Teaching the Global History of Architecture

A workshop organized by Mark Jarzombek and Jeffrey Ravel, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and held on May 17-18, 2013.

The American Institute of Architects, which sets out accreditation standards, now requires that instruction in the history of architecture have a global perspective. As a result, across the nation, teachers of architectural survey (taught, depending on the university, at either the Bachelor's and/or Master’s levels) are struggling to inform themselves about how to best fulfill this requirement. But teaching traditions are difficult to change. Many professors rely on a Eurocentric approach with the addition of experts who are brought in to cover (for example) China and India. Furthermore, of the many survey courses taught in the U.S., many are taught by professors who do not have advanced history training, and so are not prepared to access the latest research developments. In some cases, art historians or preservationists teach the architecture survey courses. The Society of Architectural Historians has not addressed the question of preparing the field to teach global architectural history in the way that the American Historical Association, for example, has done for the field of history. There is also no analog in architectural history to the efforts of the World History Association.

The issue educators face in architectural history lies not just in methods and approaches, but also in the content. In art history, the canon of paintings and sculptures even in places like India and China, is relatively stable, but in architecture, important monuments like Angkor Wat are still being studied. Sections and plans have not even been made. Context analysis is often missing or inadequate. Furthermore, new structures are continually being added to the list of important edifices. In fact, when discussing architectural history – from a global perspective – it is almost like starting a new field altogether.

Using the current academic model, which is a trickle down model from advanced research down to survey level, it will take twenty or thirty years for survey teaching to improve. But what if the situation were reversed. What if we begin the discussion with the survey course and challenge the field from below? How can we redesign the survey using what we currently know and make it accessible to the emerging generation of teachers in order to jump-start the process and as a result transform history education in schools of architecture at its roots.

To begin to address these issues, a workshop will take place with the aim to examine the changing landscape of teaching in architectural history. Participants in the workshop will come from three disciplinary backgrounds: art history, architectural history, and history itself. They will be asked to discuss what type of research needs to be conducted and how to best address the needs of this developing disciplinary horizon. Though the question of advanced research is important to the general issue, the ultimate focus of the workshop will be on the crisis of teaching and how to best meet the demand for updated material.

Carla Keyvanian (Auburn University, Auburn, AL)
Jonathan Reynolds (Barnard College, New York, NY)
Adnan Morshed (Catholic University, Washington, DC)
Sibel Zandi-Sayek (The College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA)
Mary Woods (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY),
Mechtild Widrich (E.T.H. Zurich, Switzerland)
Suzanne Marchand (Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA)
Caroline Jones (MIT: Art History)
Anne McCants (MIT: History)
Nasser Rabbat (MIT: Islamic History)
Lucy M. Maulsby (Northeastern University, Boston, MA)
Meredith Tenhoor (Pratt Institute, New York, NY)
Gail Fenske (Rogers Williams University, Bristol, RI)
Jonathan Massey (Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY)
Michelangelo Sabatino (University of Houston, Houston, TX)
Vikram Prakash (University of Washington, Seattle, WA),
Ann C. Huppert (University of Washington, Seattle, WA)
Robert Cowherd (Wentworth Institute of Technology)
Diana Martinez (Columbia Ph.D. Student)
Ginger Nolan (Columbia Ph.D. Candidate)
Morgan Ng (Harvard Ph.D. Student)
Olga Touloumi (Harvard Ph.D. Candidate)
Michael Kubo (MIT Ph.D. Student)
Ana Maria Leon (MIT Ph.D. Candidate)
Masha Panteleyeva (Princeton Ph.D. Candidate)

Mariet Westermann (Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, New York, NY)
Hilary Ballon (Senior Advisor to the Mellon Foundation; New York University, New York, NY)

1) Map of the Formal Trading World, 200 CE
2) Urnes Stave Chuch, Norway
3) Machu Pichu
4) Sacred Grove of an Ayannar Temple, India
5) Lalibella, Ethiopia
6) A reconstructed ancient rice storehouse, Toro, Shizuoka, Japan