SCHEDULE OF LECTURES AND SECTION MEETINGS


(Writing-sections materials are listed in a separate sourcebook)

Wednesday August 27: LOOKING AT ARCHITECTURE, I: WHAT OUR EYES CAN DETERMINE

No Section meetings this week (including W-sections): instead, complete the "First Exercise" assignment further on in this Sourcebook and/or website, and turn it in at your first Section meeting, next week

[Mon. September 1: LABOR DAY: NO CLASSES]

Wednesday September 3: LEARNING FROM ARCHITECTURE, II: WHAT ONLY HISTORY CAN DETERMINE

 
First Section meetings, September 4 and 5: Turn in your "First Exercise" assignment. Looking at the Frick Fine Arts Building: description and analysis, using the "five factors"; the historical process; from a provisional to a learned critique.
 
September 8: EGYPTIAN ARCHITECTURE
September 10: GREEK ARCHITECTURE
Sections: Egyptian and Greek architecture.
 
September 15: ROMAN ARCHITECTURE: FOUNDATIONS
September 17: ROMAN ARCHITECTURE: CONCRETE VISIONS
Sections: Greek and Roman architecture.
 
September 22: EARLY CHRISTIAN ARCHITECTURE
September 24: BYZANTINE ARCHITECTURE
Sections: Development of Christian architecture.
 
September 29: EARLY MEDIEVAL AND ROMANESQUE ARCHITECTURE
October 1: TRANSITION TO GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE
Sections: Discussion of two counter-views on Gothic: Robert Mark on technology and John Summerson on aesthetics (there are multiple copies on the reserve shelf holdings: see below). Bring a one-paragraph summary of either the Mark or Summerson article to section meeting.
 
October 6: GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE AS ENGINEERING
October 8: GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE AS POETRY
Sections: October 9 and 10: First midterm test (material through October 8)
 
October 13: THE EARLY RENAISSANCE: BRUNELLESCHI
October 15: THE EARLY RENAISSANCE: FILARETE AND ALBERTI
Sections: Gothic and Renaissance
 
October 20: THE HIGH RENAISSANCE: LEONARDO AND BRAMANTE
October 22: PERSONAL VISIONS: MICHELANGELO AND PALLADIO
Sections: Transformations in Renaissance style.
 
October 27: BAROQUE ARCHITECTURE IN ITALY
October 29: BAROQUE IN FRANCE AND ENGLAND
Sections: Fundamental elements of Baroque style
 
November 3: ROCOCO
November 5: NEOCLASSICISM: THE RATIONALIST ELEMENT
Sections: Contradictions of the eighteenth century
 
November 10: NEOCLASSICISM: THE ROMANTIC ELEMENT
November 12: ARCHITECTURE OF THE REVIVALS: ROMANTICISM AND REACTION
Sections: Second midterm test (material October 13 through November 12)
 
November 17: CHALLENGE OF THE NEW TECHNOLOGIES
November 19: SULLIVAN: THE ART OF THE SKYSCRAPER
Sections: Ruskin and Viollet-le-Duc
 
November 24: WRIGHT, GROPIUS, LECORBUSIER: ARCHITECTURE OUT OF THE BOX
[November 26: Thanksgiving break: University not in session; no sections this week either]
 
December 1: MIES AND THE TRIUMPH OF MODERN ARCHITECTURE
Sections: Modern architecture.
December 3: THE DISMANTLING--OR REFORMING?--OF MODERN ARCHITECTURE TODAY
Sections: Course review.
 
Thursday 11 December, 2:00--3:50 p.m., Frick 125: FINAL EXAMINATION

OTHER COURSE INFORMATION

Welcome to this introductory course in western architectural history. It is introductory in that I have crafted it for the vast majority of you who are not and will not major in the history of art or architecture, not because the course is somehow supposed to be simple. You have no idea how much you will learn from now through December in learning the history of architecture and how to make critical judgments on buildings. To accomplish that much by semester's end requires both the instructor and the students in this course to maintain high standards. But relax: about 1,950 students have preceded you in this class, and lived to tell about it. Many--in fact most--have enjoyed it.

