Arch/URBANhistoryTHEORY spring 2012

Syllabus, Spring 2012

Grad ARCH/URBAN History/Theory ARCH 638-600.

A critical survey of cities and urban culture

from the 15th to the 19+ centuries

PETER LANG, Instructor Time 18:00 -19:00 MWF


LEARNING OUTCOME: Students will be introduced to the Canonic representations of Western Architecture and the City and will study the ensuing debates on post-modernism, globalization, and multi-disciplinary urban cultural studies.


“If, roughly from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth, a coded language may be said to have existed on the practical basis of a specific relationship between town, country, and political territory, a language founded on classical perspective and Euclidean space, why and how did this coded system collapse? Should an attempt be made to reconstruct that language, which was common to the various groups making up the society—to users and inhabitants, to the authorities and to the technicians (architects, urbanists, planners)?”

Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 1974 (Oxford, Blackwell, 1991) 17.


This critical survey on architecture and urban theory from the 15th to the 19th centuries will concern itself with the question of the evolution and eventual devolution of the Western architectural canon. This course will investigate the making of the urban master-narrative in relationship to 20th century modern architecture and urban theories.

In the case of this particular subject and timeline, the master-narrative can be substituted for the master-plan. The building up of this history, the instrumentalizaton of various aspects of Renaissance, Mannerist, Baroque and Enlightenment architectural and urban histories have served to institutionalize over the course of the late 19th and early 20th centuries a scientific urban practice. The crises effecting architecture and urbanism in the post-WWII era were part of a much broader series of deep interrogations into the legitimacy of the meta-narrative effecting philosophy, the arts, and ultimately the sciences. We intend to examine how the emergence of the master-narrative—predicated on a series of highly exclusive canonic events, becomes further structured and authoritative.

Over the longer duration, however, such structures have proven to be increasingly problematic and marginal when considering the much more complex environments that make up today’s global society. The post-war (WWII) crisis in modernism and the rising supremacy of Post-Modern thought, finally punctuated by the shock of the revolutions of 1989 (see Francis Fukuyama’s end of history thesis, in End of History and the Last Man, New York, Simon&Schuster 1992. *) and subsequent aftershocks, with an endless number of crises, political, economic, social and environmental, have precipitated numerous rational and irrational counter-tendencies.

Today architects and urban designers are engaged in a dialectical debate over strategies and tactics that might either loosely guide—or tightly control the future of our great cities. This course is structured on a set of overlapping studies: an examination of the history of architecture and cities and their consequent critical interpretations that include recent theoretical developments and a weekly survey of different aspects of urban cultural production- from dance to rap, from theater to street art, from the printing press to internet as a means of gauging the city’s position within the transformation of public life and public space.



Students will be required to develop a series of semester-long assignments and give class presentations on these assignments. Each student is asked to keep an updated web-blog linked to the class site:



“The environment should be perceived as meaningful, its visible parts not only related to each other in time and space but related to other aspects of life: functional activity, social structure, economic and political patterns, human values and aspirations, even individual idiosyncrasies and character.

The environment is an enormous communications device…”

Kevin Lynch, Site Planning, Second Edition.

(Cambridge, MIT Press, 1971) 226.



1. RESEARCH Assignment:

City history, urban morphology and Contemporary Culture:

East student is asked to choose one major city at the beginning of the semester (a list of cities will be presented in the first class, and you are to make your choice and include an alternative. You need to seek permission from the instructor prior to beginning the Assignment). Individual Students will be asked to develop a semester long project that investigates and seeks to understand their chosen city’s historic evolution up to present day developments: Students will be asked to become familiar with their city’s social and cultural makeup, political and economic characteristics and the evolution in the city’s physical environment. The key to the RESEARCH Assignment is pinpointing major contemporary cultural transformations and locating and mapping these recent phenomena within specific urban districts.


