The Architectural Imagination: Introduction to the History & Theory of Architecture
- K. Michael Hays, Eliot Noyes Professor of Architectural Theory
- Erika Naginski, Professor of Architectural History
- Antoine Picon, G. Ware Travelstead Professor of the History of Architecture and Technology
- Lisa Haber-Thomson, Design Critic in Architecture
Brief Course Description
Architecture engages a culture's deepest social values and expresses them in material, aesthetic form. In this course, you will learn how to "read" architecture as a cultural expression as well as a technical achievement. Vivid analyses of exemplary buildings from a wide range of historical contexts, coupled with hands-on exercises in drawing and modeling, bring you close to the work of an actual architect or historian.
Architecture is one of the most complexly negotiated and globally recognized cultural practices, both as an academic subject and a professional career. Its production involves all of the technical, aesthetic, political, and economic issues at play within a given society. Over the course of ten modules, we'll examine some of history’s most important examples that show how architecture engages, mediates, and expresses a culture's complex aspirations.
See Course Structure for a full description.
What You Will Learn
- How to read, analyze, and understand different forms of architectural representation
- Social and historical contexts behind major works of architecture
- Basic principles to produce your own architectural drawings and models
- Pertinent content for academic study or a professional career as an architect
Schedule and Effort Hours
The Architectural Imagination is a self-paced ten-module course.
The ten-module course is designed to take approximately 50 hours to complete, including design projects. This total is based on an estimated average of five hours per module. This average is based on the following estimates:
- A lecture of 30-60 minutes
- Exercises requiring 2-4 hours
- Suggested readings are optional and are not included in the time estimate
These are estimates. You should expect to spend more or less time depending on the specific module.
EdX and HarvardX do not offer academic transcripts. We recommend printing either this syllabus or the course About page if you need a record of the estimated effort hours for the course. (An edX verified certificate does not include this information.)
Assignments and Grading
Your grade is based on your performance on course exercises.
There are two types of exercises in the course:
- Concept Checks (short automatically graded questions) are worth 25% of your total grade. (Your lowest Concept Check score will be dropped.)
- Self-Assessments (longer open responses that you then grade yourself) are worth 75% of your total grade. (Your lowest Self-Assessment score will be dropped.)
These exercises are module-specific and are spread throughout the course; there are no exams. A full list of exercises appears below.
There are no specific due dates. You have until the course closes to complete the exercises.
You can find your current grade on the Progress page.
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Is English required?
English is the official language of the course in that all materials are in English and the course team is English speaking.
Posting in English is recommended if you are looking for the course team to post a response.
A language other than English can be used for the Self-Assessments. Ultimately, you are the evaluator of your work, so the method of response should be whatever allows you to learn best.
Part I: Form and History
Module 1: The Architectural Imagination: An Introduction
- Exercise 1.1: Compare Two Buildings (Self-Assessment)
- Exercise 1.2 Read a Plan (Concept Check)
- Exercise 1.3 Draw a Plan (Self-Assessment)
Module 2: Reading Architecture: Column and Wall
- Exercise 2.1 Columns and Walls (Concept Check)
- Exercise 2.2 Perspective as Layered Planes (Self-Assessment)
Module 3: Hegel and Architectural History
- Exercise 3.1 Form / Function = Beauty (Concept Check)
- Exercise 3.2 Understanding Hegel (Self-Assessment)
Module 4: Aldo Rossi and Typology
- Exercise 4.1 Typology - Part 1 (Concept Check)
- Exercise 4.2 Typology - Part 2 (Self-Assessment)
- Exercise 4.3 Build a Model or Transform a Type (Self-Assessment)
Part II: The Technology Effect
Module 5: The Crystal Palace: Infrastructure and Detail
- Exercise 5.1 Architecture and Technology -- Continuity and Disruption (Self-Assessment)
- Exercise 5.2 Architecture and Technology -- The Synthesis (Self-Assessment)
Module 6: The Dialectics of Glass and Steel
- Exercise 6.1 Factory as Primitive Hut (Concept Check)
- Exercise 6.2 Close Reading (Self-Assessment)
Module 7: Technology Tamed: Le Corbusier’s Machines for Living
- Exercise 7.1 Five Points (Self-Assessment)
- Exercise 7.2 Pied-à-Terre (Self-Assessment)
Part III: Representation and Context
Module 8: Drawing Utopia: Visionary Architecture of the 18th Century
- Exercise 8.1 Utopia (Concept Check)
- Exercise 8.2 From Salt Works to Ideal City - Part 1 (Concept Check)
- Exercise 8.2 From Salt Works to Ideal City - Part 2 (Self-Assessment)
Module 9: The Pompidou Center in the City of Paris
- Exercise 9.1 Schematization (Concept Check)
- Exercise 9.2 Architecture as Representation (Self-Assessment)
Module 10: Presenting the Unrepresentable
- Exercise 10.1 Memory and the Refusal of Redemption (Self-Assessment)
- Exercise 10.2 Symbol, Icon, Index (Self-Assessment)
EdX offers an optional fee-based verified certificate to those who have passed the course.
If you achieve a passing grade of 60% in this course, you are eligible to receive a verified certificate.
Your certificate will indicate you have successfully completed the course, but will not include a specific grade or course hours.
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