This year's version of 0040 continues several recent traditions, such as communication by e-mail (in past years I "talked" with about a quarter of the class on e-mail), and access to the main slides by Internet. This was probably the first large humanities course at the University to have a full visual component on the World Wide Web: that involvement will intensify this semester. Particularly important for you is my decision to specify only during the lectures this year (not, as in past years, in this Sourcebook and on the accompanying website) which are the "key works" for which you are responsible in the exams. That will give me much greater flexibility in deciding almost up to the last minute which buildings I will emphasize in the lectures and on the exams. Hence, the notes for each lecture now end in a list called Representative buildings. I will indicate during class which of those buildings you are to study as key works: this designation will not be repeated later in the course: if you miss it, it is essential that you get it from another class member (it's wise to gather up several telephone numbers as soon as the course begins). The greater part of the "representative buildings" are illustrated either on the website and/or in your text and/or in this Sourcebook. The URL for the website is www.pitt.edu/~tokerism.

Neither the website nor the Sourcebook are substitutes for our text, Trachtenberg and Hyman's Architecture: From Prehistory to Post-Modernism, which offers an excellent, in-depth view of Western architecture. You will need to study the book closely, both for the quizzes, the prÈcis, and the exams.

A note on the organization of this book, and of the lectures I will be delivering on Mondays and Wednesdays. The pages that follow have certain standard elements: the Reading indicated at the top of each unit indicates the pages in Trachtenberg and Hyman's Architecture. It is your responsibility to learn all the general observations in those texts and those details that are specific to the "Key Work" buildings.

For each lecture, the Sourcebook gives you an overview of the stylistic period and some historical context. If you read this before my Monday and Wednesday lectures, or after them, these notes will help fix in mind the concepts I am bringing out. Below the text is the listing of Representative buildings, from which I will select the key works for each lecture; below that are the Terms of reference that you are also responsible for.

What is architectural history? Each lecture and section meeting will be devoted to looking at buildings. But architectural history goes beyond the level of just enjoying the sublimity of the Pyramids or the exquisite lines of Greek temples. We do indeed start by describing the buildings and giving them a provisional critique ("Look at those elegant proportions"; "Isn't the marble lovely?"), but if we go no farther we are merely engaging in architectural appreciation. Instead, the lectures and the texts you will read go on to research the history of the buildings and their community, and analyze the structures in an interdisciplinay way. Now we are engaging in architectural history.

Architectural history employs many methodologies, or approaches. Both the lectures and the texts are sometimes concerned with technology, at other times with politics, at other times aesthetics, sometimes with astronomy and magical "keys" to plans, and still other times with the psychology of architecture. Some of my lectures will necessarily be concerned with archaeological evidence for buildings. Others will stress architects, or patrons, or architectural theory. I need to draw on all these methods to give you the richest possible understanding of architecture. Please, therefore, do not ask me at the end of a lecture which parts were "important." They all are.

Grading in this course will be based on four components: 10% on the first midterm test, 20% on the second midterm test, 40% on the final exam; and 30% on "participation," defined here as attendance at both lectures and sections and the results of quizzes, exercises, readings, and discussions of material, whether in the lectures or in the section meetings. Attendance at the lectures and section meetings is not optional: in the past many students have lost most, or all, of the 30% for participation by their poor attendance. (Notes from deans and health or social work professionals, consistent with University policy, will be accepted if timely and if related to the specific lecture that was missed: better still, tell me or the section instructors beforehand if you need to miss one of the classes or sections.) Please note that papers and exercises will be accepted for full value only on their deadline dates: a late paper or exercise automatically loses half its potential grade.