  1. ON LINE BLOG: Students are invited to create and continuously update their Blog site on their topic’s research (statistics, topography, politics and economics, but also cultural and visual documents) The assembly of information on your selected city will assist you and others in the class and also invited outside observers to review and comment on your ongoing research.  (20%grade)
  2. Final presentations will be set to a specific template and consist of original diagrams, maps, charts, and axonometric drawings. A 2000 word text should accompany the presentation. (30%grade)
  3. Final presentations will be set to a specific template (See below) and consist of original diagrams, maps, charts, and axonometric drawings. The 2000 word text should accompany the presentation. (30%grade)


1. READING Assignment: Recombinant Urbanism, David Grahame Shane. The semester’s required reading addresses the concept of “Urban Theory” through both textual and graphic analyses. The concepts range from Kevin Lynch’s city diagrams to Michel Foucault’s heterotopia. Each team of students should use this opportunity to debate and critically assess how these theories can be best understood and applied.

  1. Team Assignment: in groups of two or three, groups are to form Reading teams and each team will be responsible for presenting in class a chapter summary from the required reading “Recombinant Urbanism.” These class presentations are designed to shape your skills in analysis and diagramming. Presentations will involve class discussions. (20% grade)


*Francis Fukuyama “End of History” for online text see:



CLASS TEXTBOOK (required and on reserve TRC):

David Grahame Shane, Recombinant Urbanism: Conceptual Modeling in Architecture, Urban Design and City Theory, London, Academy Press, 2005.



Lieven De Cauter, The Capsular Civilization, On the City in the Age of Fear. Rotterdam, Nai publishers, 2004

Lewis Mumford, The Culture of Cities, New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970

Kenneth Frampton, Modern Architecture: A Critical History, London, Thames and Hudson, 2007.


“There are also probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places—places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society—which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality. Because these places are absolutely different from all sites they reflect and speak about, I shall call them heterotopias.”

Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias” 1964 cited in Shane, Recombinant Urbanism,



USERS MANUAL FOR THIS SYLLABUS: Typically Monday classes are dedicated to open discussions called “BLOBS,”* on historical and emergent cultural production and their role or contribution to city identity. Wednesday’s are dedicated to lectures or “TALKS” where the presentation follows closely readings from the Class Textbook and examines historical relationships to Western “canonic” events related to architecture and the city. Specific web source readings and video excerpts are noted when available for each week’s assignment. NOTE A: Friday classes are mandatory. Please consult the schedule for topics and deadlines. NOTE B: The Instructor will be in Italy from March 21 to April 30. The abbreviated semester represents the full course load.  Individual students will be required to set up regular SKYPE meetings during the second part of the semester. Students are required to attend all Department Lectures and Guest Class Lectures.

The term *BLOB” is inspired by the Italian RAI 3 program that each evening edits together random sets of news, soaps and features, under the direction of Enrico Ghezzi.




Wednesday Jan 18 . INTRO: Readings, Course Structure, The Web Page, Student created BLOGS. Students are to choose in class their research city.

Subject: Urban theory the Utopian Tradition. (and Distopian outcomes)

Yacht Utopia/Distopia (the Earth is on Fire) (Explicit) Rene Daalder & Aaron Ohlmann.


Friday Jan 20. TALK: Reflections on the City.

Recombinant Urbanism: “What is City Theory?” 1.1-1.3

Urban Spectacles and Performances:

Street theater, ballet, Surrealist walks, International Situationists, Parkours, Skate, Mumford, on the City –CITY AS THE PLACE OF OUR MORE VIOLENT MANIFESTATIONS:


Philosophy and the Matrix – Baudrillard


Monday January 23: Students present their cities in class.

Provide a brief 500 word history of the city from its origins to present.

Making the City Identikit: Cities can be studied as artifacts, (urban context, roads, centers, public spaces and architecture), as the structures supporting the social-economic fabric (trade, class, immigration, daily life, urban culture), and through creative representation, (manifestations of urban identity: humanities, poetry, prose, cinema, dance, photography, etc.,) Each student will be expected to track their assigned city over the course of the semester, diagramming, mapping, developing a bibliography, image library, and updating historical sources and current events. Assignment 1 will be the basis for the project paper for final grading. (Please upload this 500 word text on your own blog site.)


