module specification

AR7003 - Interpretation  (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Interpretation 
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
36 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
164 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 70% 50 Essay (4000 words) *FC*
Seminar 30%   Seminar Presentation
Attendance Requirement 0%   Attendance requirement
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester City - Afternoon

Module summary

This module's main task is to assist students in developing a creative skill in interpreting the built and lived world. It engages with the interpretation and representation of complex objects like London through the art of writing.

Prior learning requirements


Module aims

This module engages with the creative act of writing about a complex architectural subject such as London as an exemplary lived and built and city. By presenting a familiar but impossibly large and complex subject, the module aims to encourage students to think creatively. It is about building new connections between things rather than learning to reiterate existing partitions. The discipline of the endeavour is rooted in three processes: the composition of evidence, critical reflection, developing a story from a range of literary and non-literary sources. The aim in this is to help students determine a balance between the weight of detailed facts and given arguments, and their own conceptual leaps and critical judgments. The enterprise should involve students in creating a productive and sociable working pattern.


The main task of this course is to help students develop a creative skill in interpreting the built and lived world. The paradigm is the ‘city’ - for its immediacy and richness of encounters, its lure as an object of reflection and subject of control. The course will span between London as an extremely fertile example of the city, and a series of texts that explore the nature of modernity in reference to some of its defining characteristics. The course is structured as a series of forays, some of which address the nature of the whole, others which explore particular scenarios. En route students will be introduced to a selection of the established sources of material available for research. In parallel they will also be expected to visit exhibitions and cultural events of the moment. The themes and sequence of study may, for example, be outlined as follows:

Foray 1: District and Collection
· Guided study visits to Covent Garden and Museum of London. Covent Garden was first designed as a classicised and exclusive urban enclave before becoming one of London’s most notorious and colourful public venues. The Museum of London attempts to tell the story of the city through the archaeology of its artefacts. Both may be read as metaphors for a wider whole.
· Seminar readings and discussions on cultural ‘order’ from Foucault, Lefebrve, Wallinger, Olsen, Ackroyd.

Foray 2: Spatial Engagement
· Student research and workshop discussion on ways of looking at and representing the city that engage the viewer spatially, for example in maps, guidebooks, transport networks, panoramas, novels, film, installation art.
· Seminars readings and discussion on perception, space and representation from Rushdie, Certeau, Sadler, Forty, Wright.

Foray 3: Domestic and Public
· Student research and workshop discussion on range of specific and illustrated examples that might be termed domestic or public – or both – from own flat to No 10 Downing Street to no.10 bus to Starbucks to internet café to box in Opera House to prison cell.
· Seminar readings and discussion on private and public from Evans, Sennett, Watson, Legates, Colomina.

Foray 4: Storehouses and Repositories
· Student research and workshop discussion on targeted range of ‘evidence’ excavated from institutional holdings including museums, galleries, national and local archives, specialist libraries.
· Seminar readings and discussion on archives, storehouses, repositories, libraries, collections from Crimp, Benjamin, Colomina, Berman, Bataille.


Learning and teaching

The module is oriented toward student research, encouraging them to go out and look for ideas and material that is then discussed and compared in class. This will involve working, in groups and individually, with material ‘as found’ and as formally collected in institutions of various kinds. The seminars are designed to work in parallel provoking a structured debate on the nature of modernity. The teaching will emphasize collaboration and the sharing of ideas and resources, backed up by tutorial support for submissions.Opportunities for pdp are available through the choice of topic and type of research developed for the main essay, supported by individual tutorials.

Learning outcomes

On completing the module the student should be able to:

1. access a wide range of sources of module related material and have a working knowledge of how to compile and reference the material;
2. understand the complexity, discuss and critically reflect on the nature of modernity and the city as reflected in current issues;
3. compose a body of research material and construct a coherent interpretation of its significance;
4. present an engaging and convincing written scenario or narrative on an aspect of the city that is of theoretical and/or historical interest.

Assessment strategy

Assessment will be based on a 4000 word essay on one of the themes covered in the module (70%), and class presentation on a text and/or visit (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. Ackroyd, Peter. London, The Biography. London (Chatto &Windus, 2000)
2. Benjamin, Walter, The Arcades Projects (London: Belknap, 1999)
3. Berman, Marshall, All That Is Solid Melts into Air: the Experience of Modernity (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982)
4. Borges, Jorge Luis, Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings (Penguin Classics, 2000)
5. Certeau, Michel de, The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley: University California Press, 1988)
6. Crary, Jonathan, Techniques of the Observer: on Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge Mass: MIT P, 1996)
7. Daston, Lorraine, ed.,Things That Talk: Object Lessons from Art and Science (ZONE Books, 2007)
8. Evans, Robin, “Figures, Doors and Passages” in Translations from Drawing to Building and Other Essays (London: Architectural Association, 1997)
9. Foucault, Michel, The Order of Things (London: Routledge, 1989)
10. LeGates, Richard T. and Frederic Stout, eds.,The City Reader (London: Routledge, 1996)
11. Lichtenstein, Claude and Thomas Schregenberger, eds.,As Found: The Discovery of the Ordinary (Baden: Lars Muller, 2001)
12. Wright, Patrick, A Journey through Ruins: the Last Days of London (London: Radius, 1991)