Seminars and Workshops

Senior Seminar: Architectural Criticism
(Note: One senior senior seminar is required for all majors. Seminars are offered every semester.)

This seminar investigates the criteria for judging architecture and urban design in the last 150 years in America. In doing so, the class will explore the values (such as functionalism, organicism), principles (compositional, contextual, etc.) and intellectual thought (such as idealism, positivism, phenomenology, structuralism, and post-structuralism) that shaped the criteria for evaluating the buildings. Seminar students will criticize the written results in order to arrive at an understanding about how architectural criticism could be improved. The focus is on “applied” criticism in magazines and newspapers, where the buildings are evaluated according to criteria derived from theoretical principles peculiar to a certain time. During the seminar students analyze the critical essays to isolate those principles and criticize their effectiveness, while placing them within historical and philosophical frameworks. At the end of the semester, students themselves will criticize a contemporary work of architecture in New York for a seminar presentation.

SYLLABUS (Fall 2015): Prof. Suzanne Stephens (PDF) 

SYLLABUS (Fall 2016): Prof. Suzanne Stephens (PDF) 


Senior Seminar: Utopia 
(Note: One senior senior seminar is required for all majors. Seminars are offered every semester.)

This course examines the rich tradition of utopian thinking in architecture, urban planning and the visual arts. Here, utopia is explored in its modern form: as a call to transform the world through human planning and ingenuity. The purpose of the course is to better understand the role that the utopian imagination has played in the construction of social practices, the development of urban and social planning models, and technologies of power. 

SYLLABUS (Spring 2016): Prof. Ralph Ghoche (PDF)

SYLLABUS (Spring 2017): Prof. Ralph Ghoche (PDF)


Senior Seminar: Manufacturing Architecture
(Note: One senior senior seminar is required for all majors. Seminars are offered every semester.)

This senior seminar is structured as a design research and visual communications workshop where students create multimedia projects investigating a specific thematic related to the impact of technology on culture, society and environment. The seminar incorporates a different theme each year under the overall rubric of “From Analog to Digital,” and previous classes have explored: Future Cities, Made‐in & Disposed‐in (Global Manufacturing and E‐Trash), Visualizing the Unimaginable, and Reconstructions (in Museums). Through focused research, readings and projects students explore the general topic and class thematic as well as selected set of issues driven by individual interests. The primary questions for the seminar include: How are digital technologies redefining space and human interactions? What constitutes “analog” and “digital” and how do feedback loops between the two realms offer new ways to engage design and project actualization? Are we using technology to create new opportunities, efficiency, or wasteful abundance leading to an ecological crisis? What is direct‐to‐manufacture and how does this change the relationship between the virtual and the actual? How is design in combination with technology re‐shaping the design process, the construction industry and contemporary architecture?

SYLLABUS (Spring 2014): Prof. Nicole Robertson (PDF)


Senior Seminar: Democratizing Architecture
(Note: One senior senior seminar is required for all majors. Seminars are offered every semester.)

This senior seminar examines a contemporary case study in democratic decision-making about architecture. In the name of building an equitable city, NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio has proposed that the rules for building in seven neighborhoods - Bay Street on Staten Island, East Harlem and Inwood in Manhattan, East New York in Brooklyn, Flushing West and Long Island City in Queens, and Jerome Avenur in the Bronx - be dramatically altered. In excange for permitting larger more profitable buildings, the City will require private development to provide affordable housing according to a formula. Despite the Mayor's left-wing credentials and convincing electoral victory, the proposal has become controversial, and recently received several "no' votes from appointed Community Boards. Today, the proposal's fate is unclear, subject to a growing debate about the rules for architecture and how it is used. Student's will devise ways to use analytic and narrative drawings to present their understandings of these complex systems. At a time when participatory approaches and humanitarian architecture enjoy broad enthusiasm, this course aims to reflect on the under-recognised depths of this tradition as well as the persistent structures of power that it attempts to rework. Students' visual production will seek better ways to represent the world so our designs can better respond to its wild complexity. 

SYLLABUS (Spring 2016): Prof. Damon Rich (PDF) 


Senior Seminar: Architecture's Global Territories 
(Note: One senior senior seminar is required for all majors. Seminars are offered every semester.)

This seminar considers architecture’s articulation with modern and contemporary geopolitical transformations; developing regimes of circulation of people, goods, and information; and changing realities broadly considered under the paradigm of globalization. In this course, students will seek to develop new understandings of architecture’s relationship with place and context adequate to this new paradigm—a relationship that has many times been simplified within disciplinary discourse and that lends itself as a fascinating area for expanded inquiry. 