Wednesday Jan 24: TALK:

BE PREPARED TO DISCUSS: PORTRAYING THE CITY, CINE 1: from Ruttmannʼs Berlin Symphony to Reggioʼs Koyaanisqatsi.

Berlin: Symphony of a Great City Walter Ruttmann, director, 1927.

Metropolis, Fritz Lang, director, 1927.

Mumford “The City” 1939 (excerpts)

on the making of Lewis Mumfordʼs “The City:”

Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance. Godfrey Reggio, 1982.



1st Reading Assignment Team Presentation

reading: George Orwell, Animal Farm. Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451,


Yellow Submarine, George Dunning (with the Beatles) 1968


Zardoz, John Boorman with Sean Connery 1974


Brazil, Terry Gilliam 1985


Waterworld, Kevin Reynolds, director, Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper, 1995 (at Universal Studios Hollywood)





MONDAY Jan 30 TALK Recombinant Urbanism: “City Theory and City Design” 1.4- 1.4.6

Routes, Communications, Networks: from Silk Road to InfoBahn


Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II translated from the French by Siân Reynolds see “Role of the Environment” page&q&f=false

The Silk Road: Christopher I. Beckwith, Empires of the Silk Road: a history of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age


Julie Hill, The Silk Road Revisited: Markets, Merchants and Minarets


Marshall McLuhan, Quentin Fiore, The Medium is the Message: An inventory of Effects, Gingko Press, 2001, see

Manuel Castells’s The Rise of the Network Society London, Wiley1996

Wednesday Feb 1: BLOB DANCE/MUSIC:

BE PREPARED TO DISCUSS: Classic concert, Pop, Disco, Punk, Rap and Techno,

Singing in the Rain, (Gene Kelly) 1952


West Side Story, Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise, 1961 (Music by Leonard Bernstein)

Saturday Night Fever, John Badham, with John Travolta, 1977


Dancers are No Noize (red jacket), Man (back jacket), BJ (striped shirt), Dreal


Friday Feb 3 TBA

2nd  Reading Assignment Team Presentation





MONDAY Feb 6. TALK Town and Country Recombinant Urbanism: “What is Urban Design?” 2.1- 2.1.2


Lewis Mumford, The City in History 1961.

Merchant City States, the rise of the Merchant Class: READINGS: Henri Pirenne “City Origins” in Medieval

cities; their origins and the revival of trade, tr. from the French by Frank D. Halsey Princeton, Princeton

University Press, 1925, see link:

Max Weber, Chapter 1, the Nature of the City, in The City, New York, Free Press, 1975


Wednesday Feb 8. BLOB: Districts.

District B13 (Banlieue 13) Director Pierre Morel, Paris. 2004


Alive in Joburg, Neill Blomkamp Director, 2006 (District 9 predecessor) This a short film from, which the movie District 9 is based off of Neill Blomkamp was originally set to produce the halo movie, which is now on hold indefinitely.


District 9, director Neill Blomkamp, 2009

website for District 9

Friday Feb 10 TALK: Renaissance City

TALK: Recombinant Urbanism: 2.1.3- 2.2.4

3rd  Reading Assignment Team Presentation


Philip James Jones, The Italian city-state: from commune to signoria, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1997





Monday Feb 13, Mandatory Lecture: Lars Lerup. (Please sit together as a class)



Dante, Proust, Kafka, JG Ballard, and Reading: Art Spiegelman MAUS.

Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy, 1321

“L’Inferno” Francseco Bertolini, 1911

Situationists Internationale<

The Archigram Archival Project

Art Spiegelman, Maus, New York, 1997.


