Harvard Launches Free Architectural Course Taught By Industry Leader


The Harvard Graduate School of Design has announced a new, free online course entitled "The Architectural Imagination," taught by Harvard's Eliot Noyes Professor of Architectural Theory, K. Michael Hays, alongside Professor of Architectural History Erika Naginski and G. Ware Travelstead Professor of the History of Architecture and Technology, Antoine Picon.

The course is advertised as "introductory" level and described as teaching "how to 'read' architecture as a cultural expression as well as a technical achievement." It will be delivered through edX, a platform for high-quality massive open online courses (MOOCs) which was founded by Harvard and MIT in 2012.

Prof. Hays played a central role in the development of the field of architectural theory internationally. Prof. Hayes received the Bachelor of Architecture degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1976. From MIT he received the Master of Architecture degree in Advanced Studies in 1979, and the Doctor of Philosophy in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art in 1990.

The course's level of engagement and difficulty as indicated by Harvard.

The course's level of engagement and difficulty as indicated by Harvard.

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. Students 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, the course addresses 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. Students will discover ways that innovative technology can enable and promote new aesthetic experiences, or disrupt age-old traditions. 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. Students 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.
What you'll learn:

  • How to read, analyze, and understand different forms of architectural representation
  • Social and historical contexts behind major works of architecture
  • Basic principles to produce your own architectural drawings and models
  • Pertinent content for academic study or a professional career as an architect.

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