SYLLABUS (Spring 2017): Prof. Ignacio Galan (PDF)


Design Futures: New York City
(Elective seminar)

How does design operate in our lives? What is our design culture?  In this course students will examine the many scales of design in contemporary culture - from graphic design to architecture to urban design to global, interactive, and digital design.  The format of this course moves between lectures, discussions, and collaborative design work to field trips in order to engage in the topic through texts and experiences. The work of the course involves discussion, writing, visual commentary, and group design projects.

SYLLABUS (Fall 2015): Prof. Marcelo Lopez-Dinardi (PDF)

SYLLABUS (Spring 2016): Prof. Marcelo Lopez-Dinardi (PDF) 

SYLLABUS (Fall 2016): Prof. Marcelo Lopez-Dinardi (PDF)

SYLLABUS (Spring 2017): Prof. Frederick Tang (PDF) 


Curating Architecture
(Elective history/theory project-based seminar)

The word to curate derives from Latin and referred to someone invested with the care of souls. It later came to mean a caretaker of objects who engages in “objectivity” and in conservation. Today we think of a curator as someone who organizes and oversees ideas and information. Yet the act of curating extends well beyond the institutional boundaries of the museum or gallery. A curator organizes exhibitions but also competitions, symposia, or public events; publishes article and book; launches web sites and blogs; gives seminars and lectures in the university. Rather than simply collect or preserve, a curator is actively involved in the production of meaning.This class will examine curating practices in relation to architectural exhibitions and publications. We will look at exhibitions, pavilions, installations, magazines, journals, boogazines, websites, and blogs (among others) not only as mecha- nisms for presenting and distributing information but also as sites of production of ideas and discourse. In other words, these media will be seen as an integral part of architectural theory and practice.

SYLLABUS (Fall 2015): Prof. Irina Verona (PDF) 

SYLLABUS (Fall 2016): Prof. Irina Verona (PDF) 


The Digital Restructuring of Cities 
(Elective advanced seminar)

This advanced seminar will investigate the extent to which digital technologies are producing structural changes in urban environments, processes and practices. Through a series of case studies, we will question the nature of those changes - their effects on the material condition and organisation of cities, their benefits and costs, their promises and their failures. Ultimately, we will ask whether, and how, this potential restructing carries with it a concomitant regimagining of "the city" itself and the ways in which we plan for its future. 

SYLLABUS (Fall 2015): Prof. Leah Meisterlin (PDF) 


Special Topics: New York City Crowdscape Cartographies
(Elective history/theory project-based seminar)

This seminar will investigate new forms of drawing the city. It is a course for making, experimenting and collectively thinking about representational techniques that enable us to analyze the city from a new way of looking at it. As a hybrid course between theory and practice, we will discuss the work of other architects to learn from their drawing processes and discourse; we will share our concerns and forms of experiencing the city through readings, conversations and site visits.

SYLLABUS (Fall 2016): Prof. Ana Penalba (PDF)


Special Topics: Housing Complex
(Elective history/theory project-based seminar)

This class will offer a critical and speculative platform to analyze the architectures of housing through seminar discussions and workshop exercises. Housing is a central topic for disciplinary discussion and practice: while the house is many times regarded as the realm of intimacy and retreat from the outside world, we will address housing as an architecture central to the organization of society, and will inspect its relation to changing cultural and technological frameworks, economic processes, and political arrangements.

SYLLABUS (Fall 2016): Prof. Ignacio G. Galán (PDF)


Special Topics: Vision, Power, and Surveillance
(Elective history/theory project-based seminar)

Vision, Surveillance and Power brings together seminar research into the history and theory of surveillance with workshop experimentation. The course aims to develop a deeper sense of the extent to which vision and visuality are socially and politically motivated and constructed, and to further develop students’ spatial intuition and design sensibilities. The course addresses surveillance as a phenomenon deeply intertwined with the rise of modern social, cultural and political practices. As such, surveillance is bound up in questions of power, individuality and identity, reason, transparency and connectivity. The seminar component of the course is divided into a number of (loosely chronological) sub-themes that explore the various aspects of surveillance in society. We will look at historical and contemporary texts and will pay particular attention to counter-surveillance projects and art works.

SYLLABUS (Fall 2014): Prof. Ralph Ghoche (PDF)


Special Topics: Architecture, Nature, and Technology
(Elective history/theory project-based seminar)

More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities and this number continues to grow. Through technological means, we have expanded the site, reach and pace of human habitation. At the same time, we have seen profound transformations in the natural cycles and structures around us. Think, for instance, of recent super-storms (Sandy, Japan tsunami); or irreversible changes in vegetation; or “weird” weather patterns. The rapid urbanization and corresponding environmental transformation – if not crisis -- point to the need to rethink the physical footprint of our society. As tensions between development and available resources escalate, we must re-examine our assumptions and attitudes towards both nature and technology. This seminar maps changing relationships between nature and technology or, in a wider sense, nature and culture. We will look at architecture and urbanism as sites that explore the contested yet constructed boundaries between nature and culture and trace the genealogy of recent ideas emphasizing environmental awareness and responsibility. We will address current conditions and future possibilities through the double framework of nature and technology and ask, what is the role of architecture? Can we respond as designers?