Friday Feb 17 TBA (LIGA)



Monday Feb 20: Mandatory Lecture: Rick Lowe: Project Row House


Wednesday Feb 22: BLOB, WAR, readings: Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse 5.

Germany Year Zero, Roberto Rossellini director, 1948

Hiroshima mon Amour part 1, Alain Resnais, director 1959 (Architect Kenzo Tange)

The Pianist, Roman Polanski, director, 2002 with Adrien Brody


Waltz with Bashir, Ari Folman, Director, 2008


Friday February 24:  TALK, Fortified Cities, Bastion cities, Ideal Cities, The Rise

of Utopian Cities

4th Reading Assignment Team Presentation



Recombinant Urbanism: “Three Urban Elements” 3.1


Vitruvius Ten Books on Architecture

Di Bernd Evers,Christof Thoenes, Kunstbibliothek Architectural theory: from the Renaissance to the present

(Berlin, Germany Taschen, 2003)






Monday Feb 27, mandatory lecture: John McMorrough


Wednesday Feb 28, TALK: The Baroque City:

TALK: Recombinant Urbanism: Enclave: A preliminary definition: 3.2-

Lieven de Cauter, On the City in the Age of Fear. Rotterdam, Nai publishers, 2004


Friday Mar 2, BLOB: BE PREPARED TO DISCUSS: PLAYS: from Anton Chekov, Berthold Brecht, Samuel Beckett

Anton Chekov, Nine Plays

Bertold Brecht Three Penny Opera. composer Kurt Weill, in collaboration with Caspar Neher. 31 August 1928, Theater am Schiffbauerdamm. Berlin.



Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett, 1948,1949




Monday Mar 5, TALK: Recombinant Urbanism: Armature: A Preliminary Definition, 3.3

5th Reading Assignment Team Presentation


Kenneth Frampton, Modern Architecture: A Critical History, London, Thames and Hudson, 2007.



Wednesday Mar 7: BLOB: The Future of urban culture Reading: J.G. Ballard: Millennium People, 2003.


Chris Marker La Jetee, (1963)

Part 1

Part 2


Supersurface, Superstudio, 1973.

Westworld, Michael Crichton, Director, 1973

Zardoz John Boorman Director, 1974


Friday Mar 9: The Enlightenment and The Rise of the Industrial City

TALK: Recombinant Urbanism: Armature: A Preliminary Definition, 3.4

Manchester: Marx, Engels, working class history.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, 1762.

Jacob Riis, How the other Half Lives, 1890


WEEK 10 SPRING BREAK March 12 – 16





WEEK 11:

MONDAY Mar 19, BLOB The Avant-Garde 2. The Sixties to now: Minimalism, Pop, etc. Reading: Jack Kerouac, On the Road. Conceptual Art, Land Art, New Media, Post-Human, Global Art, Graffiti Art, Street Art.

Andy Warhol

Dan Graham

Cindy Sherman

Jeff Koons

Diller, Scofidio + Renfro



Final Projects discussion: “If not this then what?” Class discussion on the role of critical thinking in understanding the future of architecture and the city. FINAL PROJECTS DUE DURING EXAM WEEK ON LINE AND HARD COPY.

SAMPLE TEMPLATE for Final Project Booklet:

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Policy Statement
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact the Department of Student Life, Services for Students with Disabilities, in Cain Hall or call 845-1637.

Academic Integrity Statements

“An Aggie does not lie, cheat, or steal or tolerate those who do.”

Upon accepting admission to Texas A&M University, a student immediately assumes a commitment to uphold the Honor Code, to accept responsibility for learning, and to follow the philosophy and rules of the Honor System. Students will be required to state their commitment on examinations, research papers, and other academic work. Ignorance of the rules does not exclude any member of the TAMU community from the requirements or the processes of the Honor System.

For additional information please visit:



Students should know that there is a Department of Architecture “Grade Appeal Process” should

it be necessary to contest the grade given in this course. Please contact the department office in

the event that you want to initiate the process.




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