visual practices of the present. Modernity is interrogated through a critical reading and reappraisal of histories of modernism. In parallel, different approaches to writing are explored to enable students to develop their own writing voice and critical identity.

Marina Lathouri

Through a detailed examination of modes of architectural writing – manifesto, historical narrative, architectural canon, formal analysis, critical essay and theory – the seminar looks at the role which key texts have played in the construction of an identifiable vocabulary of architectural modernity and its subsequent criticisms.

Tim Benton

The theories underpinning modern architecture have played an essential role in the development of architectural practice in Europe between the wars. It was the apparently crystal-clear logic of key Modernist texts that convinced a generation of young architects to throw out everything they had been taught and start anew. Whilst these ideas may have informed the dominant International Style of the 1950s and 1960s, the theories were far from consistent or coherent. The course will look at seven paradoxical or contradictory claims dating from this period and assess their impact on the evolution and legacy of modern architecture.

Yve Lomax

What does it mean to write critically? These seminars will address this question through consideration – both conceptually and practically – of the art of writing and the necessity of both troubling and exposing presupposition. Making use of the thinking of Giorgio Agamben, Giles Deleuze, Michel Serres and Isabelle Stengers, these sessions will ask for attention to be given to the peculiar existence in different modes of written speech, criticism and critique.


The historical processes of discipline formation are studied alongside contemporary architectural theory. Techniques, epistemological assumptions, traditions and innovative practices are examined to offer the students a range of approaches to interpret and expand their knowledge along historical, cultural and political lines.

Marina Lathouri
Since the Renaissance, it is through writing that architecture has been established and propagated as both a form of knowledge and a distinct professional practice. The spatial economy of the literary object elicits an intricate relation to the built object – its modes of production, its aesthetic norms, its didactic and historical value – and as such it produces a (public) space ripe for examination. The course examines the multiple languages of architecture in the light of historical conditions, institutional and economic constraints, cultural specificities and political ideologies.

Georgios Tsagdis
In modern occidental thought, the object determines not only the totality of the world, but the totality of thought itself. This course queries the object by examining how this notion has been recast in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and reviewed across a horizon of philosophical enquiry. Heidegger's tools, Benjamin's works of art, Derrida's traces, Deleuze's becomings, Serres's quasi-objects, Latour's networks and Morton's hyperobjects are the foci around which this space of unprecedented creativity articulates itself: the apex from which our writing of non-objects begins.

John Palmesino

The seminar investigates what it means to live in a cosmopolitan city, a space where we agree on almost nothing. What are the structures of political engagement facing architecture at a time of almost-semi-quasi-post-neo-colonialism? Can the city be thought again through the modernising notions of citizenship and globalisation? How do we address the relations between institutional forms and material transformations of the contemporary city?

Processes involved in the constitution of the multiple territories – professional, disciplinary, cultural and legal – and the negotiation of conceptual, practical and technical frontiers are proposed here as essentially in dispute. Guest speakers present and engage with tutors and students with the aim of positioning multiple voices and making possible a process of thinking in common. By definition a pedagogical practice different from the seminar or the lecture, the thesis is the most significant component of the students' work.


The choice of topic, the organisation of research and the development of the central argument are discussed during the weekly Thesis Research Seminar – a collective space where students learn about the nature of a dissertation from the shared experience of a group. This seminar is central to the development of the thesis, and thesis research is introduced by the writing workshop Design by Words (led by Fabrizio Gallanti and Marina Lathouri) with particular emphasis on strategies to advance ideas at an initial stage of development. In June, the outline, objects of study and main questions will be individually presented to a jury of invited critics. This year the Thesis Research Seminar will be supplemented by the reading and discussion of four critical/interpretative texts with Anthony Vidler.


Term 4 is devoted to the individual work needed to finalize the 15,000-word thesis expected for submission in September. A final presentation of the completed thesis to internal and external critics, as well as incoming students, is to provide a formal conclusion to and celebration of the work of the year and deliver an inspiring introduction to research life for newcomers.

In order to foster an external and collective pursuit of architectural issues, two trips are organised at the end of Term 1 and Term 3 to study specific aspects of a city or an architect's work that relates to final thesis from students and their investigations.

