module specification

AR7001 - Histories (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Histories
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design (The Cass)
Total study hours 200
164 hours Guided independent study
36 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Seminar 30% 50 Seminar Presentation
Coursework 70%   Essay 4000 words
Attendance Requirement 0%   Attendance
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester City Tuesday Morning

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.

Prior learning requirements


Module aims

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.


In the Classical section, buildings visited may include the British Museum (Elgin Marbles), St George's Bloomsbury, the Banqueting 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.


In the Modern section, buildings visited might include: warehouses in Shad Thames, the Lansbury Estate, Cluster Blocks in Bethnal Green, Robin Hood Gardens and Canary Wharf. Seminar readings might include: Le Corbusier, J M Richards, SigfriedGiedion, ReynerBanham, the Smithsons and Robert Venturi.

Learning and teaching

The module is taught through lectures, visits to buildings in London, seminars based on close readings of specific texts and classroom presentation of visits and essay tutorials. The module is supported by its weblearn site that gives access to module information, readings, bibliographies, links and seminar presentations and formative feedback.

Opportunities for pdp are available through the choice of essay work developed for the assessment, supported by individual tutorials.

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

Assessment strategy

Assessment will be based on an essay (4000 words) on architectural topic developed out of the seminars, seminar presentations on visits to buildings and readings of primary and secondary sources (30%).The pass mark for the module is to be calculated as an aggregate of the components weighted accordingly, with the proviso that the candidate must pass Component 1 (the essay).


1. Pope, Alexander,Poems of Alexander Pope, edited by John Butt (Yale University Press, 1963)
2. Stuart, James,The Antiquities of Athens, Measured and Delineated by James Stuart and Nicholas Revett (New York: Arno Press, 1980)

3. Bernard of Clairvaux,Bernard of Clarivaux: Selected Works (New York: Paulist Press, 1987)
4. Pugin, A W N.,The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture (London: Academy Editions, 1973)
5. Le Corbusier,The City of Tomorrow and its Planning (London: Architectural Press, 1971)
6. Giedion, Sigfried,Space, Time and Architecture (London: Oxford University Press, 1967)
7. Venturi, Robert,Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1977)
8. Arnold, Dana, Elvan AltanErgut and BelginTuranOzkaya, Rethinking Architectural Historiography (London: Routledge, 2006)
9. Burrow, John, History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquires from Herodotus(London: Penguin, 2009)
10. Herodotus, The Histories (London:Penguin, 2003)
11. McKellar, Elizabeth, The Birth of Modern London: The Development and Design of the City 1660-1720 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999)
12. Summerson, John,The Classical Language of Architecture (London: Thames and Hudson, 1980)