The two midterms and the final will involve analytical skills as well as evidence of thought about the readings and lecture materials. At the last section meeting you will be given your grade standing up to that moment. The conversion of number grades to letter grades is: 90s are A's; 80s are B's; 70s are C's; 60s are D's; and below 60 is F. A strong performance on the final examination and the quizzes can offset weak grades on the midterm tests: your term grade will reflect your motivation, not just data-processing. Please note that W (withdrawal) grades are assigned by the Dean's office alone, not by professors, and that I give G (incomplete) grades only for documented illness, accidents, or emotional stress, and for no other reasons. There is no way you can earn "extra credit" from me, and I don't raise grades after the final examination for any reason other than mathematical error: the way to earn a good or brilliant grade in this course is to start working on it now. This course follows this Department's statement on academic integrity: "Plagiarizing is an act that violates the Student Conduct Code, and will not be tolerated in this class. Plagiarized assignments will result in a failing grade for that assignment." Plagiarism is here defined as the use of six words in a row without a quotation mark and/or clear indication of their origin. Note that in the world of the Internet, plagiarizing has gotten ever more easy: it is mandatory that the full URL address be given for every website you draw upon for your research.

Office hours, lunches, fieldtrips: I would enjoy talking with you in my office (balcony of Frick Library reading room) on Wednesdays after class, from 11 to 12 noon, and from 1 to 2 p.m.; that is also a good time to call me without the necessity of coming into the office. We can arrange other meeting times by if you telephone me at 648-2419 or e-mail me at ftoker@pitt.edu; I will quickly respond to any questions you leave me there. The section instructors for this course will be available in Frick room 151 (entrance to Frick Library) two hours a week at hours to be posted on the door. The telephone number there is 648-2178. I will be happy to meet you for lunch following the Wednesday class, or to go on special fieldtrips, as we did not long ago to see two of Peter Eisenman's two new buildings in Columbus: just ask.

 

A NOTE ON DIMENSIONS

The following basic dimensions of a few local landmarks should help you get a sense of scale for the buildings we will be studying this term. I will begin in the room we will be using all semester: the Frick auditorium, room 125, is about 45' (' is the standard symbol for feet) wide by 60' long to center stage. Its height is about 30', which suggests that it might have been designed in increments (or modules) of 15'. If so, the room would be three modules wide, four modules long, and two modules high, for a w:l:h ratio of 3:4:2. Classrooms 203 and 204 upstairs are about 25 x 30'. The main reading room of the library is about 35' wide and 58' long. The facade (main entrance) of the Frick Fine Arts Building [see plan in the Sourcebook and view on the website] is 122' wide and 177' long, except for the gallery that projects in the back.

By comparison, the main block of the Cathedral of Learning, without projecting wings, is roughly 225' square: that would be the dimensions of the first 20 floors of the tower portion. The building is 40 stories high, about 535'. The Washington Monument in Washington is 555' high, and the newer skyscrapers in New York and Chicago have exceeded 1000' feet (their stories are about 10' high: a 15-storey skyscraper would be about 150' high). The Commons Room at the base of the Cathedral of Learning is 128 x 175', and 60' high to the top of its vaults. Heinz Chapel, across from the Cathedral of Learning, is 253' high to the top of its spire. The lawn on which the Cathedral of Learning and Heinz Chapel sit covers 14 acres.

Now to some distances: it is approximately 800' from the Frick Building to Hillman Library, and some 1,200' from here to the Cathedral of Learning. It is 4,000' from here to Trees Hall--that's almost exactly three-quarters of a mile (1 mile = 5,280')--so don't schedule swimming after 0040 if you can help it. (From Frick to the "O" at the corner of Oakland and Forbes avenues is 1,600', if you're going to lunch after class instead.) The main "college" portion of Fifth Avenue, from the Cathedral of Learning lawn west to the Carlow College campus, is also 4,000'.

Now to some comparisons. The largest of the three Great Pyramids of Egypt is 756' long on each side. It is 480' high, and its base covers 13 acres. If moved to Oakland, it would fill up nearly all of the Cathedral of Learning lawn. It would be just 50' lower than the Cathedral top, and it would take you about as long to walk along one side as it does for you to walk from Frick to Hillman.

The main chamber of the Pantheon in Rome is about as wide as the Commons Room in the Cathedral of Learning: 143', but it is also 143' high, much taller than the Commons Room inside. Hence its total interior volume is much greater. The Pantheon walls are nearly 15' thick, so its main block measures 172' in length and width, plus its porch gives it an overall length of 228'. The Gothic cathedrals such as Chartres and Amiens were some 200' wide and as much as 500' long inside. The vaults of Amiens reach about 140': as high as a 14-storey modern skyscraper!

