Close Readings of Architectural Theory

Vorlesung Kunst- und Architekturgeschichte V (063-0313-17)
Veranstalter: Professur Delbeke
Dozierende: E. L. Jones, C. Rachele
Zeit: Freitag 09:00-10:00
Ort: HIL E 7

“This will kill that. The book will kill the edifice.”

Victor Hugo (1802-85), from Notre-Dame de Paris (1832), trans. Walter J. Cobb, in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (Signet, 1964), pp. 184-5.

Was Victor Hugo right when he declared, through the character of Archdeacon Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, that the death of architecture coincided with the invention of the printing press? Undoubtedly since the Renaissance, the practice of architecture has necessitated a close relationship with the book, and with the written word – often to the detriment of building; but occasionally, to its benefit.
With this in mind we begin with the premise that the history and theory of architecture are largely textual engagements with architecture, yet in an architecture student’s curriculum there is often little space for a detailed and critical analysis of texts. This course uses the method of “close reading” developed in literary criticism, reading slowly with purpose and with great analytical emphasis, and applies this to the reading of architectural theory under defined themes of the Early Modern and Enlightenment eras (1450-1850). Thus, as it were, the architectures of architectural texts are made visible: How is a text constructed? What does it emphasise? How can one identify central passages? In what style and tone is a text written, what kind of text genre does it belong to, and what does this say about content and intended audience?

Being a “public reading” exercise, this course also challenges the typical format of the lecture course, engaging the audience in a conversation. This conversation on architectural theory should ultimately provoke reflection on the often-difficult, but sometimes inspired, relationship between theoretical writing and building.

Course Syllabus

Introduction: Slides 

Week 2: Judgment and Truth 1 - Text 

Week 2: Slides 

Week 3: Judgment and Truth 2 - Text 

Week 3: Judgement and Truth 2 - Slides 

Week 4: Texts without Texts 1 - Text 

Week 4: Texts without Texts 1 - Slides 

Week 5: Texts without Text 2 - Text
Piranesi_Lapides Capitolini_1762frontispiece 

Week 5: Texts without Text 2 - Slides 

Week 6: Rule and Exception 1 - Text 

Week 6: Rule and Exception 1 - Slides 

Week 7: Rule and Exception 2 - Texts 

Week 7: Rule and Exception 2 - Slides 

Week 8: Technology to Style 1 - Text 

Week 8: Technology to Style 1 - Slides 

Week 9: Technology to Style 2 - Texts 

Week 9: Technology to Style 2 - Slides 

Exam Reading:
English language text translations with short summaries