The BA Humanities course provides students with a robust understanding of architectural history and theory. A variety of teaching practices engages students in contemporary debates and enables them to understand a wide range of theories and methodologies.
We introduce students to the study of architectural humanities in first year. Here, we focus on the fundamentals of the discipline, both in terms of content and the skills acquired. We discuss the role of the architect through the history of the profession and discuss the possibilities of what architectural history can be.
Architectural History: Epochs
In Epochs, we discuss the histories of practice and professionalism in architecture. Through combination of lectures, seminars and building visits, students research the expanded field of architecture and its history. This is framed as a series of epochs, broad movements and periods with a consistent enough character to provide a unit of analysis. These key epochs overlap with the general history of ideas, as understood in contexts including the UK, Europe and the wider world.
Architectural History: Paradigms
To celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the Bauhaus in Germany, first year architecture students prepared an exhibition of modern houses for Paradigms. The work was exhibited at the Modernist Society in Manchester. The exhibition united models and drawings of the iconic Bauhaus’ Master’s houses in Dessau, Germany, designed by Walter Gropius with models of houses in London designed by architects associated with the Bauhaus School or the British MARS Group, who were connected to CIAM. Collectively they demonstrate the progression of architectural style through an understanding of modern materials and construction techniques. The exhibition highlighted international links between the groups and the individual designers’ contributions to the evolution of modernism in architecture. Paradigms engages architectural history to understand design processes. It highlights the importance of investigating individual buildings and relating them to their historical context.
BA2 Humanities introduces students to theories of architecture, practice and professionalism. The units consider ideas, theories and intersections, positing that architecture never exists in isolation – either as a design or academic discipline. The unit is predicated on the idea that opening architecture to possibilities and cross- disciplinary discussions is as important as the discussion of architecture within our broader culture.
Building on architectural history knowledge acquired in Year 1, students are introduced to key architectural theories and invited to discuss interpretations of the questions that they pose. The unit aims to provide students with the knowledge to understand the importance of theoretical positioning in the field of architecture, and to equip them with the various tools to help them to define and clarify their own design thinking.
This unit considers architecture as an expanded disciplinary field and reflects its theoretical multiplicity. Students are introduced to various theoretical ideas and cross- disciplinary topics through research-led talks that build on a range of expertise within the MSA. These talks are framed as ‘Architecture and…’ another topic; this year including: film, form, media, infrastructure, difference, art, the anthropocene, continuity, agency, the political, enjoyment, collaboration, and experimentation.
BA3 Humanities is concerned with mobilising knowledge, and poses the challenge of what we do with knowledge of architectural history and theory. In particular, how do we make this knowledge relevant to contemporary architectural practice? The unit develops knowledge and understanding of the historical, cultural and professional contexts for architectural design, and extends skills in research, analysis, academic writing and visual representation. Research-led teaching is central to BA3 Humanities. Students elect their choice of teaching unit, which is delivered through lectures, seminars, practical exercises and workshops. This year, the electives on offer were:
- Architecture, Bodies, Theories (Stephen Walker)
- Architecture After Modernism (Léa-Catherine Szacka)
- Architecture on the Move: Global Mobility of Architecture in the 20th Century (Lukasz Stanek)
- Architecture/Politics: Construction and Urban Activism (Leandro Minuchin)
- Graphic Anthropology (Ray Lucas)
- Environmental Histories of Architecture (Kim Förster)