Our staff members and students alike come from a variety of backgrounds and are involved in a wide range of academic, professional and research activities at the AA and elsewhere. Their combined teaching experience, research, publications and professional activities are core to the programme. Students consider HCT a necessary step towards doctoral research and as a way to reorient their architectural into other fields such as museum and gallery work, journalism and other architecture- and art-related arenas. Every year a small number of graduates act as seminar tutors for History & Theory Studies in the Undergraduate School.


Marina Lathouri studied architecture and philosophy of art and aesthetics. She directs the Graduate Programme in the History and Critical Thinking programme at the AA, she lectures at the University of Cambridge and is a Visiting Professor at the Universidad de Navarra (Spain) and the Universidad Católica in Santiago (Chile). Recent publications include the co-authored Intimate Metropolis (Routledge, 2008) and City Cultures (AA Publications, 2010).

Tim Benton is Professor of Art History (Emeritus) at the Open University, England and has served as Visiting Professor in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, New York (2007) and at the Bard Graduate Center, New York (2003). He is a noted scholar of the works of Le Corbusier, has worked on Italian architecture in the 1930s, Art Deco, and has co-curated several major exhibitions including Art and Power (Hayward Gallery,1995), Art Deco 1910–1939 (V&A, 2003), and Modernism: Designing a New World 1918–1939 (V&A, 2006). Recent publications include The Rhetoric of Modernism: Le Corbusier as Lecturer (Basel, 2009) and LC Foto: Le Corbusier: Secret Photographer (Zurich, 2013).

Tina di Carlo is an editor at Drawing Matter. Formerly a curator of architecture and design at MoMA, New York – and Director of Lectures and Exhibitions at the Princeton University School of Architecture – she will be a Geddes Visiting Fellow at the Edinburgh College of Art in 2018-19.

Fabrizio Gallanti was the Associate Director of Programs at the Canadian Centre of Architecture in Montreal and the first recipient of the Mellon Senior Fellowship at Princeton University School of Architecture (2014-15) for the research project Las Ciudades del Boom: Economic growth, urban life and architecture in the Latin American city, 1989–2014.

Yve Lomax is a visual artist and writer. Her major publications include: Figure, calling (2017), Pure Means: Writing, Photographs and an Insurrection of Being (2013), Passionate Being: Language, Singularity and Perseverance (2010) and Writing the Image (2000). She has been Professor of Art Writing at Goldsmiths, a Senior Research Tutor in Photography at the Royal College of Art, and is currently a full-time commissioning editor for Copy Press and director of its Reader's Union.

John Palmesino is an architect, urbanist and founder of Territorial Agency, an independent organisation that combines research and action for sustainable spatial transformations. Recent projects include the Museum of Oil with Greenpeace and Anthropocene Observatory. He is Unit Master at Diploma 4 and convenes the MA in Research Architecture at Goldsmiths.

Georgios Tsagdis is Fellow at the Westminster Law & Theory Lab. He has taught at the Universities of Greenwich and Surrey, at UCL and at the London School of Philosophy. His work operates across disciplinary intersections: drawing on twentieth century, contemporary and ancient Greek Philosophy. His essays have been published in various book collections and international journals, including Parallax and Philosophy Today. Since 2014 he has been directing the Seminar of Neoplatonic Studies, a London intercollegiate study and research group hosted at the Warburg Institute.

Anthony Vidler, historian and critic, is Vincent Scully Visiting Professor of Architectural History at Yale University and the former Dean of Cooper Union School of Architecture, before which he taught at Princeton University and UCLA. His most recent books include The Scenes of the Street and Other Essays (Monacelli Press, 2011), James Frazer Stirling: Notes from the Archive (Yale Press, 2010), and Histories of the Immediate Present: Inventing Architectural Modernism (MIT Press, 2008).

Architectural Association is approved by The Open University as an appropriate organisation to offer higher education programmes leading to Open University validated awards.

Regulations for validated awards of the Open University
Graduate School Appeals Procedure
Graduate School Complaints Procedure
Safeguarding Policy

Programme site

Social Media

Projects Review 2018


Graduate Admissions Team AA School of Architecture
36 Bedford Square
London WC1B 3ES

T: 020 7887 4067 / 4007

Links & Downloads


Prospectus 2018-19
AA Prospectus

Graduate Prospectus
Graduate Prospectus


The Architectural Association, Inc. is incorporated as a company limited by guarantee (No.171402) and registered as a charity (No. 311083). Registered office: 36 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3ES, 020 7887 4000

Click here to read the AA’s latest review report.

Click here to read the AA’s latest action plan.