Course Description

ARCH 311w: Architectural and Planning Theories contextualizes the practice of architecture within our social, political, economic, and physical environments, and develops theories for action in the built environment. As a writing-intensive course, students will learn how to build an argument for a particular audience, whether that argument is for a particular design, a call to action, or a better understanding of a complex situation. In class, we connect to and discuss the students’ developing studio design concepts, underscoring how a theoretical basis can strengthen the creation of buildings which become cultural artifacts. The course requires active participation from the students through crafting presentations, writing assignments, discussion, and the review of each other’s writing and design work. Attendance at the school lecture series is mandatory, and takes the place of class sessions.

The purpose of this course is to stimulate critical thinking and communication regarding the practices of architecture and planning, broadly defined. In addition to the visual ways of thinking expressed in design studio and visual representation courses, this course uses language to communicate about the built environment. In fact, the aim of your work this semester is to join a conversation about the built environment, guided by your passion and interest in the field. Your papers, your presentations, and our discussions will be based on the connections you make between your emergent architectural knowledge in your studio work, and the theoretical readings we do throughout the semester.

It is crucial that you understand architecture as a social act, dependent upon society’s understanding of what we do. In some cases, public understanding is accurate. In others, we as architects are responsible to educate those outside of our profession, as well as convince those within it that our ideas are compelling and important. That is your task here.

photo by Ard Hesselink

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