BRYN MAWR COLLEGE, Growth & Structure of Cities Program
City 255b. Writing Building: Responses to American Architecture
Spring 2004, Th 4:20-6:30, Carpenter B1x

Assignments:

Assignment 1. 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). [Ward or Bettws-y-Coed at BMC; Whitehead or new science building at HC]

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.

Send this as an attachment, with the file labeled as a1[your intials].doc, i.e. for me a1jac.doc. If you can't save as a Word .doc, save as an .rtf (rich text format) or .txt for plain text.
29 Jan.
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Assignment 2: Survey-text reading
29 Jan.
Begin reading in one of several 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 by 12 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.
3. This will be just like assignment 1, but for several different buildings 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]
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. Add very brief speaking notes for points to discuss (not necessarily full sentences) and send as email by Thursday morning before 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. Weigh these views in four to five pages of text.

Collect just enough graphic material in digital form to explain the place very generally to the class, and then scope out some of the different arguments taken, in 10-minute presentations. Aim for buildings that are the touchstones of discussions of contemporaneity. (American is a bit hard to limit in this regard, as things get pretty international; let's make it in US or by US architects). Claim your building with me, and first-come, first-reserved to avoid possible redundancy of buildings or architects.
26 Feb., submit write-ups by a.m., and presentations begin.
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Assignment 6. Period Explorations
26 Feb.
For each of six chrono periods, after spring break ...

6a. Datable Buildings:
As a test of the larger patterning we're encountering in the reading, start shooting/collecting digital images of datable buildings 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
18 Mar.

6b. Period Presentations:
After break, pairs 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 pair should focus on what they see as the most important themes that distinguish architecture in this period, trying to penetrative 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 ir later ones.

Once you have decided on your key themes, plan to tell the story in 40-60 mins. using no more than 5-10 buildings to illustrate your points, choosing key images, including PLANS where points are spatial. 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..
7a.
(teams B, C, and D) Scholarly Readings:
Before class on Thursday, the 18th, find and read two focused scholarly pieces on buildings or subjects of this period, 1970-90. Most highly recommended would be articles from:

or
(teams E and F) Period Readings:
Browse architectural journals or other architectural writings from the period to try to catch the flavor of attitudes of the time. Read three to five brief pieces, preferably opinionated period writings that capture some of its distinctive perspectives. What was of critical interest at the time? Try to discern their 'take.'

In either case, report precisely what you read (fully cite, including page numbers, in a standard bibliographic form), very briefly giving a sense of the frame and point of each, and responding thoughtfully in 2-3 pp.
18 Mar

7b. Do the same for each period each subsequent week, in scholarly or period writings, finding, reading and citing precisely, and responding briefly in 2-3 pp., turned in electronically by the morning of our class on Thursdays.
25 Mar. and subsequent weeks.
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Assignment 8. 3-4 pp. paper on types, siblings.
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 architecture 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.

Send in an initial parti before rescheduled class in week of 12 April , with brief notes and thoughts on examples on one page, and be prepared to discuss in class, w/ a few supporting graphics.
19 Apr.


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