AR-505 / 3 credits

Teacher: Maçães E Costa Bárbara

Language: English


Theory course on the history of modernist environmental aesthetics in architecture.



Modernism, architecture, environmental aesthetics, historical and geographic materialism, political ecology.

Learning Prerequisites

Recommended courses

Preparation for design and research studios that reflect on cross-scale relations and the ecological backgrounds of architectural form. Provides methodological basis for the Enoncé théorique de master and the orientation Project Urbain. Content is closely related to UE U: Cartography, where a more practical and design-oriented method of environmental analysis is taught.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, the student must be able to:

  • Contextualise / Ground architectural 'objects'.
  • Interpret explicit/implicit environmental narratives in architectural form.
  • Assess / Evaluate the contradictions between the material and ideological layers of the environment.
  • Structure / Describe architecture as an environmental totality.

Teaching methods

This course does not see the environment as synonymous with 'non-human nature', or architecture as a purely cultural practice. The environment is a socio-biological metabolism and architecture is an activity that mediates it. This course employs a dialectical method that allows for buildings to be judged beyond their apparent 'iconic' abstraction, as a rich totality of moments that includes nature, technology, production, reproduction, aesthetics, etc. Each class pairs a relevant architect with a concept that encapsulates a formalization of this totality and reveals a dialectic of environmental aesthetics and praxis. The classes present a selection of historical texts and projects, as well as maps produced by students of UE U: Cartography. A weekly bibliography is provided and reading ahead is advised.

Assessment methods

Students are asked to submit an essay (ca. 3'000 words) elaborating an environmental critique of an existing building/project. An oral exam based on the essay is later held centered on the following questions: how does the chosen building reflect a social relation to nature; how does it critique said relation; is it coherent or are there contradictions? All classes are held in English, essays may be written in English or French. Students may work in pairs.

Essay coherence and pertinence: 50% of grade.

Oral exam: 50% of grade.


Office hours Yes
Assistants No
Forum No



  • BENJAMIN, Walter, "Paris, the Capital of the Nineteenth Century: Exposé of 1939" in The Arcades Project. Cambridge, MA and London, UK: Harvard University Press, 1999 [1939], pp. 14-26.
  • BERMAN, Marshall, "Goethe's Faust: The Tragedy of Development" in All That is Solid Melts into Air. London: Penguin, 1982, pp. 15-86.
  • HARVEY, David, "The Passage from Modernity to Postmodernity in Contemporary Culture" in The Condition of Postmodernity. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1990, pp. 3-120.

Ressources en bibliothèque


Detailed syllabus with dedicated class readings provided upon enrolment.

Moodle Link

In the programs

  • Semester: Fall
  • Exam form: Oral (winter session)
  • Subject examined: Modernity, architecture and the environment
  • Lecture: 2 Hour(s) per week x 12 weeks
  • Semester: Fall
  • Exam form: Oral (winter session)
  • Subject examined: Modernity, architecture and the environment
  • Lecture: 2 Hour(s) per week x 12 weeks

Reference week

17-18   AAC014 

Thursday, 17h - 19h: Lecture AAC014