The most famous Renaissance building, St. Peter's basilica in Rome is about 700' long by 450' wide, bigger than all the Gothic cathedrals. But some of the richest monuments were surprisingly small. The Pazzi Chapel would nicely fit in our auditorium: 36' wide by 60' long, except that its inner volume rises to about 65', over twice as high as our ceiling. One of the most exquisite of all the buildings we will study in this course is, however, ideally dimensioned for this building. The Tempietto of S. Pietro in Montorio in Rome would fit perfectly in the rotunda of our building (in the Museum portion, just off the cloister): it is just 15' wide inside, about 27' in total exterior diameter, including columns, and rises to about 45', including its stepped base. That would just fit within the vaults in our rotunda, which is based--not coincidentally?--on Italian Renaissance architecture to begin with.

 

READINGS:

REQUIRED TO PURCHASE:

1) This Sourcebook: INTRODUCTION TO WESTERN ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY, on sale at Copy Cat, 3945 Forbes, 8 am to midnight. (Unless you're printing it out from the Web.)

2) The class text: Marvin Trachtenberg and Isabelle Hyman, Architecture: From Prehistory to Post-Modernism, on sale at the University Book Centre.

REQUIRED READING ON THE RESERVE SHELF IN FRICK LIBRARY:
 
1) Both the Sourcebook and Architecture are also on reserve in Frick Library.
 
 
2) For the section meetings on Gothic architecture in October:
 
Robert Mark, "Structural Analysis of Gothic Cathedrals: Chartres and Bourges," in Scientific American 227 (1972):90-99;
 
and
John Summerson, "Heavenly Mansions: An Interpretation of Gothic," in Summerson, Heavenly Mansions, pp. 1-28.

 

SUGGESTED BUT OPTIONAL READING ON RESERVE:

Labelle Prussin, "An Introduction to Indigenous African Architecture," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 33 (1974):183-194 and 205;

Suzanne Preston Blier, "Houses Are Human: Architectural Self-images of Africa's Tamberma," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 42 (1983):371-382.

TWO PERSONALIZED VIEWS ON LOOKING AT ARCHITECTURE, AS POSSIBLE ADJUNCTS TO THE MAIN TEXT AND THE LECTURES:

Christian Norberg-Schulz's Meaning in Western Architecture;

Steen Eiler Rasmussen's Experiencing Architecture (this is a required purchase for students in the Writing sections).

THREE MODELS FOR EFFECTIVE WRITING ON ARCHITECTURE:

-"The curious Walls of Larsen Hall," Architectural Forum 124 (March 1966):47-53 (consists of two critiques of the Harvard School of Education building: one on pp. 47-49 by Donald Canty; a second on pp. 50-51, by James Ackerman, with a reply by Canty on p. 52 and a site photograph on p. 53)

-Peter Barnett, "A Gateway for the Creative Arts," Connection (Winter 1967): 7-11 (four copies)

-Franklin Toker, "In the Grand Manner: The P&LE Station in Pittsburgh," Carnegie Magazine 53/3 (1979):4-21

TWO USEFUL BOOKS FOR ISSUES OF STYLE IN WRITING ABOUT ARCHITECTURE:

-Sylvan Barnet, A Short Guide to Writing About Art;

-John Blumenson, Identifying American Architecture

In addition the following books are in the regular Frick collection (those marked + are housed in the reference room) as supplementary reading for architectural traditions you may want to learn more about:
 
