Architecture and Construction: From the Vitruvian Tradition to the Digital

The course aims to contribute to a better understanding of the relationship between architecture and construction through the study of key historical episodes such as the rise of modern tectonic ideals in the 18th century, the development of iron and concrete buildings, the 20th-century quest for light structures, or more recent developments in materials, structure and building technologies. The course will also raise theoretical questions such as what the terms material and structure truly mean, or how does architecture differ from mere construction. Beyond its historical and theoretical scope, the ambition of the course is also to foster students' reflection on the contemporary evolution of the relationship between architecture and construction. Indeed, the rise of digital technologies and more recently the development of strong environmental concerns challenge our received understanding of tectonics, materials, and ultimately design.

The course will consist of live lectures given online followed discussions. Lectures will be recorded and made accessible to the students of the course. Apart from regular attendance, the students will be asked to produce a short end-of-the-semester paper on a topic related to the course.

Plan of the course:

Towards an Architectural History of Construction, Introduction
Construction and Solidity in the Vitruvian Tradition
The 18th-Century Crisis of Solidity and the Rise of the Structural Approach
Early Iron Construction Development
From Iron to Steel
The Origin of Modern Concrete
The Industrial Challenge from Ruskin to the Arts and Crafts
Building Technologies in the 19th Century
Structure and Ornament in the Industrial Age
Modernist Architecture and Technology
Concrete Engineering
Concrete Architecture
Early Space, Inflatable and Tensile Structures
Buckminster Fuller, Jean Prouvé and the Search for a Revolution in Design
Postwar Technological Utopias and Dystopias from Archigram to Radical Architecture
The High-Tech Temptation
Contemporary Advances in Materials and Structures
Digital Architecture and the Rise of a New Materiality
Digital Fabrication, Between Futurism and Nostalgia
The Environmental Challenge: From Mechanics to Thermodynamics?
Architecture, AI: What is Next? Conclusion

Please note this course will meet online through 9/15. Out of the 26 course sessions, eight will happen in Gund with the instructor, 14 will be live on Zoom, and four will be pre-recorded lectures.  Additionally, there will be four in-person Q&A with the course TFs. Please review the syllabus for more details.