AR-518 / 3 credits

Teacher: Aureli Pier Vittorio

Language: English


The course is part of a three-year trajectory dedicated to a comprehensive history of domestic space and its relationship with urban form from its prehistoric origins to Neoliberal times.


This year the course will be devoted to the origins of modern domestic space, from monasticism to the rise of houses for the laboring classes in the 1800s.

Modern domestic space is one of the fundamental spatial dispositifs through which nascent institutions of power such as the State attempted to govern its subjects. The evolution of modern domesticity is profoundly intertwined with the history of the family, marriage, property, working relationships, and above all Capitalism. A crucial aspect of modern domesticity is the splintering force that separates domestic function and gender roles. From the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 20th century the house is progressively segregated from public space, and subdivided into increasingly specialized sub-spaces: the kitchen, the parlor, the bedroom, spaces that we now take for granted but whose origin is relatively recent. Another important aspect is the role of the house in the division of society into classes. Since the 14th century, with the formation of both the urban proletariat and the bourgeoise, houses were built into specific types, whose goal was to accommodate and reinforce not only gender roles but also class identity.

In this process, the emergence of typological design played an important role. Starting from the 16th century, architects focused not only on monumental structures such as churches and palaces, but also on the project of houses for all classes, from the poor peasant to the prince. Unlike the making of architecture 'with capital A', the design of houses implies uniformity and standardization: the house becomes housing. The course traces this history by linking the rise of specific domestic types such as the townhouse, the cottage, the palazzo, the terrace house, with the historical circumstances that have produced them. Theories and theoretical models produced by Leon Battista Alberti, Sebastiano Serlio, Bartolomeo Ammannati, Pierre Le Muet, John Wood the Younger and Henry Roberts will be studied as both symptoms and catalysts of important passages in the evolution of domestic space as both specific architectural construct and managerial apparatus.

The goal of this history is to demonstrate how contemporary phenomena such as the commodification of housing, gentrification, and gendered division of labor cast back a long shadow on the very origins of modern domesticity. Indeed, it is possible to argue that the invention of modern domestic space was a contribution of what Karl Marx defined as 'primitive accumulation', the process through which the early accumulation of capital was possible by forcefully dispossessing peasants of their means of production. By separating public and private space, modern domesticity contributed to naturalize domestic labor as a natural duty of families and especially women whose unwaged reproductive work was segregated and privatized. Special attention will be paid to the rise of Monasticism in the East and West as both an attempt to find alternative to domesticity, and a generator of domestic tropes such as individuation and surveillance. The history of modern domestic space will be eventually confronted with examples of dwellings from non-Western cultures in order to emphasize how in spite of its pretentions of universality, Western domesticity is only one version of what habitable space can be.


Course sessions

Session 1

1st Lecture - 21/09/2023

In search of the 'Desert'

The monk and early monasticism


2nd Lecture - 21/09/2023


The architecture of the monastic cloister


Session 2

3rd Lecture - 05/10/2023

Medieval Domesticity

The castle, the farmhouse and the townhouse


4th Lecture - 05/10/2023

The Politics of the Courtyard

Domestic Space in Persia and China


Session 3

5th Lecture - 19/10/2023

The return of the Oikos

The Renaissance and the Baroque palazzo


6th Lecture - 19/10/2023

From houses to housing

The Rise of Typological design


Session 4

7th lecture - 02/11/2023

Out There

The Architecture of the Renaissance Villa


8th Lecture - 02/11/2023

The ritualized House

The Architecture of the Longhouse


Session 5

9th Lecture - 16/11/2023

Violent Domestication

Enclosures, colonialism and 'housewification' as primitive accumulation


10th Lecture - 16/11/2023

Rites of Passages 1

Domestic space in France, 1600-1800


Session 6

11th Lecture - 30/11/2023

Rites of Passage 2

Domestic space in England, 1600-1800


12th Lecture - 30/11/2023

Pauperism and Class

Housing for the Laboring Classes


Assistants: Marson Korbi, Theodora Giovanazzi, Constantinos Marcou, Jolanda Devalle


Learning Outcomes

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

  • Interpret in a critical manner the concepts developed during the course
  • Argue the relations between domestic space, gender and class relationships
  • Develop a reflection on the relationship between historical conditions and architecture

Expected student activities

Personal work during the semester, reading of texts, personal study of a theme to be concretized into a paper of approximately 3.000 words.

Assessment methods

The main goal of the course is to encourage students to read as much as they can. Therefore, the main factor in the evaluation will be the student's capacity to assemble and read a relevant body of texts.

40% Specificity of the theme and reading relevant bibliography

40% Writing of the paper, especially referencing and footnoting

20% Clear oral exposition



Assistants Yes

In the programs

  • Semester: Fall
  • Exam form: Oral (winter session)
  • Subject examined: The origins of modern domestic space
  • Lecture: 2 Hour(s) per week x 12 weeks
  • Type: mandatory
  • Semester: Fall
  • Exam form: Oral (winter session)
  • Subject examined: The origins of modern domestic space
  • Lecture: 2 Hour(s) per week x 12 weeks
  • Type: mandatory

Reference week

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