R. Branner, Gothic Architecture
F. Brown, Roman Architecture
Julius Gl¸ck, "African Architecture," in D. Fraser, ed., The Many Faces of Primitive Art, pp 224-243.
L. Grodecki, Gothic Architecture
+C. Harris, Historic Architecture Sourcebook
+Harris and Lever, Illustrated Glossary of Architecture 850-1830
+ International Dictionary of Architects and Architecture. 2 vols. In Reference Room at NA40.I48. A most useful set of sketches of major buildings and architects in the western tradition.
+The dictionary of art (34 v., 1996: reference room N31 D5 1996): lists all major architects & building styles
R. F. Jordan, Victorian Architecture
S. Kostof, A History of Architecture
H.E. Kubach, Romanesque Architecture
B. Lowry, Renaissance Architecture
S. Lloyd, et al., Ancient Architecture: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Crete, Greece
W. MacDonald, Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture
+R. Mair, Key Dates in Art History
C. Mango, Byzantine Architecture
+Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architects, 4 vols.
R. Middleton, Neoclassical and Nineteenth Century Architecture
H. Millon, Baroque and Rococo Architecture
+H. Millon, Key Monuments in the History of Architecture
P. Murray, Architecture of the Renaissance
C. Norberg-Schulz, Baroque Architecture
C. Norberg-Schulz, Late Baroque and Rococo Architecture
J. Norwich, ed., The World Atlas of Architecture
E. Panofsky, Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism
N. Pevsner, Outline of European Architecture
+N. Pevsner, Fleming, and Honour, Dictionary of Architecture
+J. Pierce, From Abacus to Zeus: A Handbook of Art History (defines many art terms, including those used in description and analysis of architecture)
R. Scranton, Greek Architecture
J. Summerson, The Architecture of the Eighteenth Century
J. Summerson, Heavenly Mansions
J. Varriano, Italian Baroque and Rococo Architecture
J.B. Ward-Perkins, Roman Architecture
D. Watkin, History of Western Architecture

 

BASIC METHODOLOGY OF THIS COURSE:

ARCHITECTURAL DESCRIPTION, ANALYSIS, AND CRITIQUE

The following is an outline of the personal methodology I have developed over the years for dealing with buildings. I will use it, modified where appropriate, for every building I discuss in this course. I will expect you to use it too, not to give the "right answers" about architecture (there are no right answers in this field, anyway), but to develop the strongest possible arguments for positions that you take, in class, in your written assignments, and on your tests.

Six steps in architectural history. Description, analysis, and criticism are the first three steps by which scholars or amateurs typically look at buildings (or any works of art). It seems to me that there are six steps in all:
 
1) describe the building
2) analyze it (show how it works both functionally and formally)
3) create a provisional criticism (judgment based on "just looking")
4) learn and incorporate facts of the building's history
5) create a learned criticism (based on facts as well as personal reactions)
6) expand into a theory of architecture

This may sound hard to grasp at first, but you will get experience on this at your first section meeting, in which you will describe, analyze, and render a critical judgment on the Frick Fine Arts Building.

Three definitions in Webster's Collegiate Dictionary may help:
Describe: "To represent by words; to give an account of."
 
Analyze: "To separate or resolve into elements or constituent parts. To separate mentally the parts of (a whole) so as to reveal their relation to it and to one another; as, to analyze an economic theory. To study the factors of (a solution, problem, or the like) in detail, in order to determine the solution or outcome."
 
Criticism: "The art of judging with knowledge and propriety the beauties and faults of works of art or literature."

When you think about a building, and especially when you write on one, you are effectively dividing your critique into three separate parts (in written work, these should be indicated with subheadings):

Description
 
Analysis
 
Criticism

Let's look at the words description, analysis, and criticism in respect to light. Recently I told my optometrist: "You know, my father was right: I can read a lot better when my book is under a bright light."

Dr. Morgan replied: "Of course: the pupil reacts to the bright light by getting smaller. When smaller, it creates a lens that is much sharper than it is when the pupil is wider. So you see better."

My observation was mere description, though it was valuable: both art and science begin with "mere" descriptions of phenomena. Dr. Morgan's reply was analysis: he put each step in a logical sequence, and explained how things work: he didn't just say what happened.

Criticism does not typically take place in science, at least not as an expression of preference. (Who would bother to say "Those cancer germs are really yukky"?: western civilization presumes cancer is yukky to begin with.) But there can be an expression of criticism, or judgment, on the consequences of what you have just observed. You can say: "The new dormitory at UPittsburgh has some excellent design features, but it falls down in terms of lighting. Students are constantly reading in dormitories; hence the dormitory rooms should have had bright lighting."

