ARC 598-SHP– Special Topics: The Culture of Objects

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Course Details

Course No.: 11535

Department: Architecture

Semester: 2014 Spring

Location: Diefendorf – 104

Meeting Day(s): Tuesday

Meeting Time: 10:00AM - 12:40PM

Faculty: Steiner

The architectural discipline has long been understood as a culture of objects, characterized by its materials, as well as its materialism.  Objects, by definition, demand certain forms of exchange, whether economic, aesthetic, or historical, while precluding other forms of interpretation.


This course will investigate the theoretical frameworks of architectural materiality as they emerged during the era known as the “Enlightenment” (modernity, in other words), leading to the suspicion towards that commitment that emerged in the post-WWII period.  Participants in this research seminar will examine the meanings that have accrued to particular substances, from stone and concrete to plywood and plastics, by exploring how those materials have been culturally addressed over time.  In addition to gaining a breadth of knowledge in architectural theory, the purpose of this course is to interrogate the dominant models in architectural practice inherited over the course of the last two centuries, including—but not limited to—the aesthetic of industry, nostalgia of labor/craft, romance of the indigenous, and divisions of hard and software.


Assigned readings will include primary and secondary texts.  Preparation for and participation in class is of the essence; interpretive synopses and research updates will be submitted weekly in writing.  A presentation and final research paper are also mandatory.