What is architecture? How do we know it when we see it (or feel it)? How do we define it? What is its role in the world? How is it used? What does it do? For that matter, what do architects do? Architectural theory helps sort these questions out.

In short, architectural theory proposes ideas (either explicitly or implicitly) about what architecture is (its properties) and what architecture does (its capacities) as well as the means and methods by which it is what it is and does what it does. It addresses questions, takes positions, and formulates arguments regarding architecture’s origins, meaning, essence, limits, and aesthetics as well as its relationship to broader socio-cultural and environmental contexts. While distinct from architectural history and criticism, architectural theory is always historically situated and has a critical impulse; it looks at what architecture is relative to what it could, should, or should not be. It takes the form of lectures, manifestos, dialogues, treatises, books, essays, drawings, exhibitions, installations, and speculative (paper) projects. Built projects or full-scale prototypes – while not works of architectural theory proper – may be theoretical to the extent that they are driven by a clear set of convictions and ideas.

This course introduces you to the intellectual tradition of architecture. We will explore relationships between architectural theory and practice through a series of interrelated lectures, discussions, readings, and student presentations. In the process, you will be exposed to a history of ideas as well as influential historical and contemporary architectural projects (built and unbuilt) in order to draw insightful connections across time and begin to situate your own design work within a broader intellectual context. An underlying premise to the course is that architectural theory is both an object of study (a history) and a way of thinking through (and not merely about) the design process.

Click here for syllabus.