Then you can insert history into this line of questions: historically, when have people made good lighting available?, or, Why were dormitory lights formerly so weak? Why is the typical light bulb in Italian hotels about 15 watts? (High electricity costs, I guess, but maybe there is some other explanation: romantic atmosphere? proprietor doesn't want you to see that the wallpaper is peeling?)

Analysis and history feed on each other. When I got back to Pittsburgh from Princeton in 1986 after renting my house to seven Finns for a year, I was amazed to observe that numerous electric bulbs had burned out and had not been replaced; every curtain had been removed from every window in the whole house; and (to judge from what they left behind) the tenants must have kept burning hundreds of huge candles--the kind that burn one full week. Clearly "light" meant a very different thing to these Finns, who have midnight sun in the summer and near-darkness at noon in the winter, than it did to me.

Thus does light become an important factor in the history of architecture: you cannot describe, analyze, critique, or write a history of Gothic, Renaissance, or Baroque architecture without considering their use of, and cultural attitudes toward, light.

Finally, you are ready for a learned critique, which is a considered judgment on a building or group of buildings in the light of its or their history. You have looked at individual buildings and studied the history--including the cultural history--of a certain group of people in history. You can now look at their buildings the way they did. You are now looking culturally at light, not just looking at it as a detached scientific phenomenon.

Before jumping into architecture, practice by making a description, analysis, criticism, history, and learned critique, using some field OTHER than the history of architecture. The subject could be snow, for example. A description would say: "It sure snows a lot in Buffalo." The analysis would be: "Yes, because the air over Lake Ontario heats up and carries moisture with it, which it then dumps on Buffalo in the form of snow when it reaches the colder air over the lakeshore ground." What would the next steps in the sequence be?

In architecture, the description gives an account of the building, stressing its location, its scale, its materials, its interior space, and how people use it: this is how the eye (or a videocamera) sees the building.

Analysis is the point-by-point study of how architectural decisions (a term defined below) using architectural components (another term defined below) to make all the parts of a building work in relation to any other part. Buildings do not just happen, in the manner of mountains or sandy beaches. They are made to happen. Analysis does not merely ask "what happened?": it asks "why?".

In describing the Capitol in Washington, you would report that the building has a rotunda at its center and two wings, each with a large chamber.

But when you come to analyze the Capitol, you would ask why the building was laid out that way. Clearly, it is a symbolic as well as practical layout: the Senate chamber on the north balances the House chamber on the south, just as the two chambers "balance" each other in the process of making laws. The rotunda in the center symbolizes the essential unity of the members of both houses; in a practical way, it gives them a place to assemble together for occasional great events, and also a place in which, theoretically, they can meet the public. All of these observations you can make without knowing any but the most obvious historical facts about the building or its function.

As you learn more about architectural history, you would realize that the rotunda recalls the Pantheon in Rome, and so part of your analysis would be a discussion of the way in which the Capitol was designed to symbolize our debt to Roman law and civilization. As you really dig into the subject, you will understand still more architectural decisions: the fact that the Supreme Court formerly met right in the basement of the Capitol (better--or just different--symbolism from today, in which it now meets in a separate Greek-style temple). Think also that the Capitol architect expected that George Washington would be buried in the solid rock right below the rotunda: talk about symbolism! Think about the way the Capitol, which, like the whole plan of Washington, is precisely oriented to the points of the compass, acts as a microcosm of the United States: you enter from the east, and the great vista stretching out for two miles down the Mall is the (then) unexplored west. Architectural analysis asks exactly those sorts of questions: Why did the architect designate certain rooms in certain proportions and dimensions? Why did he or she designate different kinds of light and space to different kinds of users and functions in the building? You may not know the answers to these questions yet--some answers will never be known--but analysis demands that you ask the most profound questions.

