To support our site, Class Central may be compensated by some course providers.

The Architectural Imagination

Harvard University via edX

students interested

Taken this course? Share your experience with other students. Write review

Overview

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.

The first part of the course introduces the idea of the architectural imagination as a faculty that mediates sensuous experience and conceptual understanding. Two examples of the architectural imagination—perspective drawing and architectural typology—are explored through video presentations and hands-on exercises. You will be introduced to some of the challenges involved in writing architectural history, revealing that architecture does not always have a straightforward relationship to its own history.

In the second set of modules, we address technology as a component of architecture’s realization and understanding. Architecture is embedded in contexts where technologies and materials of construction—glass and steel, reinforced concrete—are crucial agents of change. But a society’s technology does not determine its architectural forms. You will discover ways that innovative technology can enable and promote new aesthetic experiences, or disrupt age-old traditions. You will witness architecture’s ways of converting brute technical means into meaningful perceptions and textures of daily life. The interactions of architecture and modern technologies changed not only what could be built, but also what kinds of constructions could even be thought of as architecture.

The final set of modules confronts architecture’s complex relationship to its social and historical contexts and its audiences, achievements, and aspirations. As a professional practice deeply embedded in society, architecture has social obligations and the aesthetic power to negotiate social change; to carry collective memories; even to express society’s utopian ideals. You will learn about what we call architecture’s power of representation, and see how architecture has a particular capacity to produce collective meaning and memories.

Honor Code

HarvardX requires individuals who enroll in its courses on edX to abide by the terms of the edX honor code. HarvardX will take appropriate corrective action in response to violations of the edX honor code, which may include dismissal from the HarvardX course; revocation of any certificates received for the HarvardX course; or other remedies as circumstances warrant. No refunds will be issued in the case of corrective action for such violations. Enrollees who are taking HarvardX courses as part of another program will also be governed by the academic policies of those programs.

Nondiscrimination/Anti-Harassment

Harvard University and HarvardX are committed to maintaining a safe and healthy educational and work environment in which no member of the community is excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination or harassment in our program. All members of the HarvardX community are expected to abide by Harvard policies on nondiscrimination, including sexual harassment, and the edX Terms of Service. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact harvardx@harvard.edu and/or report your experience through the edX contact form.

Research Statement

HarvardX pursues the science of learning. By registering as an online learner in an HX course, you will also participate in research about learning. Read our research statement to learn more.

Syllabus

Part I: Form and History
Module 1: The Architectural Imagination: An Introduction
Module 2: Reading Architecture: Column and Wall
Module 3: Hegel and Architectural History
Module 4: Aldo Rossi and Typology Part II: The Technology Effect
Module 5: The Crystal Palace: Infrastructure and Detail
Module 6: The Dialectics of Glass and Steel
Module 7: Technology Tamed: Le Corbusier’s Machines for Living Part III: Representation and Context
Module 8: Drawing Utopia: Visionary Architecture of the 18th Century
Module 9: The Pompidou Center in the City of Paris
Module 10: Presenting the Unrepresentable

Taught by

K. Michael Hays, Erika Naginski and Antoine Picon

Help Center

Most commonly asked questions about EdX EdX

Reviews for edX's The Architectural Imagination
3.0 Based on 2 reviews

  • 5 star 50%
  • 4 star 0%
  • 3 star 0%
  • 2 star 0%
  • 1 star 50%

Did you take this course? Share your experience with other students.

Write a review
  • 1
Karen C
5.0 12 months ago
by Karen completed this course, spending 8 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.
I loved this course - I've never really understood what the term "architecture" means beyond making a building that won't fall down, and here I got some glimmer of the additional nuances that result both from cultural attitudes and from function. I have no background whatsoever in architecture, but I was able to follow along and I learned a great deal. It's a very engaging class, inviting opinion and speculation as well as academic understanding. As a beginner I found the supplementary videos on perspective and drawing particularly helpful; sometimes the more theoretical lectures went just a little wide for me, but I never felt lost, just like there's more to learn.

FMI see my personal blog post at https://sloopie72.wordpress.com/2017/05/10/architectural-mooc/
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Anonymous
1.0 5 months ago
Anonymous completed this course.
I'm a fairly intelligent individual, however the words used seemed to be big for the sake of being big not for the sake of clarity. It only confused me more. I had to go back through each sentence two or three times just to parse what he was saying. I understand a lot of this is theory rather than practice so it is a little more abstract. However I couldn't finish the course because I didn't want to try and figure out what he was saying. The material and concepts weren't inherently that difficult, it was that he made it harder than it had to be. I also felt like I wasn't learning much, I would much rather rent an architecture 101 book.

I will not be continuing this course.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
  • 1

Class Central

Get personalized course recommendations, track subjects and courses with reminders, and more.

Sign up for free

Never stop learning Never Stop Learning!

Get personalized course recommendations, track subjects and courses with reminders, and more.