module specification

AR7002 - Theories (2022/23)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2022/23
Module status DELETED (This module is no longer running)
Module title Theories
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
Coursework 75% 50 4000 word essay
Seminar 25%   Seminar presentation (two or three students/week)
Running in 2022/23

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

Module summary

The module examines the work of thinkers within and beyond architecture, relating these ideas to the experience of architecture and to the making architecture.

Aims of the module:
The module aims to show how established theoretical orthodoxies might be challenged or re-interpreted in light of students' experience of buildings and other physical forms of culture, using theory.  In the module we examine influential philosophical and intellectual themes in the theory of architecture, comparing them and assessing their worth, and tracing current theoretical concerns in architecture to their origins in philosophy.


In the last thirty years or so, architectural theory, under the influence of structuralism, post-structuralism and French critical theory generally, has detached itself from the broader study of architecture and become a self-contained discipline. It has grown from a makeshift collection of dubious observations and groundless assertions into a fully fledged branch of philosophy. It has gained depth, rigour and above all, ambition. But in the process it has forgotten how to communicate with professional architects and those who study architecture for its own sake. One reason for this non-communication is tendency to study particular philosophers, rather than themes in architectural theory. This tends to marginalise purely architectural theorists and to obscure rather than illuminate specific topics in architectural theory. LO3,LO4

This module offers a thematic introduction to architectural theory. Each week a discussion on a major topic is initiated by a reading of two careful selected texts, typically one philosophical, the other architectural. LO2,LO3

Typical topics and texts might include: Representation: Alberti and Eisenman; Form; Plato and Robin Evans; Morphogenesis: D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson and Manuel de Landa; Ornament: John Summerson and Adolf Loos; Authenticity: John Ruskin and Gottfried Semper; Cities and Time: Aldo Rossi and Rem Koolhaas; Typology: Michel Foucault and Bernard Tschumi; Space and Place: Martin Heidegger and Christian Norberg-Schulz; Language: Claude Levi-Strauss and George Hersey; Authorship: Roland Barthes and Colin Davies. LO1,LO4,LO5

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. read and interpret difficult texts;
2. make productive use of a set of important philosophical themes and approaches;
3. connect between these major themes and current modes of thinking about architecture;
4. demonstrate a critical stance in relation to established orthodoxies;
5. employ a broad theoretical base for later investigations.

Assessment strategy

Assessment will be based on a 4000 word essay on one of the themes covered in the module (75%) and a class presentation of one of the set texts (25%). 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).


Burke, S., (ed.), (1995) Authorship – From Plato to the Postmodern –  A Reader, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press)
Derrida, J. (1978) Writing and Difference (Chicago: University of Chicago Press)
Empson, W. (1966) Seven Types of Ambiguity (New York: New Directions)
Elleh, N. (ed), (2014) Reading the Architecture of the Underprivileged Classes, (Farnham: Ashgate)
Evans, R. (2000) The Projective Cast (Cambridge Mass: MIT Press)
Foucault, M. (1971) The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, (New York: Pantheon Books)
Hays, K. M. (2000) Architecture Theory Since 1968, (Cambridge Ma.: MIT Press)
Heidegger, M. (1971) Poetry, Language, Thought, (New York: Harper & Row)
Hersey, G. (1988) The Lost Meaning of Classical Architecture, (Cambridge Ma.: MIT Press)
Nesbitt, K. (ed.), (1996) Theorizing a New Agenda for Architecture: An Anthology of Architectural Theory 1965-1995, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Architectural Press)
Norberg-Schulz, C. (1980) Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture, (New York:  Rizzoli International Publications)
Perez Gomez, A. (2016) Attunement: Architectural Meaning after the Crisis of Modern Science, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press)
Perez Gomez, A. (2006) Built upon Love Architectural Longing after Ethics and Aesthetics, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press)
Plato, (trans. Desmond Lee) (2008) Timaeus and Critias, (London: Penguin Classics)
Rossi, A. (1982) The Architecture of the City, (New York, NY: MIT Press)
Ruskin, J. (1984) The Seven Lamps of Architecture, (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Spuybrook, L. (ed.), (2004) NOX: Machining Architecture, (London: Thames and Hudson Ltd)
Summerson, J. (1998) Heavenly Mansions and Other Essays on Architecture, (New York, London: W.W. Norton)
Tafuri, M. (1976) Architecture and Utopia: Design and Capitalist Development, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press)