The History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art (HTC) program aims to produce leading-edge scholars and intellectuals in the field of art and architectural history. We place a strong emphasis on historiography and analytical methodologies. Courses deal with the social and physical context of the built environment, the significant issues in current disciplinary thinking, as well as with the philosophical, political, and material contexts for works of art and architecture. We are proud of our long-standing relationship to and connection with peer institutions all around the world. Our faculty members explore the history of art and architectural works, the shifting attitudes towards their interpretation, and the geopolitical pressures on their appearance, preservation, and disappearance. We also seek to produce interdisciplinary tools for probing the wider significance of such shifts over time. The HTC Forum Lecture Series, the Aga Khan Lecture Series, and Thresholds (the departmental journal) are just some of the activities that we organize for the enrichment of all.

The goal of the HTC program is to prepare PhD students for an intellectual life in universities, in architecture schools, and in architectural practice. SMArchS graduates pursue a wide variety of fields ranging from historic park management to criticism. Undergraduate Minors and Concentrators develop a strong foundation in architectural and art history, paving the way for a vibrant cultural life, further study, or a career in architecture, the arts, or related fields. Within each degree program, emphasis is placed simultaneously on critical method and historical substance. Students are encouraged to identify research projects that are relevant to their own concerns and allow them to reflect on contemporary issues. At the same time, the program demands rigorous historical scholarship. It is this combination, we believe, that leads to real change in the ways we think about art and architecture and write their histories.

The HTC group teaches subjects that deal with the history of architecture and art, as well as the theoretical and political presuppositions informing that history. Courses offered range in content and method. Some are motivated by questions derived from the problems of contemporary practice. Others work with a body of historical material investigated in ways that develop analytical skills applicable to a wide range of topics. Still others explore themes (e.g., Orientalism, ornament, sustainability) in their historical and theoretical dimensions. Subjects are taught from prehistoric times through the Renaissance to the present, with a strong focus on topics of modern art and architecture. Our curriculum focuses on materials that are both abstract and concrete, with scales that range from the architectural drawing to the art installation to the urban environment, and themes from Color to economic development and concepts of “the natural.” Topics centered in Europe as well as the Americas are balanced with a comparable set of offerings on the Islamic world developed by AKPIA and taught as part of the HTC group.

HTC is a unique program in American education. Its location within the oldest school of architecture in the U.S. focuses attention on interdisciplinary issues in contemporary practice and distinguishes it from the art history departments of universities. A number of the HTC faculty have both professional and academic degrees and this contributes to the interaction of practice and scholarship that is unique to this environment. Faculty also have strong ties to MIT Resources available to art and architectural historians as well as artists. Alone among PhD programs in architecture schools, HTC hosts a substantial curriculum in art history. Its theoretical and critical orientation constitutes an important part of the education of all of the students in the program.