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Architectural Studies



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. Fall semester. Professor Arboleda.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

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 209, Space + Design: Sustainable Innovation Studio

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


2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2022

135 Renaissance to Revolution: Early Modern European Art and Architecture

(Offered as ARHA 135, ARCH 135, and EUST 135) This course, a gateway class for the study of art history, introduces the ways that artists and architects imaginatively invented visual language to interpret the world for contemporary patrons, viewers, and citizens in early modern Europe. Painters, printmakers, sculptors and architects in Italy, France, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands created new ways of seeing empirical phenomena and interpreting them, by means of both ancient and new principles of art, science and philosophy and through powerful engagement with the senses. They produced godlike illusions of nature, from grand frescoes bursting from the walls of papal residences to spectacular gardens covering noble estates in Baroque France and colonializing England. They fundamentally altered the design of major cities such as Rome and Paris so that the visitor encountered an entirely new urban experience than ever before. Along the way, they learned from one another’s example, but, prizing innovation, sought fiercely to surpass previous generations, and argued at length about values in art. They contributed to fashioning an ideal picture of empire and society and conjured the dazzling wealth and power of those who paid them. But as time passed, some came to ironize the social order mightily, and some elevated beggars, farmers, servants, so-called fools, and bourgeois women leading seemingly mundane domestic lives as much as others praised the prosperous few. Finally, artists actively participated in the overthrow of the monarchy during the French Revolution and yet also passionately critiqued the violence of war it engendered. Throughout, the course will investigate how concepts of progress, civilization, the state, religion, race, gender, and the individual came to be defined through art.

The goals of the course are:• above all, to achieve the skill of close looking to gain visual understanding;• also, to identify artistic innovations that characterize European art and architecture from the Italian Renaissance to the French Revolution;• to understand how images are unique forms of expression that help us to understand historical phenomena;• to situate the works of art historically, by examining the intellectual, political, religious, and social currents that contributed to their creation; • to read texts about the period critically and analytically.No previous experience with art or art history is necessary. 

Spring semester. Professor Courtright.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2024

157, 193 The Postcolonial City

(Offered as ARHA 157, ARCH 157, and BLST 193 [D]) This course engages the buildings, cities, and landscapes of the former colonies of Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean. Beginning with the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, the non-European territories, which once comprised the lucrative possessions of modern European empires, quickly became independent states charged with developing infrastructure, erecting national monuments, and handling the influx of laborers drawn to the metropolises formed as sleepy colonial towns grew into bustling postcolonial cities. This class will examine the buildings, urban spaces, rural landscapes, and national capitals that emerged in response to these political histories. We will approach a number of issues, such as the architecture of national independence monuments, the preservation of buildings linked to the colonial past, the growth of new urban centers in Africa and India after independence, architecture and regimes of postcolonial oppression, the built environments of tourism in the independent Caribbean, and artists’ responses to all of these events. Some of the places that we will address include: Johannesburg, South Africa; Chandigarh, India; Negril, Jamaica; Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; and Lilongwe, Malawi. Our goal will be to determine what, if any, continuities linked the buildings, landscapes, and spaces of post-independence Africa, India, and the Caribbean in the twentieth century. Over the course of the semester, students will gain skills in analyzing buildings, town plans, and other visual materials. Also, this class will aid students in developing their writing skills, particularly, their ability to write about architecture and urban space.

Spring semester. Professor Carey.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2024

159 Modernity and the Avant-Gardes, 1890–1945

(Offered as ARHA 159 and ARCH 159) This course is an examination of the emergence, development, and dissolution of European modernist art, architecture and design. The course begins with the innovations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, created in consort with the growth of modern urbanism, colonialist politics, and psychological experimentation. Distinctions between the terms modernity, modernism, and the avant-garde will be explored as we unpack the complex equations between art, politics, and social change in the first half of the twentieth century. Covering selected groups (such as Expressionism, Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, l'Esprit Nouveau, Bauhaus, and Constructivism), this course will consider themes such as mechanical reproduction, nihilism, nationalism, consumerism, and primitivism as they are disclosed in the making and reception of modernist art and architecture.

