History Theory + Criticism

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    Mark Jarzombek: Many Houses, Many Worlds- Venice Biennale 2021. Office of (Un)certainty Research.

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    Ugliness and Judgment: On Architecture in the Public Eye- Timothy Hyde.

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    Thinking with Symbionts- Caroline Jones.

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    Titian, The Rape of Europa, ca. 1560/1562, oil on canvas, Isabella Steward Gardner Museum.

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    Long Quan celadon porcelain, China, Ming dynasty; gilt bronze, France, 18th C. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

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    Dare to Know Smentek

Overview

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.

See Graduate Programs for degree requirements.

Degrees

The graduate degree programs have few requirements yielding a great deal of flexibility, encouraging work outside the curricular and disciplinary borders. Students do best when they understand their own direction and are able to assemble for themselves a curriculum and a set of advisors that take advantage of the wealth of resources available in Cambridge. Students come to HTC from design schools, from MA programs, from work, and directly from college. PhD and Master's students (enrolled in the SMArchS program) follow the same curriculum through the first three semesters of their enrollment. Master's students tend to return more frequently than PhD students to architectural practice and design teaching, but a large number also go on to PhD programs.

The History, Theory, and Criticism Program was founded in 1975 as one of the first to grant the PhD degree in a school of architecture. Its mission has been to generate advanced research within MIT's School of Architecture and Planning and to promote critical and theoretical reflection within the disciplines of architectural and art history. Students and faculty work in a variety of fields, covering diverse parts of the globe. Commitment to depth and diversity is an integral part of HTC's identity and one of the reasons for the success of its students, who come to Cambridge from around the world. Between 1975 and 2001 HTC awarded 50 PhDs and 47 Masters degrees, and the recipients of these degrees have gone on to teach in prominent universities and colleges worldwide. Unlike other architectural history departments in schools of architecture, HTC includes art historians on its permanent faculty and offers both a PhD and Master's in art history as well as in architectural history. The core faculty is annually supplemented by distinguished visiting scholars who contribute significantly to the intellectual life of the program.

PhD

HTC offers two tracks of study within the PhD program: History and Theory of Architecture and the History and Theory of Art. Degree requirements and admissions procedures for both tracks are the same.

The program in History, Theory and Criticism (HTC) draws from the unique range of disciplines and professions within the Department of Architecture. The program emphasizes the study of art, architecture, and urbanism, past and present, produced in a broad range of geographic areas, as well as methodological issues that inform or link the history of ideas and practices. HTC was founded in 1975 as one of the first PhD programs of its kind in a school of architecture. Its mission is to promote critical and theoretical reflection within the disciplines of architectural and art history. HTC differs from other architectural programs in that it has art historians on its permanent faculty. Visiting scholars are annually invited to teach, supplementing the core faculty.

Continuous registration is required until completion of the dissertation. Generally all subject/course work is completed by the end of the second year of residency and all other requirements, except for the dissertation, are completed by the end of the third year. The final two years are devoted to dissertation research and writing culminating in a defense at the conclusion of the fifth year.

Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture

Within the History and Theory of Architecture or Art PhD, there is a concentration in Islamic Architecture and Art. The History, Theory and Criticism Section at MIT was the first Ph.D. program of its kind in the nation. Its mission is to encourage advanced historical research and to promote critical and theoretical reflection within the disciplines of architectural and art history. The concentration on Islamic architecture and urbanism is an integral part of the HTC section. One student each year is admitted to work on an Islamic subject and funded through the Aga Khan Program endowment. Research projects vary in scope, method, and range from the classical period to the present.

Faculty Advising

Each student is assigned an HTC faculty advisor upon admission. Generally it is the same faculty member designated to supervise research, and students are encouraged to work with HTC faculty members as a whole. The advisor will consult on the initial plan of study and on each subsequent term's selection of subjects. The advisor monitors the student's progress throughout each phase of the degree and will assist the student in selecting a dissertation committee. Students generally select their dissertation advisor by the end of the fourth semester.