Criticism is a good deal more complex than merely finding fault, the way you would criticize a roommate for spending too much time on the telephone. Architectural criticism is a process of evaluating the success of the architectural decisions taken years before. Your criticism should evaluate your building in terms of both aesthetics and function. Are the textures weak or lively? Is the building confusing or agreeable to walk through? (The way an architect makes you go through a building is called a circulation path.) In concluding with a criticism of the strengths and weaknesses of the building, you must be judicious and informed, as best you can.

Hint: criticism works best by comparison: why not compare your building to a building of similar use elsewhere in town that you feel is stronger or weaker? In writing this criticism the words "I" etc. should still not appear. Do not merely express an opinion ("this boiler plant really turned me on"); you need to convince your reader or audience to share your evaluation.

Architectural components are all those things that go into buildings, literally or figuratively. We have already encountered some of those components above: function, symbolism, proportions, dimensions, light, space, texture, circulation paths. Every building has changes in light levels (dark, well-lit, or brilliantly illuminated areas); different kinds of circulation (stairways wide or narrow; corridors public or private); and different configurations of space (low- or high-ceilinged). The way an architect manipulates these and other architectural components are his/her architectural decisions. Architectural decisions can be good, bad, indifferent, or non-existent. (Did the architect decide that it would be fun to hide the elevators in Forbes Quadrangle, or did the obscure location of the elevators just "happen"?)

You will find yourself listing architectural components in all three parts of an architectural critique, but in different ways. In the description, you might note that your building is made of bright yellow brick. In the analysis, you would ask why the architect chose this kind of brick, and you might be able to provide some answers, such as "to make this church stand out in its neighborhood." In the criticism section, you ask whether that architectural decision was good or not. (Yes, it made the church stand out, but is it ever repulsive!)

Other architectural components to consider are design, image, composition, selection and handling of materials, color, relation to site, technology, how the technology was exploited, the quality of the lighting, the plan, circulation, use, and overall appropriateness of the building to its function. Ask yourself, What kind of "statement" does the building make within its setting? How do you approach the building? Does it "want" you to see it straight on, obliquely, or in a combination of views (think of the Cathedral of Learning). Which viewpoint seems to have been the main one in the mind of the designer? How does the building change as you approach it? Does the profile remain same, or change? What time sequence plays itself out? A building's plan gives you the "approach" once you are in the building. It encourages or prevents certain uses (circulation). Think of the plan of a bank: it makes you go or not go in particular directions. Is the plan of your building a compact block, or divided into parts? Can you guess the plan from an exterior view of the building, or does it turn out to be different?

Composition: what are the main parts of the building and how are they connected, symmetrically or asymmetrically? Architects sometimes speak of the parti (short for the French parti pris, or decision taken) of a building i.e. its most striking aspect that you could sketch out in a second. Think again of the Capitol at Washington and its distinctive three-part parti: even simple structures have one too.

Is the building "closed" or "open" to the exterior? What is the impression of the building envelope?: mass (closed) or open (volume:--space that is enclosed inside the building)? The thick-walled churches of Baroque Rome exhibit mass; Japanese temples, with their light walls, exhibit volume. Other components of composition include: size, shape, profile, color, materials, texture, rhythms (bay divisions, horizontal and vertical flow), details and ornament.

Symbolic meaning of the building, if any, would be an appropriate issue also. You are not expected to get your hands on the memo in which the architect wrote all this down years ago, but you are expected to make a reasonably learned analysis of why you think certain architectural decisions were made at the time.

If written or spoken, it would be excellent if you accompanied your architectural critique with a postcard or original photograph, and sketch plans--nothing fancy or professional.

Pulling together your observations. By this point you will have made hundreds of observations, from the acoustical properties of your building to the changing nature of its light. Now you need to organize these observations into one coherent system. One of the most efficient ways to do that--I have learned from experience--is to present your building as the product of five factors, or agents of change. I use the acronym FACIT (Latin for "he/she/it makes") for this sequence. The five factors are:

function
aesthetics
context (physical and social/historical)
ideology (the idea or theory behind the design)
technology and structure

Typically one can see these factors, or agents of change, at work. Anyone walking through the Capitol while Congress is in session will understand what the main function of the building is. An observer could figure out the materials and building technology of the Capitol fairly well by simply looking at it as a response to physical context (climate etc.) One could also make out the aesthetic of the various parts of the Capitol: the sobriety of color and plainness of texture of the oldest parts, and the gaudy decoration of the post-Civil-War rooms. One would not need to know the historical timeframe for the construction of the different parts of the Capitol--but you could guess at it--nor the social context of those years to make those observations.

