Theory of Contemporary Architecture
Prof. Richard Ingersoll, Ph.D
Although one can make theories about architecture without practicing, it is impossible to practice without a minimum of theory. Previous to the 20th century, theories about architecture generally related to order, geometry, structure, decoration, and social significance. The variety of practices had more to do with geographical peculiarities than with intellectual differences. The influence of the works of Darwin, Marx, and Freud, during the late 19th century, however, opened architectural discourse to evolutionary theory, political theory, and psychological interpretation, while accompanying a general sense of global knowledge. During this period the scale of urbanization dramatically expanded and wars, revolutions, dictatorships, and mass consumerism redefined the goals of design. The success of Le Corbusier (1887-1965), who wrote almost as many books as he produced buildings, demonstrated a fundamental shift in architectural culture, in which the textual support for practice created legitimation. Le Corbusier and other utopian thinkers believed in architecture and urbanism as a mission, giving it a new urgency. By the 1960s political and linguistic theories saturated the thinking of well-educated designers, adding both a strong critical thrust and a new capacity for interpreting the debates. Architecture could no longer be reduced to the Vitruvian triad of commodity-firmness-delight, nor was the underlying theory of functionalism acceptable. It would now have to include other factors such as commodification, irony, and otherness. Logocentrism and logical positivism were overturned as the philosophical core of an architect’s reasoning, in response to monofunctional programs, neo-colonial pursuits, and discriminatory practices. By the end of the 20th century, however, most designers in developed countries had to come to terms with the Ecology Question, with the awareness that the anthropogenic causes of climate change were directly linked to architectural practice. Just as theorists of Deconstruction attempted to dismantle the master narrative of functionalism, a new functionalism regarding sustainability began to supersede the complexities of post-structuralist theories.
The sequence of nine lessons this year will gloss quickly over the theories and texts connected to Le Corbusier, Jane Jacobs, Aldo Rossi, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown, Charles Correa, Kenneth Frampton, Rem Koolhaas, Luis Fernandez Galiano, Margaret Crawford, Anthony Vidler, Paul Virilio. The urgency of climate change, however, requires a new perspective and we will consider from the start a variety of architectural theories and practices linked to catastrophism, energy, landscape, and agriculture. Land Architecture, Agricivismo, and the birth of the agritect, are concepts that we have been exploring in the course during the past five years. They are considered within the new social frames of mass tourism, despatialization through digital media, and catastrophism. The role of the architect is rapidly transforming into an exclusively keyboard activity with ever less contact with the real world. Much of the developed world appears overbuilt with vast reserves of uninhabited structures and abandoned spaces, and ever greater works that we are starting to recognize as Hypertecture, super-scaled buildings conceived primarily to impress in their size. In many instances design has atrophied according to outmoded systems of production rather than making progress toward sustainability. This mismatch of real needs versus false values comes from a previous generation’s ambitions rooted in speculative development. While architects and design professionals remain in the service of such unchecked economic interests, and they are generally unable to alter this superstructure, they should nonetheless be more aware of the impact of their practice in an increasingly delicate planetary environment. The course questions whether the role of the emerging architect should not be closer to the care of the natural environment rather than geared to the multiplication of empty buildings and dead spaces.
Students will also have the option to participate for cfu credits in the Terra Viva Workshops; for dates and themes see the website: https://www.terravivaworkshop.com/
Required texts: Ingersoll, Sprawltown. Looking for the City on Its Edges, NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006. Afshari/Ingersoll, Mapping Sprawl. A Critique of Graphic Methods of Urban Analysis, 2018.
- Death and Life. Architectural and Urban discussions around 1968.
What does an architect do? Should architects save the world? Typology versus Social pressures? The advent of Postmodernism in response to insensitive Functionalism. The Rise of Consumerism.
Texts: Aldo Rossi, The Architecture of the City, 1966. (excerpt)
Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter, Collage City, 1978, pp 9-83.
