Four Transitions in Architecture History
Fundaments of History and Theory
UIC School of Architecture
“History is the object of a construction whose place is formed not in a homogenous and empty time, but in that which is fulfilled by the here-and-now.”
(Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History, 1940)
Architecture provides the stage for any human activity. Like no other visual discipline, it records the evolution of the human species and the state of knowledge, the creation of cultural and social frames, political and civic institutions, national and religious identities. Far from being a mere survey of monuments, memories and occurred events, architectural history is the lucid construction of the past made from the perspective of a present moment. In fact, history is always the project of the present: a way to problematize and understand the actual conditions of living, to reinforce and dismantle its premises, wandering backwards while looking ahead towards the future. The very idea of modernity coincides with this critical confrontation with the past, with the process of selection and manipulation of material through which sectioning through the current time, evaluating its internal pressures and necessities, relations of power and prejudices, anxieties and fears. A procedure that had been radically experimented in architecture since the Renaissance and still endures today.
This course is an introduction to the history and theory of architecture from antiquity to the 20th century. To cover such a large temporal extension, the course focuses on four moments of crisis, four historical transitions wherein architecture played a crucial role in documenting and making intelligible the broader conceptual shifts of an entire era. Despite its chronological organization, the course will trace correspondences and distinctions between the four phases, dialectically juxtaposing figures, projects and treatises against each other. Special emphasis will be given to the analysis of architectural treatises, drawings and exemplary projects able to recapitulate the spatial, philosophical, social and political assumptions of the whole cultural cycles which produced them.