Advanced Study in the History of Modern Architecture and Urbanism: The Building Site (An Experimental History)

Permission of Instructor

What is the history of the building site? 

The paradox of the building site lies in the fact that, although the building site is inescapably essential to the realization of architecture, it must inevitably vanish, superseded by the durable forms of the completed building. Such traces that remain, in documents, photographs, or physical marks upon the building, have been of passing interest to architectural history for the information they reveal about the realized object, but the building site itself—as a place, as an event, as a design—has largely been ignored by architectural history and theory.

This seminar will take the building site as its focus of inquiry. Readings and discussions will develop several approaches to a knowledge of the building site as a point of organization, material transformation, and intellectual and physical work. These approaches to the building site will address questions such as the valuation of tools and techniques, the legal armature of contracts and regulations, the social conventions of race, class, and gender, and the cultural appraisal of work and craft.

The goal of the seminar will be to develop prototypical approaches to the history of the building site, with a series of experimental digital histories. Students in the seminar will carry out detailed and speculative research into selected building sites, and will use that research in digital representation to create model histories that will expand the historical accounting of a building site to include information extending from wages to weather reports.