Introduction to Cultural History

Teaching Assistant(s)
Mayuri Paranthahan
Natalie Kopp

This course will introduce cultural history and the ethical dimension of the role architects play. Localizing the realities of modernity as an enduring cultural force and a global economy onone hand, with global threats to the future of humankind on the other, the course will explore the commonality of human experience and the interdependence of humans and the natural environment. By considering narratives, artefacts and buildings, the course will present how architecture and other cultural creations intersect with issues of race, gender and identity, within a range of spiritual, social, political and environmental contexts. Through orientation, disorientation and reorientation, the course thus introduces human constructs and environmental conditions from a variety of perspectives such as location, foundation, habituation, accommodation, exile and displacement.

The main intention of this course is to cultivate our awareness of some of the continuities between “then” and “now”, and also highlight the levels at which significant shifts have taken place. Together with a better knowledge of the writings, buildings and artifacts of the period we will cover, the purpose of the course is to encourage the development of an open attitude to different times. Organized around a number of larger themes, the course is designed so that students look at primary texts, images and buildings in relation to the world in which they were given form. While addressing conceptual questions, our weekly discussions will take shape around concrete materials –from texts, illustrations and artifacts, through buildings, materials and landscapes, to cities, global territories and the inner soul. Moving between times and places as well as between communities and cultures, the course will critically consider issues such as race, colonialism, social norms and other inherited frameworks broadly, all contributing to introduce architecture as a cultural act as well as a discipline.