Jane Jacobs, “The Death and Life of the Great American City
Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas, 1972 (excerpts).“A significance for A&P Parking Lots”, “The Ugly and Ordinary,”
- Sprawltown Milano. A Project for leftover spaces.
The theory of sprawl and the parameters of research and projects for the course.
Texts: R. Ingersoll “Public Space in the Age of Climate Change”;
Boeri/Lanzani, “The Three Cities of the Milan Region”
- Calthorpe, Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change
- Debunking Modernism with linguistic theories and social theories. Semiotics versus Critical Regionalism, Symbolism versus Realism
The struggle between theory and practice during the 1970s and 80s. Frampton’s efforts to counteract the overly symbolic attitudes related to linguistic theory. From consumerist style to a new Realism.
Texts: Charles Jencks, “Postmodernism”
Kenneth Frampton, “Critical Regionalism”
Margaret Crawford, “Everyday Urbanism”
Leon Krier, “Architecture, Choice or Fate”
- From Laissez-Faire to Lazy Fairies. Koolhaas’s Profound Ironies
Rem Koolhaas has produced the most influential texts in the late 20th century, first with his tribute to the latent theory of “Culture of Congestion” in Delirious NY, and later with his yielding to the un controllable processes of Bigness.
Texts: Rem Koolhaas, “Delirious New York”, 1978; “Generic City”, “Bigness”, from SMLXL, 1994; “Junkspace” 2004; David Harvey, Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism
- Infrastructure as Art. The Cultivation of Urban Readymades
Texts: Antoine Picon, “A New Technological Landscape,” from Sage Handbook of Architectural Theory, 2012
Serge Latouche, Farewell to Growth, 2009.*
- Ingersoll, “Sprawltown” Ch. 3 and 4 “Infrastructure as art”, “Jumpcut Urbanism”
Michael Dear “Postmodern Urbanism” 1998
- Lifestyles changes. Tourism and the commodified city
Beyond urbanism to total urbanization, the loss of citizenship, the rise of marketing, life without physical connections to space.
Texts: Christine Boyer, “Collective Memory Under Siege, the Case of Heritage Terrorism,” from Sage Handbook of Architectural Theory, 2012.
Alessandro Santarossa, Tourist Invasions, 2013
Mike Davis, “Does the Road to the Future End at Dubai?”
Margaret Crawford, “The World in a Mall,” from Variations on a Theme Park, ed. Michael Sorkin, 1992, pp 3-30.
- Ingersoll, “Sprawltown” Ch. 2 “The Symmetry of Tourism and Terrorism”
As climate change becomes normal, so will the various remedies. The opposition of organic versus inorganic; agricivismo versus hypertecture; linear economies versus circular economies.
Readings: Ingersoll, Sprawltown chapter 5 “The Ecology Question”
Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything. Capitalism versus the Climate
Carloyn Steel, “Sitopia”
- Ingersoll, “Civic Agriculture”
Gilles Clément, Manifesto of the Third Landscape, 2005
- Citizen Nomad, Both Rich and Poor on the Move
Never in the history of the planet, excepting perhaps during the Paleolithic age of hunter gatherers, have so many humans been migrating. This mobility has a deep impact on place and is becoming one of the central political issues of the age. An architecture of instability follows this tren.
Texts: V. Rao, “Slum as Theory. Mega-cities and Urban models,” Sage Handbook of Architectural Theory, 2012
Salvatore Spataro, ed., NEEDS, Architecture in Developing Countries, 2013.*
Vandana Shiva, Terra Viva manifesto
Mike Davis, Planet of Slums
9) Smart City, Dumb People.
The United Nations claims that 95% of humanity has a cell phone and at least 70% use internet. Free Wifi promises to be as important for urban situations as water fountains. As people gain increasing external memory in the processes of the Smart City, they are simultaneously losing their conscious memories. Virtualism aspires to replace reality as the pathology of Hikikomori seems to attest.
Texts: R. Ingersoll, Richard Ingersoll, “Cyperproles of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your link,” Domus, 2014.
MVRDV, Metacity. Datatown, 1999.