Doctoral Research Opportunity in History and Theory of Architecture or Art, and Advanced Urbanism

The Norman B. Leventhal Center of Advanced Urbanism and Departments of Architecture and Urban Studies and Planning have established a collaborative doctoral-level concentration in Advanced Urbanism. Urbanism is a rapidly growing field that has many branches. At MIT, we speak of Advanced Urbanism as the field which integrates research on urban design, urbanization and urban culture.

The concentration in Advanced Urbanism seeks doctoral applicants who have: 1) at least one professional design degree (in architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, etc.); 2) research interests in urbanism that would draw upon both ARCH and DUSP faculty advising; and 3) a commitment to engage with the research community at the LCAU and within their home department throughout their time at MIT. Applicants should apply for admission to an existing ARCH or DUSP PhD program and must meet all specific admissions requirements of the respective PhD program. Admissions committees nominate applicants who fit the urbanism program to a joint advanced urbanism admissions committee. The selected applicants are admitted by their home department discipline group (DUSP; AKPIA, BT, Computation, HTC) with financial support and research assistantships from LCAU.

Prospective students with questions pertaining to the doctoral studies in Advanced Urbanism should reach out to their prospective home doctoral program and to LCAU doctoral committee members: Rafi Segal and Brent Ryan. Or to the mailing list lcau-phd-advu@mit.edu. 

SMArchS

The Master of Science in Architecture Studies (SMArchS) is a two-year program of advanced study founded on research and inquiry in architecture as a discipline and as a practice. The program is intended both for students who already have a professional degree in architecture and those interested in advanced non-professional graduate study.

Within the HTC discipline, there are two areas of study for SMArchS students:
- History Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art
Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture

SMArchS in History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art

SMArchS students in History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art will expand upon prior experience (which can be in design, theory, history, practice, or other post-undergraduate work) to explore compelling research that links historical or contemporary topics with methodological issues. Working alongside doctoral students in the program, SMArchS students will be exposed to a wide range of historical periods and theoretical approaches. It is expected that research topics will be developed in close discussion with HTC faculty, building on the required Methods seminar (taken twice) to clarify the appropriate scope and original sources required for the master's thesis. The HTC program is intensely interdisciplinary, and students are expected to enrich their core disciplines of history and theory with inquiry into other fields as appropriate for their research interests. Opportunities occasionally emerge for HTC students to become involved in editing, organizing research symposia, and preparing exhibitions; students will also be brought into discussion with colleagues from across the discipline groups in the SMArchS program.

SMArchS in Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture

The Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture (AKPIA) at MIT is a unique international graduate program designed to promote, sustain, and increase the teaching of architecture in the Islamic world. It prepares students for careers in research, design, and teaching. With strong links with the Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the Aga Khan Programs at Harvard, AKPIA concentrates on the critical study of the history and historiography of Islamic architecture; the interaction between architecture, society, and culture; strategies of urban and architectural preservation; design interventions in disaster areas and environmental and material-sensitive landscape research. The siting of AKPIA at MIT's Department of Architecture is intended to negate the polarizing dichotomy between the discipline of architecture (derived from Western architectural history and praxis) and Islamic Architecture, which is routinely relegated to area and cultural studies.

Undergraduate

The History Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art (HTC) discipline group teaches subjects that deal with the history of architecture, art, and design, as well as the theoretical and political presuppositions informing that history. Offerings range in content and method. Some are motivated by questions derived from the problems of contemporary practice. Others investigate a body of historical material in ways that develop analytical skills applicable to a wide range of topics. It also offers a minor and a concentration in HTC within the purview of the Institute's Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) program.

HASS Minor in the History of Architecture, Art, and Design

Minor Advisor: Prof. Kristel Smentek

The minor program is designed to enable students to concentrate on the historical, theoretical and critical issues associated with artistic and architectural production. Introductions to the historical framework and stylistic conventions of art and architectural history are followed by more concentrated study of particular periods and theoretical problems in visual culture and in cultural history in general.

Students who successfully complete the minor program will have it specified as part of their Bachelor of Science degree, thus giving public recognition of focused work in the history of architecture and art. This minor program consists of six approved subjects arranged into three levels of study. Two are taken from Tier I, three from Tier 2, and one from Tier 3.

