The Poetics of Place: Critical Writing for Designers

The seminar will explore the relationship between the written word and visual culture. Students will be expected to visit specific sites in the Cambridge/Boston area (or beyond) and write short critical essays about a specific building, an object, installation, natural environment, man-made landscape, urban infrastructure, etc. Student essays will be read out loud in class and reviewed by the professor for content, voice, clarity, point of view, relevance, sequence and density. Students will also be encouraged to keep an informal journal (or blog-type post) with notes and accompanying imagery that may take the form of drawings, sketches, photographs, collages or video, to help establish a more responsive and subjective relationship between word and image. There will be some suggested and required reading of selected critical works, but the process of research and discovery will go beyond conventional criticism and history to include works of fiction, poetry and personal memoir. The goal of this seminar is to help architects and designers develop a critical mindset and distinctive narrative style while examining the meanings and mysteries of place. The class will meet once a week and students will be evaluated on the quality of their written work and their participation in classroom discussions.

Recommended reading: selections (TBD) from John Ruskin, Marcel Proust, André Breton, Wallace Stevens, Buckminster Fuller, Gaston Bachelard, Italo Calvino, Jun\’ichir Tanizaki, John Berger, Robert Smithson, J.B. Jackson, Paul Virilio, Mike Davis, and Karl Ove Knausgaard, and others.