Spring semester. Professor Koehler.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Fall 2021, Fall 2023

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. Spring Semester. Professor Arboleda.

2022-23: 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. Spring Semester. Professor Arboleda.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

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. Fall Semester. Professor Arboleda.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

232 Cartographic Cultures: Making Maps, Building Worlds

(Offered as ARHA 232 and ARCH 232) This course traces the history of modern cartography from the integration of indigenous map-making techniques into colonial Latin American land surveys in the sixteenth century to the use of GIS software by militaries and corporations to create detailed images of foreign and domestic territories in the twenty-first century. Along the way, we will study the political and economic impetus that drove governments, militaries, municipalities, and private entities to create renderings of the land on which we live. We will also investigate the technological history of map-making as we consider the extent to which innovations in modern science have influenced the production of maps. This course will challenge the presumption that maps are factual portrayals of physical space. It will also question how divergent forms of culturally based knowledge as well as economic constraints and corporate rivalries have historically influenced map-making and subsequently shaped our understanding of territories near and far. We will think through these issues while investigating a number of major topics in the history of modern cartography: map-making and indigenous expertise in the Americas prior to and during European intervention; colonial cartography in the Americas, Asia, and Africa; the explosion of the map-making industry in eighteenth and nineteenth-century England and France; the mapping of oceans and other remote landscapes during this time; the twentieth-century genre of pictorial maps in the United States; cartography and modern warfare; and artists’ responses to these histories. Through written assignments and a final creative project, students will build their writing and research skills while gaining knowledge of the methods that scholars employ when reading a wide variety of maps. Moreover, in approaching contemporary debates in the field of cartography, this course will introduce students to landscape studies.

Limited to 34 students. Spring semester. Professor Carey.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Fall 2020

236 Ruins, Rubble and Rupture

(Offered as ARHA 236 and ARCH 236) This course will consider the complex role of the ruin in the history of art—including paintings, prints, photographs, films, sculpture, and architectural remains—making extensive use of the exhibition “Architectural Ghosts” at the Mead Art Museum. We will begin with artists such as Piranesi, Thomas Cole, and Casper David Friedrich, as well as Romantic architects who designed structures meant to suggest the passage of time and the powers of decay. We will consider early travel photographs of ancient ruins and modern and contemporary responses made in the aftermath of war, terrorism, and climate disasters, including new writing on the ruin. The class will examine historical phenomena such as the “rubble women” who gathered debris after the blanket bombings of Europe in the 1940s; “ruin-porn” in relationship to post-industrial urban revitalization; and efforts of preservation in the context of continued violence throughout the world. The course will include a focus on art, architecture and films made after World War II, the Holocaust, and Hiroshima when the imagery of ruins and the markings of rupture became artistic tools—as in the works of Alberto Burri, Anselm Kiefer, Roberto Rossellini, Yves Klein, or the Gutai group. Students will present on one object in the exhibition, respond to weekly readings in discussion, write short essays, and work on an extended research project (presentations and paper) on an object or site of their own choosing.

Spring semester. Professor Koehler.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2024

241 The Age of Michelangelo: Italian Renaissance Art and Architecture

(Offered as ARHA 241, ARCH 241, and EUST 241)  Michelangelo, a defining genius of the Italian Renaissance, emerged from a rich cultural environment that forever changed how we think of art. Artists of the Renaissance developed an original visual language from the legacy of the ancient world, while also examining nature, their environment, and encounters with other worlds to the East and West. Their art revealed a profound engagement with philosophical attitudes toward the body and the spirit, as well as with ideals of pious devotion and civic virtue. Those concepts changed radically over the period of the Renaissance, however. Artists developed the rhetoric of genius and artistic struggle by vaunting an artist’s godlike role, owing to his imaginative creation of art and his ability to mimic reality illusionistically, yet they also questioned a human’s place in the cosmos. We will analyze in depth the visual language of painting, sculpture, and architecture created for merchants, monks, princes and popes in the urban centers of Florence, Rome and Venice from the 14th through the 16th centuries, and examine the virtuosic processes artists used to achieve their goals. 

Rather than taking the form of a survey, this course, based on lectures but regularly incorporating discussion, will analyze selected works and contemporary attitudes toward the visual through study of the art and its primary sources.