SYLLABUS (Spring 2015): Prof. Irina Verona (PDF)


Special Topics: Architecture and Capital 
(Elective history/theory project-based seminar)

This course will look at several parts of a complex set of interrelationships that define the way in which architecture operates within the current economic, political and cultural enviornment. Students will explore the conditions under which architecture is initiated: observe architecture as a social act and search for definitions of architecture beyond the conventional spatial definitions of the object-form. Through presentations, reading, discussion and research projects, our objective will be an increased awareness of the circumstances in which we operate leading to an expanded definition of architecture and architectural practice. 

SYLLABUS (Fall 2015): Prof. Todd Rouhe (PDF) 


Special Topics: Datascapes & the Informal City
(Elective history/theory project-based seminar)

This course will ask students to consider the use of data representing informality and the “unseen” within urban environments, through theoretical readings and case studies, while working toward critical and argumentative design and visualization projects. Here, “informality”
is broadly defined — beyond “illegal,” “illicit,” or “illegitimate.” Instead, the “informal” may be understood as the “un-form-alized” such that it encompasses that which is left unquantified, unmeasured, or otherwise unseen and thus intangible, within the vast landscape of urban data. Through this broad definition, the class will explore the implications of visualizing that which is not visible and giving form to that which is informal.

SYLLABUS (Fall 2015): Prof. Leah Meisterlin (PDF)


Special Topics: Testing Originality
(Elective history/theory project-based seminar)

Being called unoriginal carries the same anxiety as failure. Even worse, a copycat. Contemporary architecture often seems to be an arm’s race to generate the most eye-catching, the most unprecedented, the most superlative architecture by way of superlatives: the most something building, the first building to be something, the biggest building to use something. The more original, the higher the value. Yet, between the superlative and the knock-off, exists a vast range of architectural acts, whose hybridized approaches are challenging the very notions of originality. Today, sampling, appropriating, and hacking are among our contemporary modes of creative production. This is where the course begins. We will test originality and invention through rigorous and creative acts of copy. We will develop two-and three-dimensional procedures of remaking, repairing, and revising, with the goal of alchemizing new architectural languages. By exploring novelty through restatement, this course aims to recuperate historical lessons, while producing a lexicon of, and taxonomy for, those methods affecting an original.

SYLLABUS (Spring 2016): Prof. Carrie Norman (PDF) 


Special Topics: Video Making Lab
(Elective history/theory project-based seminar)

This course is about movement, time and narrative captured through the time-based media of video. Stop-motion narratives and experimental documentaries, created both individually and in groups, using digital video for production and Adobe Premiere for editing, will be the medium for our storytelling. Video and audio editing explorations, both technical and conceptual, will promote cinematic craft, narrative arc, mood, rhythm, a point of view and sensation. The goal of this course it the production of two (or more) finely crafted and thoughtful short “films.” As architectural design and process hurdle ever more quickly toward representation in time, it is critical for students of design to recognize, understand and implement cinematic structure and methodology. Our explorations will be architectonic in nature, but not strictly about architecture. Production and editing workshops will alternate with the seminar component of this class: screenings of short and feature length films, film analysis and readings. Students will chose from a list of classic narrative, experimental and documentary films and make public in class presentations that support the concepts discussed in class. Presentations will include the preparation of short visual or audio exercises for the class.

SYLLABUS (Spring 2016): Prof. Madeline Schwartzman (PDF) 

SYLLABUS (Spring 2017): Prof. Madeline Schwartzman (PDF) 


Special Topics: Testing Originality
(Elective history/theory project-based seminar)

We live in complex and unstable social and political times, architecture is not exempt. This class will investigate and articulate the possibilities of alternative practices for architecture, mainly a critical practice, a practice of undoing, and inquiring by way of research and producing the objects and actions that defines them, departing from architecture as media, as the product of media. We will looked the work of the American artist trained-architect Gordon Matta-Clark as case study, and will explore modes of making architecture as a field of thought and action beyond the building. What are the media and the boundaries of architecture? This will be the governing question for this seminar-workshop class, in which we will learn ways to consider these boundaries as sites of action and making. Without claiming the building out of the production of architecture, the course will produce research, research methodologies, and display media as architectural products themselves, and as such, as alternative practices for architecture in their own right. 

SYLLABUS (Spring 2017): Prof. Marcelo Lopez-Dinardi (PDF)