The 'Things' of Architecture

Doctoral Seminar Advanced Topics in History and Theory of Architecture (064-0004-22)
Organizer: Chair of Prof. Stalder
Lecturers: Prof. Dr. Laurent Stalder, Dr. Davide Spina
Time: Thursdays, 15:45-17:30
Location: HIL E 29.2


Some say that there are two ways to write about architecture: to look at ‘discourses full of objects’ or, conversely, at ‘objects full of discourses’. In the former case, one proceeds deductively, or from the general to the specific; in the latter inductively, or from the specific to the general. This doctoral seminar course radically explores the second approach by focussing on the ordinary ‘things’ that modern and contemporary buildings are made of (e.g. elevators, air-conditioning systems and cladding panels) and extrapolating general concepts from them. Underlying this approach is the idea that, perhaps more than anything else, what transformed architecture over the last two centuries was the introduction of a plethora of new technological devices in buildings, and that these devices, in turn, were key to ushering in the economic, social and cultural changes characteristic of the modern age.

The course will be structured in two phases. In phase one, students will read and discuss texts on the epistemological, social and technological politics of ‘things’. In phase two, students will apply the ideas contained in these texts to their own research project - or a part thereof - in order to rethink it through one specific ‘thing’. Readings will include canonical texts in the philosophy of science, structuralism, poststructuralism, actor-network theory, postmodern theory and new materialism. Students completing the course will be able to read buildings from an object-oriented perspective.


Dr. Davide Spina