 Learning goals:

Gain confidence in the art of close looking to gain visual understanding;Achieve an understanding about how art and its culture are intertwined; Develop the critical skills to analyze points of view from a historical period other than our own; Learn collaboratively with classmates; Develop and argue an original thesis about a single work of art in a research paper.

One course in ARHA, FAMS, or ARCH recommended. Spring semester. Professor Courtright.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Spring 2024

253, 257 Slaves, Voyagers, and Strangers: Building Colonial Cities

(Offered as ARHA 257, ARCH 257, and BLST 253) Creole dwellings were first erected by enslaved builders working under Diego Colón (the son of Christopher Columbus) on the island of Hispaniola. By the end of the first wave of European expansion in the early nineteenth century, the creole style existed across imperial domains in the Caribbean, North and South America, Africa, the Indian Ocean, and even Asia. We will examine the global diffusion of this architectural typology from its emergence in the Spanish Caribbean to its florescence in British and French India in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In doing so, we will address buildings and towns in former Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, and British colonies worldwide. Some of the urban centers that we will engage include: Kingston, Jamaica; Pondicherry, India; Cape Town, South Africa; Cartagena, Colombia; Saint-Louis, Senegal; and Macau, China. In investigating both creole structures and the cities that harbored such forms, we will think through the social and economic factors that caused buildings and urban areas to display marked continuities despite geographical and imperial distinctions.

Limited to 34 students. Fall semester. Professor Carey.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2022, Fall 2023

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

(Offered as ARHA 306, ARCH 306, BLST 306, EUST 305) This upper-level seminar will teach students how to conduct research on race and racism in the field of architectural studies. Throughout the semester, we will visit Amherst College Special Collections as well as several local archives to explore the letters, photographs, drawings, and ground plans that relate to the architecture of race, racism, and social change in the region. Then, we will visit the buildings and spaces that these records address. In the process, we will ask several questions: What can the local historical record tell us about the history of architecture and race at Amherst College and in Western Massachusetts at large? What is missing from local archives? Why do these omissions matter and how should we respond to them? Recognizing the sensitivity of these questions, we will think through what it means to conduct research on topics of political, moral, cultural, and interpersonal significance. Readings and course discussions will examine how other architectural historians have tackled controversies of race and racism in their work. Guest lectures will also introduce students to the intellectual and personal journeys of the diverse range of scholars who are working on these issues today. Overall, the goal of this class is for students to gain an understanding of how to conduct architectural research with the aid of historical documents, building remnants, and altered cultural landscapes. At the end of the semester, students will complete a final research paper. This class is subsequently ideal for students in Black Studies, Architectural Studies, Environmental Studies, and History who are planning to complete a senior thesis.

No prerequisites. Juniors and seniors, however, will be given preference. The class will help students strengthen their critical thinking abilities as well as their writing and research skills. This course is limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Dwight Carey.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

316, 360 Performance

(Offered as GERM 360, ARCH 360, EUST 360 and FAMS 316) What is performance? What constitutes an event? How can we address a phenomenon that has disappeared the moment we apprehend it? How does memory operate in our critical perception of an event? How does a body make meaning? These are a few of the questions we will explore in this course, as we discuss critical, theoretical, and compositional approaches in a broad range of multidisciplinary performance phenomena emerging from European—primarily German—culture in the twentieth century. We will focus on issues of performativity, composition, conceptualization, dramaturgy, identity construction, representation, race, space, gender, and dynamism. Readings of performance theory, performance studies, gender studies, and critical/cultural studies, as well as literary, philosophical, and architectural texts, will accompany close examination of performance material. Students will develop performative projects in various media (video, performance, text, online) and deliver a number of critical oral and written presentations on various aspects of the course material and their own projects. Performance material will be experienced live when possible, and in text, video, audio, digital media and online form, drawn from selected works of Dada and Surrealism, Bauhaus, German Expressionism, the Theater of the Absurd, Tanztheater, and Contemporary Theater, Performance, Dance, Opera, New Media, and Performance Art. A number of films, including Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, Oskar Schlemmer’s Das Triadische Ballett, Fernand Léger’s Ballet Mécanique, and Kurt Jooss’ Der Grüne Tisch, will also be screened. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Limited to 15 students. Enrollment requires attendance at first class meeting. Spring semester. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014, Fall 2017, Fall 2020

