MA History & Critical Thinking HCT Trip to the Scavi Archeologici Di Pompei (2015-16), photo Klaus Platzgummer

Director Marina Lathouri Staff Mark Cousins, John Palmesino, Caroline Rabourdin, Douglas Spencer Visiting Tutors Tim Benton, Tina Di Carlo, Mario Carpo, Fabrizio Gallanti, Anthony Vidler

Visiting Speakers Jorella Andrews, Shumon Basar, David Cunningham, Keller Easterling, Marco Ferrari, David Knight, Nadir Lahiji, Massimiliano Molona, Louis Moreno, Siri Nergaard, Benjamin Noys, Sam Jacob, Francesco Jodice, Manuel Orazi, Alessandra Ponte, Michelangelo Sabatino, Maria Theodorou, Sven-Olov Wallenstein, Ines Weizman, Thanos Zartaloudis

The post-graduate course in History and Critical Thinking is a unique platform for engagement with contemporary architecture and city cultures through critical enquiry into history. Over the past 20 years, the 12-month programme has been continually developed positioning itself within current arguments, debates and practices. The boundaries of what might be regarded as a legitimate object of study are being constantly interrogated and expanded. Rather than dealing with history, architecture and the city exclusively through buildings and methodological classifications, the course attempts to transform those into a resource through which processes, spatial artefacts and built forms can be analysed and better understood.

The programme's ambition is three-fold: to connect contemporary debates and projects with a wider historical, cultural and political context; to explore writings of history and the ways in which, social, political and cultural aspirations become effective arguments in particular accounts of architectural and urban modernity; to investigate technologies of production and distribution of knowledge in the context of recent cultural and geo-political changes that relate to practices and public cultures in architecture.

Writing is essential, as practice of thinking and communication. Different modes of writing - thesis, essays, reviews, commentaries, tweets and interviews are explored to articulate the various aspects of study. Seminars with distinguished practitioners from different backgrounds ? historians, critics, writers, designers and curators bring into the course a diversity of perspectives and skills.

The organization of the course around a number of lectures, seminars, workshops, writing sessions and open debates offers students a range of approaches to expanding and reinterpreting disciplinary knowledge in a broad historical, political and cultural arena. Collaborations with AA Design Units, participation in juries and architectural visits enable students to engage with design speculation. The programme also benefits greatly from the dynamism of one of the foremost global centres of architectural and urban culture, and provides research facilities and supervision to degree candidates (MPhil and PhD) registered under our joint PhD programme, a cross-disciplinary initiative supported by all of the Graduate programmes.

Term 1 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. Modernity is interrogated through a critical reading of histories of modernism and reappraisal of the modern field of aesthetics.

Term 2 is concerned with the historical process of the formation of the discipline, its techniques, conventions, procedures and innovative practices in relation to contemporary architectural and urban thinking.

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

Le Corbusier (1920-35): Style, the Zeitgeist and Nature, Tim Benton
One reason that Le Corbusier remains a necessary point of departure for any study of the ambiguities and contradictions in Modernist architecture is his continual reassessment of his own position. This series will follow his adoption and rejection of the founding arguments of modern architecture. An aim is to confront certain taboo concepts in the discussion of Modernism: style, the Zeitgeist argument, formalism and the vernacular.

Aesthetics and Architectural History, Mark Cousins
This course provides an account of the intellectual bases of architectural theories within a modern field of aesthetics, a discourse, which arises in the C18th. It follows this with an analysis of how this aesthetics sits uncomfortably in relation to the development of architectural and art history in the C19th. It explains how this tension anticipates theoretical problems of modernism.

Writing Practice, Caroline Rabourdin
This series is conceived as a sequence of writing exercises with the aim to give students the opportunity to test different approaches to writing, in order to gain confidence and develop their own voice. The course is underpinned by a critical as well as creative and literary methodology, with a corpus ranging from Surrealist writers to post-structuralist architects.

Architecture Knowledge and Writing, Marina Lathouri
The course examines the multiple 'languages' of architecture in the light of institutional and economic constraints, cultural specificities and political ideologies. From the early renaissance treatise the economy of the literary object elicits an intricate relation to the economy of the built object - its modes of production, its aesthetic norms, its didactic and historical value, its uses and effects and produces a disciplinary (public) space which cannot be found anywhere in the singular statement, built or written.

'Another Philosophy of Language', Caroline Rabourdin
This series is an introduction to theories of language - relating essentially to continental philosophy - and their relationship with the discipline of Architecture. Contemporary in its scope, the course focuses on the 20th century. It begins with the birth of Linguistics, otherwise known as the Science of Language, established by Ferdinand de Saussure and introduces the ensuing notions of Structuralism, Semiotics and Post-Structuralism before moving onto an ontological, performative and embodied theory of language with the work of Merleau-Ponty.

