Select and Answer 9 Questions
For each of the assigned readings, select two (2) of the questions below (8 questions total). You will also be asked one additional question, for a total of nine (9) responses. Create a readable document (MS Word or .pdf file ONLY) and write short answers (at least 2-3 sentences) to the questions you select.
Laugier: “Introduction” & “General Principles of Architecture,” Essay on Architecture (1753) (Select 2)
Describe the summary of architecture’s developments over the centuries in Laugier’s introduction. How does this compare to Vasari’s “return to glory” model from the Renaissance?
What is Laugier’s justification for speaking about architecture as a non-specialist? What do you find convincing or unconvincing about his argument?
Why does Laugier think the column, entablature and pediment are the only “natural” elements of the classical vocabulary? How does this relate to his “once upon a time people lived in caves” story?
Using either the web or one of the reference texts in the library, find a picture of the East Wing of the Louvre in Paris (by Claude Perrault and others). What would Laugier consider “wrong” about this design, and why? What might he like about it?
Reyner Banham: “A House in Not a Home” (1965) (Select 2)
Banham asks, “what is the house doing except concealing your mechanical pudenda from the stares of folks on the sidewalk?” How does this view of the “essence” of the American house compare to A. J. Downing’s in the 19th century? What do you think of Banham’s position?
Banham claims that “Left to their own devices, Americans do not monumentalize or make architecture.” Why not? What does he consider “America’s monumental space,” and do you agree?
Describe what Banham means by “a standard-of-living-package.” Do you agree that this could be “architecture,” and does it appeal to you?
Why does Banham believe the traditional suburban house is not what Americans “really” want? What parts of his argument do you find more and less convincing?
Horatio Greenough: “American Architecture” (1843) (Select 2)
What difficulty does Greenough think America’s ‘youth’ and its variety of beliefs, national origins, and geography pose in defining its architectural identity? Explain why you agree or disagree with him.
Why does Greenough object to American architects borrowing styles from Europe? Which of his reasons do you consider valid, and which are unconvincing?
Why does he think the bodies of animals can teach us about good design? How does nature show that “there is no arbitrary law of proportion, no unbending law of form”?
Greenough suggests architects should learn from the Greeks, “but let us learn principles, not copy shapes; let us imitate them like men, and not ape them like monkeys.” What do you think he means? Does this sound like anybody else we’ve discussed?
Fathy: “Environment and Architecture” (1986) (Select 2)
Why does Fathy consider the plant is a good analogy for how architecture interacts with its environment? What does he think is wrong with looking at buildings as machines?
Fathy offers several examples that illustrate how climate affects architectural design. What problems can arise from ignoring this relationship? What does this suggest about the use of uniform building types in varied locations?
Why does Fathy believe the best solutions have not come from science, but from trial and error over long periods of time? How does this compare to your preference for traditional vs. high-tech architecture?
From Fathy’s perspective, what is wrong with modern architecture’s approach to science and technology? What approach does he suggest, and you agree?
Final Question: Your Personal Definition of “Architecture”
When we began this course, I asked you to jot down your own idea of what “architecture” is. Now that you’ve learned about many different ways to understand and evaluate the built environment, we’ll repeat this exercise.
Begin by listing some of the ideas and criteria you have found most convincing this semester. Of all the ideas you’ve heard discussed, which ones do you consider most important, and why? You may also mention any particular people, concepts or buildings you found particularly memorable.
Then add your initial list of terms describing architecture. How do your two definitions compare?
There are faxes for this order.