module specification

AR7001 - Histories (2024/25)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2024/25
Module title Histories
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 200
161 hours Guided independent study
39 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Seminar 25%   Seminar Presentation
Coursework 75%   Essay 4000 words
Running in 2024/25

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
No instances running in the year

Module summary

This module examines the relationship between buildings and history.  It questions the simple chronology of time or period and looks at how architects use history to both quarry and validate ideas.  The module examines architectural history through direct encounters with its objects, and the history of architectural history through texts, both contemporaneous and contemporary.
The aim of the module is to investigate the idea and history of history and its relation to architectural history.  It sets out to construct an alternative history of western architecture, critical of conventional chronological histories but spanning from the ancient world to the present day, on the basis of direct encounters with buildings and related cultural products in London.  Students are encouraged to observe buildings closely and interpret them creatively, thereby arriving at a deeper appreciation of various historical periods and cultural paradigms, and, alongside the buildings, to examine contemporary written accounts, testing their value as interpretative tools and reservoirs of cultural meaning.


The detailed structure and timetable of the course is subject to change, but typically it is divided into three historical sections - Classical, Gothic and Modern – each of which relates to a group of buildings in London that are visited, studied and examined in class.  In parallel to the direct encounters with original buildings and texts, runs an open debate on the history and philosophy of history designed to help students develop a critical edge to their historical research.  A selection of readings addressing the history and philosophy of history, from Herodotus to Freud, are integrated into the seminar discussion. LO1,LO2,LO3,LO4

In the Classical section, buildings visited may include the British Museum (Elgin Marbles), St George's Bloomsbury, the Banqueting House Hall, Horseguards, the Soane Museum and Somerset House. Seminar readings (both texts and images) might include extracts from works by the following authors: Pliny the Younger, Andrea Palladio, Colen Campbell, Alexander Pope, William Chambers, John Soane, Piranesi, and Stuart and Revett.


In the Gothic section, buildings visited may include St Bartholomew the Great, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Hall and the Palace of Westminster, and All Saints, Margaret Street. Seminar readings might include: Abbot Suger, Bernard of Clairvaux, Villard de Honnecourt, A. W. N. Pugin and John Ruskin. LO2,LO3

In the Modern section, buildings visited might include: warehouses in Shad Thames, the Lansbury Estate, cluster blocks in Bethnal Green and Canary Wharf. Seminar readings might include: Le Corbusier, J. M. Richards, Sigfried Giedion, Reyner Banham, the Smithsons and Robert Venturi. LO2,LO3

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Scheduled teaching ensures that independent study is effective and addresses the learning outcomes and assessment tasks. Students have the opportunity to study outside of scheduled classes. A range of learning strategies are deployed and individual learning styles accommodated. The module’s learning outcomes, its contents and delivery, are regularly reviewed to ensure an inclusive pedagogical approach.
The module and course utilise the University’s blended learning platform to support and reinforce learning. Peer-to-peer communication is fostered in seminars and tutorial support provided at key points in the calendar. Reflective learning is promoted through assessment tasks and formative feedback. Students are encouraged to reflect on their progress and engage in sequential decision making through staged submissions and worksheets, and to make recommendations to themselves for future development.
The School’s programme of employability events and embedded work-related learning within the curriculum supports personal development planning. Through these initiatives, students are increasingly able – as they progress – to understand the professional environment of their discipline, the various opportunities available to them, and how to shape their learning according to their ambitions and aspirations.

Learning outcomes

On completing the module the student should be able to:
1. question the received history of architectural history;
2. demonstrate a critical understanding of the important features of the main historical architectural styles through close readings of buildings and contemporary texts;

3. appreciate the importance of a wide variety of primary as well as secondary sources and to respond to them both empathetically and critically;

4. develop a cogent interpretation of architectural history.


Burckhardt, Jacob. The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990.
Carl F. Barnes. The Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS Fr 19093) : A New Critical Edition and Color Facsimile / Carl F. Barnes, Jr. ; Glossary Prepared by Stacey L. Hahn. Farnham: Ashgate, 2009.
Davies, Colin. Thinking about Architecture: An Introduction to Architectural Theory. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2011.
Didier Maleuvre. Museum Memories : History, Technology, Art / Didier Maleuvre. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1999.
Freud, Sigmund. The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1985.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Notes from the Underground and The Gambler / Fedor Dostoevsky ; Translated by Jane Kentish ; with an Introduction and Notes by Malcolm Jones. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Gehry, Frank O., Kathryn Rattee, Julia Peyton-Jones, Beatriz Colomina, and Serpentine Gallery, eds. Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2008 - Frank Gehry: [catalogue]. Köln: König [u.a.], 2008.
Harbison, Robert. Travels in the History of Architecture. London: Reaktion Books, 2009.
John Ruskin. The Nature of Gothic : A Chapter from The Stones of Venice / John Ruskin ; Preface by William Morris. London: Euston Grove, 2008.
Kostof, Spiro, and Greg Castillo. A History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals. 2. ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1995.
Pliny, the Younger. Complete Letters / Pliny the Younger ; Translated with an Introduction and Notes by P.G. Walsh. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2009 printing, 2006.
“Stanford Digital Forma Urbis Romae Project,” n.d.
Summerson, John. The Classical Language of Architecture. Rev. & enlarged ed. London: Thames and Hudson, 1980.
Susan Sontag. Against Interpretation and Other Essays / Susan Sontag. London: Penguin, 2009.
Venturi, Robert, N.Y.) Museum of Modern Art (New York, and Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. New York; New York: Museum of Modern Art in association with the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago ; Distributed by Harry N. Abrams, 1990.