Tier I — 2 Subjects- one from each category

History of Architecture (choose one subject)
4.605 — A Global History of Architecture
4.614 — Building Islam

History of Art (choose one subject)
4.601 — Introduction to Art History
4.602 — Modern Art and Mass Culture

Tier II — 3 Subjects- No more than two subjects from either category (subject not used in Tier 1 may be used in Tier II)

History of Architecture and Design
4.603 — Understanding Modern Architecture
4.605 — A Global History of Architecture
4.614 — Building Islam
4.657 — Design: The History of Making Things

History of Art
4.601 — Introduction to Art History
4.602 — Modern Art and Mass Culture
4.635 — Early Modern Architecture and Art
4.636 — Topics in European Medieval Architecture and Art
4.641 — 19th Century Art: Painting in the Age of Steam
4.651 — Art Since 1940

Tier III — 1 Subject
4.609 — Seminar in the History of Art and Architecture

Any advanced subject in the history of architecture, art or design that is approved by the HASS Concentration advisor including cross-registered subjects at Harvard or Wellesley.

Total for Minor in History of Architecture and Art: 6 Subjects

HASS Concentration in History of Architecture, Art and Design

Concentration Advisor: Kristel Smentek

The HASS concentration requirement encourages students to develop a more mature understanding of a field in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. This experience is not as intensive as majoring or minoring in a field, but it does provide a good understanding of subject matter and methodologies used outside the natural sciences and engineering.

The HASS concentration in History of Architecture, Art and Design is composed of four subjects from two groups of study. Three in the history of architecture, art and design and one in art, culture and technology.

Choose three subjects from Group A, and one from Group B.

Group A — 3 Subjects

History of Architecture and Design

4.603 — Understanding Modern Architecture 
4.605 — A Global History of Architecture 
4.609 — Seminar in the History of Art and Architecture
4.614 — Building Islam
4.657 — Design: The History of Making Things

History of Art

4.601 — Introduction to Art History
4.602 — Modern Art and Mass Culture
4.635 — Early Modern Architecture and Art
4.636 — Topics in European Medieval Architecture and Art
4.641 — 19th Century Art: Painting in the Age of Steam
4.651 — Art Since 1940

 

Group B — 1 subject

One subject from Group A on the Art, Culture & Technology Concentration page

 

Total for Concentration in History of Architecture, Art + Design — 4 Subjects

Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture

Overview

Established in 1979 through an endowment from His Highness the Aga Khan, the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture (AKPIA) at MIT is a unique international graduate program designed to promote, sustain, and increase the teaching of architecture of the Islamic world. It prepares students for careers in research, design, and teaching. With strong links with the Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the Aga Khan Programs at Harvard, AKPIA concentrates on the critical study of the history and historiography of Islamic architecture; the interaction between architecture, society, and culture; strategies of urban and architectural preservation; design interventions in disaster areas and environmental and water-conserving landscape research. The siting of AKPIA in MITís Department of Architecture is intended to negate the polarizing dichotomy between the discipline of architecture (derived from Western architectural history and praxis) and Islamic Architecture, which has developed independently and in dialogue with other world architectural traditions.

AKPIA offers students a concentration in Islamic architecture and urbanism as part of the two-year SMArchS degree and the PhD program in HTC. Undergraduates may concentrate in Middle Eastern Studies using subjects offered by AKPIA. The program also has links with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).

Academic Programs

The Aga Khan Program provides financial and logistic assistance for graduate students who are working on Islamic subjects, but it is not a degree program. The courses of study funded at MIT by the Aga Khan Program are listed below. Program funds are available to graduate students in Islamic art, architecture, urban history, and the history of landscape architecture. At MIT, only students who have been admitted to, or are already enrolled in, the PhD program in History, Theory, and Criticism in the Department of Architecture or the SMArchS program, with a concentration in Architectural Studies of the Islamic World, are eligible for AKPIA funding. However, since funds are very limited, no student should expect full support.

HTC Forum Series