Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Course Overview

The aim of this course is to highlight some technical aspects of the classical tradition in architecture that have so far received only sporadic attention. It is well known that quantification has always been an essential component of classical design: proportional systems in particular have been keenly investigated. But the actual technical tools whereby quantitative precision was conceived, represented, transmitted, and implemented in pre-modern architecture remain mostly unexplored. By showing that a dialectical relationship between architectural theory and data-processing technologies was as crucial in the past as it is today, this course hopes to promote a more historically aware understanding of the current computer-induced transformations in architectural design.

Although most of the course will focus on things past, or actually early-modern (meaning: the 15th and the 16th centuries), the discussion will emphasize some striking analogies between past and present, and the historical continuities to be found in the development of today's tools of quantification in architectural design. The main protagonists in these stories are the alphabet, drawings, numbers, image-making technologies, printed images, the rise of numeracy as an instrument for building, the parallel decline of geometry, and the conflict (in some cases, still open) between design through continuous quantities (geometry) and design through discrete entities (numbers). The assignment for the course, aside from regular attendance and participation in discussion, is a presentation and paper on the historical or practical relation between design and quantification.

Central to the course are the instructor's presentations, which in some cases will refer to existing literature, in some cases not. Consequently, it was decided that a group of students, on a voluntary and iterative basis, would take notes during each class, and that these notes, revised by the instructor, would be circulated. These abstracts serve as the lecture notes for the course, appended with a final commentary by the instructor.