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Selected Topics in Architectural History and Theory: Critical Practice

ARC3302H F
Instructor: Amin Alsaden
Meeting Section: L9101
Tuesday, 6:00PM - 9:00PM
Online Synchronous

Calls for social justice have been growing rapidly, becoming a permanent feature of public discourse and an impetus for substantive mass mobilization globally. As a result, architecture’s ties to dominant power structures and entrenched economic interests are coming under increasing scrutiny. This might have created a tense climate, but it is also a moment of reckoning: inaction, complacency, and complicity can no longer be tolerated. It is time to ask how architects can play a more proactive role, reimagining and cultivating their agency to bring about meaningful change. Surveying a broad range of discourses and methodologies, this course brings together seminal texts from architecture and other disciplines to capture salient modes of criticality. It asks whether these modes can provide tools for resistance, confronting inequities and systemic injustices, amplifying the demands of oppressed and marginalized communities, speaking to individual and group identities, and addressing environmental degradation, among other pressing issues with which the world is grappling today.

This course examines architecture as a critical practice. Some of the questions it raises include: What are the challenges facing architecture today? What kind of reforms, revisions, and transformations are needed in the discipline’s theory, practice, and pedagogy in order to tackle some of the pivotal issues of our time? What is the public role of architects, and how can they contribute to the rising worldwide resistance against various forms of injustice? What can be learned by crossing disciplinary boundaries, and borrowing strategies from art and artists, for instance? And, what are the devices designers can use to yield critical and generative engagements with political, social, and cultural causes?

This is a seminar where students will thrive through a close engagement with assigned readings and active participation in weekly discussions. Students will submit six brief reading responses, and will work in small groups to lead one of the discussions. Students will also collaborate to create a short proposition in a medium of their choice (text, drawing, film, performance, etc.), advocating for a cause they collectively care deeply about.