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Amherst College Courses

Amherst College Courses

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Architectural Studies

Professors Courtright, Katsaros and Morse; Associate Professors Arboleda*, Gilpin and Rice (Chair); Assistant Professor Carey; Visiting Professor Koehler; Visiting Instructor Rabinkin; Visiting Lecturer Wheeler.

The Architectural Studies major firmly places the study of architecture in the liberal arts by encompassing the history, theory, philosophy, design, and science of the built environment. The major draws on resources and faculty from a range of disciplines across the college, which include art history, history, literature, economics, urban studies, visual and media arts, gender studies, physics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and environmental studies.

With the guidance of their Program advisor, Amherst students create an individualized course of study that may include, among others, architectural design, sustainable design, urban planning, and architectural history, theory, and criticism.

Architectural Studies students are required to take four foundational (normally 100 level) courses focused on architectural history/theory and design, and five intermediate (normally 200 and 300 level) courses in which they develop their particular field of concentration. A capstone research or design project is required during the first semester of senior year. This project can become a senior thesis during the second semester, depending on its quality and promise as a creative and/or research endeavor.

The College’s Architectural Studies Advisory Committee makes the decision on whether a given capstone project can be continued as an honors thesis. Before the end of the junior year, the student will propose the capstone project and one potential advisor to the College’s Architectural Studies Advisory Committee.

Amherst College also participates in the Five College Architectural Studies Program (FCAS). In addition to the courses offered at Amherst, please also search the Five College Catalog for relevant courses, and discuss your options with your major advisor.

* On leave 2023-24.

101 The Language of Architecture

(Offered as ARCH 101 and ARHA 101) This introductory course focuses on the tools used to communicate and discuss ideas in architectural practice and theory. We study both the practical, from sketching to parallel drawing, to the theoretical, from historical to critical perspectives. Connecting both, we cover the formal analysis elements necessary to “read” and critique built works. Class activities include field trips, guest presentations, sketching and drawing, small design exercises, discussion of readings, and short written responses. Through these activities, at the end of the semester the student will understand in general terms what the dealings and challenges of architecture as a discipline are.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2023-24. Professor Arboleda.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2024

105 Space and Design: Introduction to Studio Architecture

(Offered as ARCH 105 and ARHA 105) This hands-on design studio will foster innovation as it guides students through the development of conceptual architecture. Through a series of experimental projects that build on each other, students will develop their own design language and experiment with architecture at several scales - from a space for sitting to a dynamic built structure and its integration into a site. We will work through photography and light studies, both hand-drafted and computer aided drawings, as well as physical model-making to understand space and to explore the representation of plan, section, and elevations as well as diagramming and concept models. Guest critics will attend a review, and students will present their work to design professionals and professors.

No prior architecture experience is necessary, but a willingness to experiment and a desire to learn through making are essential.

This course may be taken either before or after ARCH 301, Space and Design: Advanced Design Studio.

Admissions with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester: Visiting Instructor Gretchen Rabinkin.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

112 Reading and Writing About Architecture

(See ARHA 112)

116 The Global Medieval World

(See HIST 116)

130 The City Past and Present

(Offered as ARCH 130, ARHA 130) This lecture course introduces key ideas, policies, spatial forms, and conflicts in the historical development of cities around the world. Instead of looking at cities through the lens of individual countries, we will instead explore urban history chronologically (from the early modern period to the present) and thematically (from colonization to globalization), continually tracing transnational flows of people, resources, and ideas. Lectures and readings on case studies from across the globe will encourage students to consider plural histories—how one group or individual may experience a time and place completely differently from another—and what it means to build historical pictures of a city from these sometimes-contradictory perspectives. In the process, we will critically examine evolving approaches to urban studies and urban planning. This course will use key episodes of urban transformation and transition to illuminate the processes, debates, and projects that have shaped modern cities. Through lectures, readings, written responses, and class discussion, we will connect those changes to broader issues of social and political power—housing, cultural preservation, spatial inequalities, modern state power, ecological relationships, public health—and then follow this historical narrative to today’s cities and citizens.