321 Architecture and Violence in the Americas

(Offered as SPAN-321, LLAS-321 and ARCH-321) This course explores historical connections between violence and the built environment in the Americas, from architecture to wastelands, from monuments to mass graves. The class has a twofold objective. On the one hand, we will analyze critical issues concerning the production of the built environment, such as the intersection of race and space or the relationship between state architecture and historical oblivion. On the other hand, we will explore architectures and art projects that actively unsettle colonial legacies and seek to heal historical violence. We will study cases from Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, México and the US, among others. Conducted in Spanish.

Prerequisites: Spanish 301 or permission of the instructor. Spring Semester.  Visiting Professor Ferrari.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

347 Dreamworlds: Utopia and the French Imagination

(Offered as FREN 347 and ARCH 347) In the aftermath of the French revolution, utopias proliferated in France as perhaps never before. Socialist thinkers such as Charles Fourier (1772-1837) invented entire systems designed to improve social justice, equality, and harmony. Utopian dreams were not restricted to political thought, however: technology, science, and the arts also inspired, and gave shape to, visions of a perfect world. This class will be an introduction to utopian thinkers, designers, and artists of the nineteenth and early twentieth century and will ask why utopia had such a strong hold on the French imagination at the time. We will study philosophical and political sources; city planning and architecture; the development of science-fiction as a utopian genre; Georges Méliès and the beginnings of film; as well as the link between the French colonial Empire and utopian thought, through the example of Algeria.

We will be reading, among other sources, excerpts from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Charles Fourier and Etienne Cabet; futuristic novels by Rosny aîné; essays by historians Mona Ozouf, François Furet, and Antoine Picon; as well as Le Corbusier’s treatise on urban planning, Urbanisme. Class materials will also be drawn from film, architectural plans, and the visual arts. Conducted in French.

Requisite: One of the following—FREN 207, 208 or the equivalent. Fall semester: Professor Katsaros.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2022

364 Architectures of Disappearance

(Offered as GERM 364, ARCH 364, and EUST 364) This course will address a number of developments and transformations in contemporary urban architecture and performance from an international perspective. We will explore issues including, but not limited to, trauma, memory, absence, perception, corporeality, representation, and the senses in our examination of recent work in Germany and elsewhere, and read a number of texts from the fields of philosophy, critical theory, performance studies, and visual and architectural studies, in an attempt to understand how architecture is beginning to develop compositional systems in which to envision dynamic and responsive spaces in specific cultural contexts. We will focus our research on the work of a number of German and international architects, performance, and new media artists, including Jochen Gerz, Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock, Horst Hoheisel, Micha Ullman, Shimon Attie, Daniel Libeskind, Peter Eisenman, Rem Koolhaas, Greg Lynn, Mark Goulthorpe, Mariam Kamara, R & Sie(n), Axel Kilian, Paul Privitera, Diébédo Francis Kéré, Hani Rashid and Lise-Anne Couture, Ini Archibong, Herzog and de Meuron, Archigram, David Adjaye, William Forsythe, Jan Fabre, Rachel Whiteread, Rebecca Horn, Mario Gooden, Sasha Waltz, Richard Siegal, Michael Schumacher, Mwanzaa Brown, Robert Wilson, the Blix Brothers of Berlin, Maya Lin, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Pina Bausch, Granular Synthesis, Sponge, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Miku Dixit, Toni Dove, Chris Parkinson and Tessa Kelly, and many others. Students will develop projects in various media (video, performance, text, design, online) and deliver a number of critical oral and written presentations on various aspects of the course material and their own projects. Emphasis on developing research, writing, and presentation skills is a core of this seminar. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Limited to 15 students. Enrollment requires attendance at first class meeting. Fall semester. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Spring 2019, Fall 2022

490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Spring 2024

498, 499, 499D Senior Departmental Honors.

A full course. Fall semester. The Department.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023

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