BRYN MAWR COLLEGE, Growth & Structure of Cities Program
City 255w [College Seminar 002, section 12]. Writing Building: Responses to American Architecture
Spring 2004, TTh, 10-11:30, Carpenter B15

Assignments:

Assignment 1a. Respond to a place:
20 Jan.
Go to place A or B, [a recent building, one built in the last 10 years that you can get inside] and write up your responses to the place in 3-4 pages (c. 1000 words). [Prob Ward, Bettsy Coed addn]

For this assignment, we won't prescribe or proscribe too much, but (a) it shouldn't be primarily description on its own, except where you connect selected descriptive sections to serve your more expansive points, and (b), you'll do this one with practically no reading or research on the specific history of the building, its architect, or contemporary architectural dialogues and examples; you'll address it as someone completely new to it, an intelligent visitor with a probing mind that is open to what the building offers and suggests.

Bring this on paper to class. You will read this aloud to an assigned partner, then pause for a few minutes to make any notes on revisions that occur to you while your partner writes down some notes for suggestions. Reading aloud sometimes allows you to hear things you might not have caught or thought on paper, so after you've read it, take a couple of moments to note your own planned revisions to the piece, and then after a couple of minutes, invite the comments of your partner, taking notes on her or his thoughts. Your partner should hand over her notes. Then you'll switch roles.
22 Jan.

Assignment 1b.
22 Jan.
In view of feedback and these notes, revise assignment 1, and hand in both versions, the first one as marked up and the revised version clean.
27 Jan.
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Assignment 2:
22 Jan.
Begin reading in one of about a half-dozen chronological survey textbooks on American architecture, working your way completely through it or contiguous parts of several over the next month. Most highly recommended (listed alphabetically) are:

Feel free to change horses from unit to unit, trying different texts. See me if you'd like to propose another, but avoid style books like Whiffen's (diff than Whiffen & Koeper), Massey's, Blumenson's, or picture books.

Keep brief notes on things you find provoking or puzzling. I'll ask for short biweekly emails reporting exactly what you've read, and inviting a paragraph or two with any thoughts or queries you might want to add, potential topics that we'll address later in class. Work on this as almost a separate track of inquiry for the first few weeks, without trying to integrate it into our discussions of responses to buildings and architectural criticism.
Please email brief updates on by 5 Feb. (2a), 26 Feb. (2b), and final one on 16 Mar. (2c).
16 Mar.
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Assignment 3. Respond to different recent buildings
27 Jan.
3a. This will be just like assignment 1, but for several different scattered through the area. It may present some logistical challenges, but be enterprising in getting there and getting permission to enter if it's a private place (hint: call in advance). I've compiled a list based on recent local award winners and recommendations of area architects. We'll try to have two people visit each building together, but each responding independently; they shouldn't discuss them while they visit.
Write it up in 3-4 pages and bring to class. [project3 bldgs]
3 Feb.

3 Feb.
3b. In class, we'll break into groups of two, in which each of you should read your partner's piece aloud. The author should make notes afterward if things occur to her, and during that time your partner should make notes that he or she will explain verbally when you're ready. In view of feedback and these notes, revise, and hand in both versions, the first one as marked up and the revised version clean.
5 Feb.
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Assignment 4. contemporary architectural criticism
5 Feb.
Find some contemporary criticism of architecture from newspapers and journals: locate and read some that you find compelling, or lame, and prepare to say why. What values are intimated? what is the role of the critic?
Read and provide complete citations in a standard format for articles from at least three different voices. Cite readings in full, write analytical response in 3-4 pp., and be prepared for discussion in class.Bring enough graphic material into class, either from a website, as slides, or a half-dozen single photocopy sheets, to support discussion of your points.

I don't want to limit the reach of your search for this kind of writing, but some names of contemporary press critics that come to mind that might help you begin are:
NYTimes: Herbert Muschamp, Paul Goldberger, Ada Louise Huxtable
Bstn Globe: Robert Campbell
Phila. Inq: Inga Saffron
LA: Michael Sorkin
others Chicago, DC, Atlanta, SF? . . .
12 Feb.
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Assignment 5. keys to moment
12 Feb.
Students will each identify a building that figures in national discussions of architectural contemporaneity over the last decade. Search for and locate critical discussions of it, in articles or parts of larger writings, preferably presenting some different attitudes and comments on it. Collect just enough graphic material in digital form to explain the place generally to the class, and then scope out some of the different arguments taken, in 15-min presentations. Claim your building with me, and first-come, first-reserved to avoid possible redundancy.
24 Feb., presentations begin.
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Assignment 6. period explorations
26 Feb.
For each of four chrono periods,