The Subject of Architecture, Douglas Spencer
Theories and practices of architecture have, especially since the 1960s, been engaged with questions of the relations between the self and its environments. The subjects of architecture have been conceived as operatives in cybernetic systems, cognitive mapmakers, deconstructive readers, and post-critical participants in the network of flows. This course addresses such constructions of the architectural subject through the analysis of a range of related themes, texts, and projects.

The Post-Eurocentric City, John Palmesino
This seminar series seeks to articulate the theoretical conjunctions that are shaping the contemporary city. It analyses the links between the transformations in international and sub-state polities, processes of institutional change and the material structures of human environments.

History and Critical Thinking Debates: Locating Architecture Politics, Marina Lathouri
Processes involved in the constitution of the multiple territories ? professional, disciplinary, cultural and legal ? and the negotiation of frontiers ? conceptual, practical and technical - are proposed here essentially as a dispute over their proper locus. Guest speakers present and engage with tutors and students. The aim is to position the multiple voices making possible a process of thinking in common, by definition a pedagogical practice different from the seminar or the lecture.

Drawing Matter, Tina di Carlo
TIn this one-week intensive workshop, drawing is considered as a pedagogical tool. Specific focus on the collection and exhibition of architecture is to reveal a historiography and a critical approach and method through the history and connoisseurship of objects. Private collections and current exhibitions in and around London comprise part of the curriculum.

In Term 3, the Thesis Research Seminar focuses on the most significant component of the students? work, the final thesis. The choice of topic, the organisation of the field of research and the development of the central argument are discussed within the Research Seminar where students learn about the nature of a dissertation from the shared experience of the group. The unit trip, which takes place in the third term, includes intense sessions to help students solidify their thesis. At the end of term and during the summer, work in progress is presented to invited critics.

In Term 4 the students complete the writing of their thesis to be submitted in September.


Marina Lathouri (Director) studied architecture and philosophy of art and aesthetics. She directs the Graduate Programme in the History and Critical Thinking at the AA and lectures at Cambridge University. She has previously taught at the University of Pennsylvania and is Visiting Professor at the Universidad de Navarra, Spain and the Universidad Catolica in Santiago, Chile. Her current interests lie in the conjunction of historiography and modernity, architecture and writing, the city and political philosophy. Most recently, she co-authored Intimate Metropolis: Urban Subjects in the Modern City (Routledge 2008) and City Cultures: Contemporary Positions on the City (AA Publications 2010) and has published numerous articles.

Mark Cousins directs the AA?s History and Theory Studies at the undergraduate level. He has been Visiting Professor of Architecture at Columbia University and a founding member of the Graduate School the London Consortium. He is also Guest Professor at Southeastern University in Nanjing.

John Palmesino has been Head of Research at ETH Studio Basel and Research Advisor at the Jan Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht. He is a founding member of Multiplicity. He is currently Diploma Unit Master at the AA. He also teaches at the Research Architecture Centre, Goldsmiths in London. He has established Territorial Agency with Ann-Sofi Rönnskog.

Caroline Rabourdin is an architect and essayist. She graduated from the INSA Strasbourg, the Bartlett (UCL) and Chelsea College of Arts (UAL). She has practiced in Paris and London and has taught at the ESA in Paris, UAL, as well as the University of Greenwich. She is now lecturer at the Architectural Association in Media Studies, History & Theory, and the MA History and Critical Thinking. She is also the director of the Paris AA Visiting School for architects? writing practice.

Douglas Spencer has studied architectural history, cultural studies, and critical theory. His recent writings include contributions to The Missed Encounter of Architecture with Philosophy, Architecture Against the Post-Political and New Geographies 6: Grounding Metabolism. He recently published The Architecture of Neoliberalism. .

Visiting Tutors

Tim Benton taught for 40 years at the Open University and has been Visiting Professor at numerous places. His research in the history of architecture and design between the wars and Le Corbusier has achieved international renown. His book The Rhetoric of Modernism, Le Corbusier as lecturer (2007) was awarded the Grand Prix du Livre sur l?Architecture by the Academie de l?Architecture in Paris.

Tina Di Carlo, a former curator at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and a Harvard and Courtauld graduate, specializes in modern and contemporary art, architecture and design. She recently completed her doctoral dissertation on the 1988 Deconstructivist Architecture exhibition at MoMA, to be published as part of the Writing Architecture series through MIT Press. She is currently the Head of Events and Exhibitions at the School of Architecture at Princeton University.

Programme site

Projects Review 2017


Graduate Admissions Team AA School of Architecture
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Links & Downloads


Prospectus 2016-17
Foundation Course Booklet

Graduate Prospectus


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