Susanah Hagan, Digitalia, Architecture and the Digital, 2008
Yuval Noah Hariri, Homo Deus. A Brief History of Tomorrow, 2016.
10) Test, given in two sittings
- Last revisions
- final presentations
- final presentations
Jacques Attali, A Brief History of the Future, 2011.
Cecil Balmond, Informal, 2002.
Reyner Banham, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age, 1960.
Stefano Boeri, Biomilano. Glossary of Ideas for a metropolis based around bio-diversity, Corraini Edizioni, 2011.
Zygmunt Bauman, David Lyon, Liquid Surveillance. A Conversation, Polity Press, 2013.
Mario Carpo, The Alphabet and the Algorithm, MIT Press, 2011.
Gilles Clément, Manifesto of the Third Landscape, 2005.
Greig Crysler, Stephen Cairns, Hilda Heynan, eds., The Sage Handbook of Architectural Theory, 2011.
Vivianna Ferrario, Angelo Sapieri, Paola Viganò, Landscapes of urbanism, Officina Edizioni, 2011.
Susannah Hagan, Digitalia, Architecture and the Digital, the Environmental and the Avant-garde, 2008.
Stephen Graham, Cities Under Siege. The New Military Urbanism, Verso, 2010.
Petra Gruber, Biometrics in Architecture. Architecture of Life and Buildings, Springer, 2011.
Manuel Gauza, et al., the metapolis dictionary of advanced architecture, city, technology, and society in the information age, Actar, 2003.
Susannah Hagan, Digitalia, Architecture and the Digital, the Environmental and the Avant-garde, 2008 (excerpts)
Yuval Noah Hariri, Homo Deus. A Brief History of Tomorrow, 2016.
- Michael Hays, Architecture Theory since 1968, MIT Press, 1998.
Hilde Heynen, Architecture and Modernity, a Critique, 1999.
Denis Hollier, Against Architecture, The Writings of Georges Bataille, 1978.
Richard Ingersoll, Sprawltown. Looking for the City on its Edges, Princeton Architectural Press, 2006.
Rem Koolhaas, S,M,L,XL Monacelli Press, 1995.
Serge Latouche, Farewell to Growth, Polity Press, 2009.
William McDonough & Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle, Remaking the Way We Make Things, Northpoint Press, 2002.
Rafael Moneo, Theoretical Anxiety and Design Strategies in the Work of Eight Contemporary Architects, MIT Press, 2004.
Kate Nesbitt (ed.), Theorizing a New Agenda for Architecture: An Anthology of Architectural Theory 1965-1995, Princeton Architectural Press, 1996.
Joan Ockman, (ed.), Architecture Culture 1943-68: A Documentary Anthology, New York: Rizzoli 1993
Juhanni Pallasma, The Eyes of the Skin, John Wiley, 2005
Antoine Picon, “A New Technological Landscape,” from Sage Handbook of Architectural Theory, 2012
Davide Ponzini, Michele Nastasi, Starchitecture. Scenes, Actors, and Spectacle in Contemporary Cities, Allemandi & C., 2011.
Aldo Rossi, The Architecture of the City, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1978.
Joseph Rykwert, On Adam’s House in Paradise, The Idea of the Primitive Hut in Architectural History, 1972.
Alessandro Santarossa, Designing Invasions. A Study of the Military Nature of Mass Tourism, Aracne, 2012.
Patrik Schumaker, The Autopoesis of Architecture, 2010-2012.
Salvatore Spataro, ed., NEEDS, Architecture in Developing Countries, 2013.
Manfredo Tafuri, Theories and History of Architecture, 1976.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, 1966.
Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Stephen Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas, 1972.
Anthony Vidler, The Architectural Uncanny. Essays in the Modern Unhomely, MIT Press, 1992.
Anthony Vidler, Histories of the Immediate Present, MIT Press, 2008.
Paul Virilio, Julie Rose, City of Panic, Berg, 2007.
Mirko Zardini, Sense of the City, An Alternate Approach to Urbanism, CCA, 2006