SYLLABUS, Peter Lang Instructor

Students will be introduced to the Canonic representations of Western Architecture and the City and will study the ensuing debates on post-modernism, globalization, and multi-disciplinary urban cultural studies. This critical survey on architecture and urban theory from the 15th to the 19th centuries will concern itself with the question of the evolution and eventual devolution of the Western architectural canon. This course will investigate the making of the urban master-narrative in relationship to 20th century modern architecture and urban theories.

In the case of this particular subject and timeline, the master-narrative can be substituted for the master-plan. The building up of this history, the instrumentalizaton of various aspects of Renaissance, Mannerist, Baroque and Enlightenment architectural and urban histories have served to institutionalize over the course of the late 19th and early 20th centuries a scientific urban practice. The crises effecting architecture and urbanism in the post-WWII era were part of a much broader series of deep interrogations into the legitimacy of the meta-narrative effecting philosophy, the arts, and ultimately the sciences. We intend to examine how the emergence of the master-narrative—predicated on a series of highly exclusive canonic events, becomes further structured and authoritative.

Over the longer duration, however, such structures have proven to be increasingly problematic and marginal when considering the much more complex environments that make up today’s global society. The post-war (WWII) crisis in modernism and the rising supremacy of Post-Modern thought, finally punctuated by the shock of the revolutions of 1989 (see Francis Fukuyama’s end of history thesis, in End of History and the Last Man, New York, Simon&Schuster 1992. *) and subsequent aftershocks, with an endless number of crises, political, economic, social and environmental, have precipitated numerous rational and irrational counter-tendencies.

Today architects and urban designers are engaged in a dialectical debate over strategies and tactics that might either loosely guide—or tightly control the future of our great cities. This course is structured on a set of overlapping studies: an examination of the history of architecture and cities and their consequent critical interpretations that include recent theoretical developments and a weekly survey of different aspects of urban cultural production- from dance to rap, from theater to street art, from the printing press to internet as a means of gauging the city’s position within the transformation of public life and public space.

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