From 2 November 2020, the autumn semester 2020 will take place online. Exceptions: Courses that can only be carried out with on-site presence.
Please note the information provided by the lecturers via e-mail.

052-0840-19L  Particular Questions in Architectural Theory:

SemesterSpring Semester 2019
LecturersL. Stalder, to be announced
Periodicityyearly recurring course
CourseDoes not take place this semester.
Language of instructionEnglish


AbstractThis seminar examines individual theoretical positions from modern and contemporary architecture. The corpus ranges from manifestos, books, exhibitions, and blogs, to the built work.
ObjectiveThe aim of the seminar is the critical examination of theoretical positions from the architecture of modernity and the present. Based on the historical analysis, the students should develop the tools and methods to develop their own theoretical position and to be able to respond to the challenges of the present.
ContentTopic of the seminar are discourses, debates, positional references, movements in their rich interrelation to the architectural practice in the modern and the present. The proposed topics should be examined from a dual, historical and systematic perspective. Each semester will be organized around a historically and theoretically limited research question.

Can we not commune with buildings, stones, views—
despite Wordsworth and all our Romantic poets/painters?
- Alison Smithson
‹The Arch Criminals of the Euston Arch› (1968)

Robin Hood Gardens, the social housing development built by the Smithsons in East London (1972), was demolished in August 2017. In an attempt to save it, the preservationist lobby mounted a decade-long campaign on an unprecedented scale, bolstered by the testimony of design leaders like Richard Rogers and Zaha Hadid. The methods adopted in the campaign have a much longer-standing genealogy in British architectural culture, and the Smithsons themselves had their place as preservationist prophets. Following the equally calamitous campaign of 1961 to save the Euston Arch, the Greek Revival propylaeum fronting Euston station, the Smithsons wrote a book in protest, a spiralling book, for, they said, ‘a real catastrophe travels round and round in one’s bones’.
This seminar will examine the ways in which British architecture and heritage were mediated in the post-war period by various different protagonists, through diverse media.
Whether architects, grass-roots activists, journalists, or poets, they were enterprising campaigners. Their work, in writing, film, broadcast and verse, could be, perhaps needed to be, emotional, incautious, even bellicose. Foiling the melancholia and disillusionment, though, it often had a great sense of fun too. The seminar will explore the breadth and variety of that output, and consider different, often creative, models of critiquing buildings, aided by the deployment of certain tropes – not least polemic, persuasion and wit – whilst critically examining underlying ideological drivers, such as taste. The sessions will be arranged thematically, according to certain key epithets, like ‹Rape›, ‹Villainy›, ‹Destruction› and ‹Good Taste›. It will conclude with a discussion of the ways the UK is confronting its post-modern architectural heritage as buildings by James Stirling and Terry Farrell have recently been officially protected. Confrontation with these themes will open up a large reservoir of new knowledge about English architecture. Moreover, it will shake up conventional perspectives on architectural critique, whilst confronting afresh the roles history and heritage could or should play in contemporary practice.