Boston Metabolism (co-taught with Alexander D’Hooghe)
Architectural urbanism has, over the last two decades, regressed into complacency. It is now suffering from endless compromise, a stifling desire to please everybody, and as a result has given up its own propellant, which was to provide an alternative to the status quo of (post) urban development.
In this partnership between critical and projective thought, we will search to liberate ourselves from this hideous consensus. We will propose a series of radical revisions of the form of the city, In order to do so, we need to return to the moment preceding the complacent turn: late modernism.
In the 1960s, Kenzo Tange taught at MIT where he worked out ideas of Metabolism and Brutalism that lay behind his famous "Plan for Tokyo 1960." The studio he taught at MIT was entitled "25,000 People Over Boston." We think it is time to return to some of these ideas and critically assess them, but also to see in what way a "mega-structure-city," or a "floating city" can reinvigorate urban thinking. The knitting together of infrastructure and urbanism is a necessity, but why does it have to be subservient to gravity, especially in an era of rapid population growth and rising land prices? And why not right here in Boston, known as one of the most conservative architectural cities in the world!
The workshop will use techniques of surrealism, including montages of popular culture and found objects, to drive the development of a quasi-realistic urban project. It will thus place itself in a long and honorable tradition of architectural contemplation about the status quo of the city, as found in the works of Fluxus, Archigram, Superstudio, etc.
The apocalypse is happening: It is just that we haven't noticed. Boston's endless low-quality housing stock has become too expensive for its citizens; many of its public infrastructures are in abysmal shape; in short it is a city stuck in the 19th century completely unequipped for the destabilizations of the 21st century . Pre-emptive action is necessary without further delay.
In this workshop we study and ask students to design – fully or partially – a house for their mother and/or father. The work will raise questions about gender and psychology as well as about politics and research protocols. Even though it is not uncommon for architects to sometimes receive their first commission from their parents or relatives, the purpose here is to probe – but also critique – the relationship between design and Self. Where does one locate design criterion between a presumption of subjectivity and a requirement of objectivity? Where does one locate an “architecture” that is meant to be an instrument of Self-learning? In that sense we are not designing a proverbial “dream house,” but rather placing architecture within the rhizomic space of a particular relationship.
History, Theory and Criticism Seminars
Beaux-Arts in America
(co-taught with Erika Naginski)
When Francis Ward Chandler, head of MIT's department of Architecture, went to Paris in 1892 to find a designer to join the faculty, this was not just to acquire the sheen of French culture. Rather, Ward aimed to plant the program firmly in a future that he predicted rightly would belong to the Beaux-Arts and its pedagogical system. More than a late 19th-century architectural style, the Beaux-Arts emblematized professional practice. Indeed, the professionalization of American architecture in the early 1890s was directly tied to the impact of the Beaux-Arts curriculum at all of the leading universities, with MIT occupying pride of place as the first architectural school in the country.
This seminar considers how the Beaux-Arts introduced a new vocabulary of aesthetic eclecticism to the American scene, which incorporated architecture and sculpture into compositions ideally suited to translating the civic ambitions of the time. While the Beaux-Arts remained a state-sponsored system in Europe, here both form and plan defined building typologies and classically rooted schemes only to emerge as the architectural voice of American capitalism. MIT's commitment to the Beaux-Arts, because of faculty members like Constant Désirée Despradelle, was particularly strong. Today there are over 500 drawings in the collection of the MIT Museum that date from this period, including Despradelle's own work, student thesis drawings, study drawings from Europe, as well as drawings by other Beaux-Arts trained members of the faculty. The seminar will have as its goal the study of the MIT drawings selected for an exhibition at the MIT museum.
The seminar and workshop will give PhD, SMArchS and MArch students an invaluable opportunity to work with real curatorial objects. These students will experience the complexity of envisioning and producing an exhibition, will make scholarly contributions to the catalogue, and will assist in the production of both conventional and digital models based on selected drawings.
Global Modernity ... 1600
This course will study the question of Global Architecture from the point of view of producing a textbook on that subject. This is no theoretical enterprise, but an actual project to be published by Wiley Press (2004). The book aims to replace the textbooks of Kostoff and Trachtenberg, which are clearly outdated in their approaches. In this seminar we will look closely at the question of modernity and at the time frame 1600 to present.
Students will learn to work through macro and micro issues about writing a textbook as complex as this. They will also have the opportunity to provide "real time" input in a book project. Exposure to a range of different architectural cultures will enrich their understanding of architecture. They will get a deeper appreciation for the difficulties of envisioning a "global" perspective.
The course will be run in the form of a writing seminar. Students will present their work at each session. The final product will be “piece” or “chapter” in the textbook. It should demonstrate all the components that will be necessary for integration into the project. Bibliography, Research Folder, Text, Images and Image Sources.
History of Postmodernism
in Art and Architecture
(co-taught with Caroline Jones)
This class will study the history and theory of postmodernism, looking closely at the 1970s and 1980s in both art and architecture. Starting with the first critiques of modernism in the 1960s, it will discuss postmodernist theoretical and aesthetic claims from the direction of feminism, semantic theory, phenomenology and neo-historicism. The class will study the various incarnations of the modernism-postmodernism debate and the changing status of the “avant-garde.” It will also ask the question of how does one go about writing a history of Postmodernism when history is precisely that which the postmodernists rendered most problematic ambivalent. Students will have regular reading assignments, will have to prepare a paper for the seminar and will hold a discussion session on their topic.
This course will study the interrelationship of urban history with narratives of trauma not so much as a phenomenon of post-September 11, but as a phenomenon of modernity itself. By urban history I mean to include the question of the representation-of-cities, through various media including the arts and architecture. Ultimately, we will ask, In what way are modernity and trauma positioned in relationship to the other in scientific studies, political discourse and especially in popular imagination of architecture and urbanism? The course will feature several visitors including a noted psychotherapist who works with trauma victims. We will study the different definitions of what is or is not a "trauma" and study recent literature on trauma and aesthetics. We will also discuss related questions about memory and national identity.