What you cannot see is the historical context and the prevailing ideology of America during the years in which the Capitol was first designed and later added to. To know that, you would have to do extensive reading, not only on the history of the Capitol but on the history of the United States. This data you could not know from just looking at the Capitol: you need to consult history books to find that out.

 

To summarize the five factors:

Function tells you what the building was designed to do. How is this revealed?

Aesthetics: what presuppositions or decisions of taste were made when the building was designed: rough rather than smooth; rounded forms rather than straight; irregular rather than regular?

Context. Ultimately, almost everything fits under the title of "context." The first context is geographical (land and climate) and specific to the setting of the building: urban, suburban, or rural; type of city or neighborhood etc.

The second type of context is the temporal, social, and cultural context of the building, as far as you can make it out. You can tell the cultural context of a neighborhood by such signs as ethnic traits or lifestyle: is the neighborhood clothes store a Brooks Brothers or a K-Mart? The cultural context and even the physical context of a neighborhood may have radically shifted with time, but architecture is like a portrait: what you see on the exterior conveys something about the interior too.

The five factors listed above, put together, will almost always explain why a building turned out as it did. Some buildings, such as the Gothic-style Cathedral of Learning on our campus, or Colonial-style supermarkets, are not so much indicative of change but of resistance to change: an architectural fashion that clung to Gothic or Colonial long after the original context for those styles had died off. In those cases, we have a triumph of aesthetics over technology: people can (and, perhaps, should) build in the contemporary style, but they are not obliged to.

Ideology: what mental image is propagated from the building just looking at it on the outside? Or feeling it inside? Does the building convey the personality of its patron? of its architect?

Technology, insofar as you can see it: lighting, heating, cooling, ventilating, plumbing, glass: what appears to make the building inhabitable or visitable? This includes structure, insofar as you can judge: what holds the building up, and how is this exploited for visual or even emotional effect? Can you guess about the expense of the materials or labor conditions in erecting the building?

A note on writing style. Whether you are writing a term paper, a quiz or exercise, an essay on an exam, or just speaking about architecture in a formal or informal presentation, your reader(s) or audience will typically judge your work half on content, half on expression. A superior presentation is characterized by:

--good questions
--good evidence
--good arguments
--good writing
--good packaging.

Architectural history is a science. Writing or speaking on architectural history is a scientific process, not a narrative, so the words "I," "me," and "my" shall never appear in your responses. You don't need them, anyhow. "I think the front door of Buckingham Palace is too flashy" is a weak critique. You would do far better to say: "Compared to the greyness of the flanking walls, the front door of Buckingham Palace is too flashy," or, "Given that the residence of the Queen of England ought to be sober and dignified, the front door of Buckingham Palace is too flashy." Either of these new formulations are much stronger because they turn a mere opinion into a reasoned argument.

After drafting a paper, proof-read it and cut out run-on sentences. Avoid common errors, such as the confusion between its and it's (you don't write "hi's hat": why then should you write "it's facade"?); there and their; simplistic when you mean simple or basic.

A note on models. A number of models on architectural writing are on reserve: Robert Benson's article on Peter Eisenman's Columbus Convention Center, from The Inland Architect, August, 1993; the critiques of the Harvard School of Education building by Donald Canty and James Ackerman from Architectural Forum 124 (March 1966); Peter Barnett, "A Gateway for the Creative Arts," Connection (Winter 1967); and Franklin Toker, "In the Grand Manner: The P&LE Station in Pittsburgh," Carnegie Magazine 53/3 (1979):4-21. Also in Frick Library are Sylvan Barnet's A Short Guide to Writing About Art, which contains an example of architectural criticism, and John Blumenson's Identifying American Architecture, on matters of architectural style and terminology.