6a. Datable Buildings:
As a test of the larger patterning we're encountering in the reading, start shooting/collecting digital images of datable buildings from after the Civil War (1861-65) not found in collections of key examples, buildings that you might pass in your everyday travels that bear datestones or for which you might have other very good evidence for a precise set of dates. (But exercise skepticism of claims you think suspicious, and watch out for dates on institutional exteriors that may be of organizational founding rather than building construction). We'll begin putting these into a chronological sequence when you get back after break, and will try to bring them into each of our period discussions. Try to grab at least 6-10 good dated examples.
16 Mar.

6b. Period Presentations:
After break, trios of students will make presentations to the rest of the class about key trends for different periods. They will read appropriate period sections in 3-4 survey texts, and distill the main developments of this period in a presentation to the class in weekly sessions, beginning 18 March.

Each group should focus on what they see as the most important themes that distinguish architecture in this period, trying to penetrate to the generative shifts in taste, technologies, economics, urbanistic trends, or other forces. Although it may seem the least substantive of these, in just being about visual preferences, try not to underplay changes in taste and the favor for types of form or space that emerge in your period, contrasting them to the preferences of earlier or later ones.

Once you have decided on your key themes, plan to tell the story using no more than 5-10 buildings to illustrate your points, choosing key images, including PLANS where points are spatial. Come see me before your presentation and we'll go over what you intend to do. Gather the materials (images and data) for a webpage with the images (fully identified) to be used by the class afterward for reference -- if you need help, I'll work with you to build it.
18 Mar., begins.

Assignment 7. Non-Presenter Period Prep
4 Mar.

Those not presenting each week will do one of three things, cycling between these as groups A, B, C and D, each involving a 1-2 pp. assignment that will also be readied for discussion on the day of each period presentation. Each group's members will, by turns, . . .

+ Visit a building of this period and discuss it, looking for connection or disconnect with the trends cited in class, at design intent, implicit foils, and other responses you have to it, in 1-2 pp. If possible, shoot, find, or roughly sketch two or three pertinent images of the building, including a general plan, for digital presentation in class.

-or-
+ Read two focused scholarly pieces on buildings or subjects of this period. Most highly recommended would be articles from:

On paper, report precisely what you read (fully cite, including page numbers, in a standard bibliographic form), very briefly reporting the frame and point of each, and responding thoughtfully in 1-2 pp.

-or-
+ Find and read a few opinionated period writings on architecture that capture some of its distinctive perspectives. What was of critical interest at the time? How was this criticism meant to serve? Try to discern their 'take' and discuss probingly in 1-2 pp.. Again, cite each fully, frame and respond the main points.

Each of these will be presented briefly in class. Bring digital graphics where they will be critical to your classmates seeing your points.
18 Mar ­ 8 Apr.
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Assignment 8. paper on types, siblings, 4-5 pp. of text.
8 Apr.
Choose one of the two topics below.

· 7a. type and landscape
Our surroundings are dominated more by structures that are less unique than most architect-designed examples we find in architectural journals and books. These more ordinary examples define some normative types, and they usually fill out a landscape type that generally accompanies it. Confront an example of typicality, relating it to the more oft-published foils of the time and what you might think are the type's main generative issues.

· 7b. functional siblings
Visit two buildings of much the same functional type. Shoot or find images of both, and find or sketch plans. Weigh commonalities and differences, and try to account for them.

Hand in an initial parti, with brief notes and thoughts on examples in 1 page., and be prepared to discuss in class, w/ a few supporting graphics.
13 Apr., then hand in paper on 20 April.

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Assignment 9. key building in contexts
20 Apr.
Choose one prominent post-Civil War building from the SAH's US Image Exchange for the focus of a short research paper. Search for writing about it from its time to the present, and start with a one-page annotated bibliography. Then, in 4-5 pages, consider it in multiple contexts, discussing such aspects as its building history, its planning, relation to type, contemporary analogues in design, its client's wishes, new setting's character, prior accommodation, urban context, the reason it achieved a kind of landmark status, and how it is treated in current texts.

29 Apr.


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