Limited to 50 students. Spring semester: Visiting Lecturer Wheeler.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2024

135 Renaissance to Revolution: Early Modern European Art and Architecture

(See ARHA 135)

152 Visual Culture of the Islamic World

(See ARHA 152)

153 World Monuments

(See ARHA 153)

157 The Postcolonial City

(See ARHA 157)

159 Modernity and the Avant-Gardes, 1890–1945

(See ARHA 159)

160 Deconstructing Modernity: 1945–2000

(See ARHA 160)

202 Architectural Anthropology

(Offered as ARCH 202 and ARHA 202) This seminar explores the emerging interdisciplinary field that combines the theory and practice of architecture and anthropology. We compare and contrast these two disciplines’ canonical methods, their ethical stances, and their primary subject matters (i.e., buildings and people). With that, we reflect upon the challenges of ethnoarchitecture as a new discipline, emphasizing the challenges of carrying out architectural research and/or construction work among people from cultural backgrounds different than the architect’s own. In general, this course invites critical thinking about the theory and practice of architecture, especially when it confronts issues of difference, including ethno-cultural and social class differences.

Recommended prior coursework: The course is open to everyone; previous instruction in architectural studies, area or ethnic studies, or social studies can be beneficial but is not mandatory.

Limited to 20 students.

Omitted 2023-24. Professor Arboleda.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2023

204 Housing, Urbanization, and Development

(Offered as ARCH 204, ARHA 204, and LLAS 204) This course studies the theory, policy, and practice of low-income housing in marginalized communities worldwide. We study central concepts in housing theory, key issues regarding low-income housing, different approaches to address these issues, and political debates around housing the poor. We use a comparative focus, going back and forth between the cases of the United States and the so-called developing world. By doing this, we engage in a “theory from without” exercise: We attempt to understand the housing problem in the United States from the perspective of the developing world, and vice versa. We study our subject through illustrated lectures, seminar discussions, documentary films, visual analysis exercises, and a field trip.

Limited to 20 students.

Omitted 2023-24. Professor Arboleda.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

205 Sustainable Design: Principles, Practice, Critique

(Offered as ARCH 205 and ARHA 205) This theory seminar aims to provide students with a strong basis for a deep engagement with the practice of sustainability in architectural design. The studied material covers both canonical literature on green design and social science-based critical theory. We start by exploring the key tenets of the sustainable design discourse, and how these tenets materialize in practice. Then, we examine sustainable design in relation to issues such as inequality and marginality. As we do this, we locate sustainability within the larger environmental movement, studying in detail some of the main approaches and standards of sustainable design, the attempts to improve this practice over time, and the specific challenges confronting these attempts. In addition to reading discussions, we study our subject through student presentations and written responses, a field trip, and two graphic design exercises.

Recommended prior coursework: The course is open to everyone, but students would benefit from having a previous engagement with a course in architectural design, architectural history and/or theory, introduction to architectural studies, or environmental studies.

Limited to 20 students. 

Omitted 2023-24. Professor Arboleda.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

207 Racism and the City

(See SOCI 209)

211 Introduction to Urban Sociology: Invention of the Urban Space

(See SOCI 211)

223 Saving the Unsavable: Historic Preservation Across Cultures

(See ARHA 223)

224 The Garden: Nature and Religion in the Mediterranean

(See RELI 224)

232 Cartographic Cultures: Making Maps, Building Worlds

(See ARHA 232)

236 Ruins, Rubble and Rupture

(See ARHA 236)

238 Russian and Soviet Architecture and Cities, 1700-2000

(Offered as ARCH 238, ARHA 238, RUSS 238) This course investigates the complex relationship between Russia, its imperial subjects—in the Baltics, Caucasus, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and Siberia—and global cultures of architecture and city-building. Case studies from across this vast territory (one-sixth of the Earth’s landmass) demonstrate that, far from being isolated on a “periphery” or behind an “Iron Curtain,” the region’s architects and planners actively participated in complex international design debates. How could buildings incorporate new technology and still reflect local cultures? What role should the state play in improving quality of life for the urban masses? Could redesigned spaces influence things like crime and public health? Beginning with Tsar Peter I’s construction of Saint Petersburg, proceeding through the rapid transformations of the Russian and Soviet empires, and concluding with the post-socialist “transition” of the 2000s, we will explore architecture and urban planning as tools of empire, modernization, and identity. Through lectures, research, writing, and discussion designed around visual and historical analysis, we will follow the region’s architects and policymakers as they interacted with, critiqued, selectively adopted, and influenced international architecture and city planning practices.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester: Visiting Lecturer Wheeler.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2023

240 Women in Architecture

(See ARHA 240)

241 The Age of Michelangelo: Italian Renaissance Art and Architecture

(See ARHA 241)

245 Politics and Preservation: Rebuilding the Past Worldwide

(See ARHA 245)

