4.608 / 4.609
Seminar in the History of Art and Architecture: “Architecture as Media Theory”

Permission of Instructor
Limited to 15
Required of: 
Restricted elective Arch. minor

Note: Class scheduled changed to MW 9:30-11

UG: 4.609; G: 4.608

Buildings enact and modify media theories. In other words, the things people build don’t merely realize theories; buildings are nodes that organize the relationship of an individual to the natural, social, and political context that they inhabit. Architecture is a laboratory for catalyzing and controlling ways of life. Energy-consuming infrastructures and anthropological theories of the nature-culture boundary; utopian urban plans and critical social theories; diagrams of global communications systems and 1960s information theory—media theorists have names for these pairings of built form and bodies of thought: “media ecology,” “political theology,” and “discourse networks.”

Canonical texts in the history and criticism of architecture will ground our approach to these three media theories. Students learn to nuance and enrich critical and speculative thought by selecting archival evidence and developing descriptive passages that fit with and modify those theoretical discussions. Students also have the option of making diagrams, models, and booklets to help them formulate their own architectural media theories using the visual language of ecological models, institutional footprints, and communications systems.

Additional work required of students taking the graduate version.