249 Digital Art History

(See ARHA 249)

250 Humanitarian Design in Theory and Practice

(Offered as ARCH 250 and ARHA 250) This course explores the challenges and possibilities of humanitarian design, a growing area of interest in architectural practice. The course includes a field trip to Ecuador, to take place over Spring Break. This field component is deeply integrated into the course contents. During the first part of the semester, students become familiar with relevant theoretical and practice-based approaches to disaster reconstruction. With that, they gain an understanding of the complexities of this area, and a good grasp of the tasks and issues to be dealt with in the field. Upon returning from Ecuador, the rest of the semester is devoted to debriefing, producing and analyzing documentation, and drawing general lessons for the theory and practice of humanitarian design. The main case study is that of post-disaster reconstruction following Ecuador’s 2016 Pedernales Earthquake, which killed over 600 people and injured over 16,000. We will study the outcome of diverse reconstruction efforts and approaches four years after the earthquake. In order to compare and contrast approaches, our fieldwork will focus on two settings, an urban and a rural one, both located in the coastal Manabí province.

Limited to 12 Amherst College students. Admission with consent of the instructor. This course is open to Amherst College students only.  There will be an application process before pre-registration. Those students selected will have their travel expenses covered.

Omitted 2023-24. Professor Arboleda. 

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

253 The Modern Metropolis

(See ARHA 253)

257 Slaves, Voyagers, and Strangers: Building Colonial Cities

(See ARHA 257)

258 Art, Things, Spaces, and Places

(See ARHA 258)

259 Utopia: Visionary Architecture, Art and Theory

(See ARHA 259)

260 Race, Place, Research

(See GERM 260)

269 Baroque Art

(See ARHA 269)

301 Space and Design: Advanced Design Studio

(Offered as ARCH 301 and ARHA 301) This course is for students who want to create an advanced, rigorous, and in-depth design project—taking an independent design project through various iterations from conception to research and realization. The class will provide a framework for working through design-centered Architectural Studies thesis and capstone projects, as well as an opportunity for other design students to develop their own project and distinct voice. Students will present their work and receive feedback on their concepts, design and presentation skills. Tools and materials will be supplied.

Requisite: At least one course in architectural design and consent of the instructor.

Limited to 12 students.

Spring semester. Visiting Instructor Gretchen Rabinkin.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2022, Spring 2024

306 A World of Evidence: Architecture, Race, and the Amherst College Archive

(See ARHA 306)

316 Angels and Ghosts

(See ARHA 316)

320 Monuments, For and Against

(See RUSS 321)

321 Architecture and Violence in the Americas

(See SPAN 321)

347 Dreamworlds: Utopia and the French Imagination

(See FREN 347)

360 Performance

(See GERM 360)

363 Traumatic Events

(See GERM 363)

364 Architectures of Disappearance

(See GERM 364)

365 Making Memorials

(See GERM 365)

366 The Bauhaus

(See ARHA 366)

368 SPACE

(See GERM 368)

369 TIME

(Offered as ARCH 369 and EUST 369) This research seminar will explore conceptions of time as they have informed and influenced thought and creativity in the fields of cultural studies, literature, architecture, urban studies, philosophy, neuroscience, performance, and the visual, electronic, and time-based arts. Students will select and pursue a major semester-long research project early in the semester in consultation with the professor, and present their research in its various stages of development throughout the semester, in a variety of media formats (writing, performance, video, electronic art/interactive media, installation, online and networked events, architectural/design drawings/renderings), along with oral presentations of readings and other materials. Readings and visual/sonic materials will be drawn from the fields of European literature, philosophy and critical theory; from architectural, art, music, neuroscience and film theory and history; from performance studies and performance theory; and from theories of technology and the natural and built environment. We will sustain a focus on issues of perception, cognition, duration, movement, attention, imagination, memory, and narrative throughout. Emphasis on developing research, writing, and presentation skills is central to this seminar. Conducted in English.

Preference given to ARCH and EUST majors, as well as to students interested in architecture/design, performance, film/video, interactive installation, and/or the environment. Limited to 12 students.

Fall semester: Professor Gilpin.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2023

381 El desierto: Capital, Surveillance, Nomadism

(See SPAN 381)

390, 490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Spring 2024, Fall 2024

498, 499, 499D Senior Departmental Honors.

A full course. Spring semester. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2024

Non-Language Departmental Courses

220 Reinventing Tokyo: The Art, Literature, and Politics of Japan's Modern Capital

(See ASLC 220)

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