module specification

AR7006 - Forgetting of Air (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Forgetting of Air
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
Coursework 75% 50 4000 word Essay *FC*
Coursework 25%   Seminar Report
Attendance Requirement 0%   Attendance Requirement
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester City Tuesday Morning

Module summary

The module offers a critique of the theories of modern perception rooted in ocular-centric concepts of space.  The ‘forgetting of air’ refers to alternate ways of approaching the materiality of space through interrogating the overlooked medium of the air and how it is understood through the body and by the mind in different contexts.

Prior learning requirements


Module aims

The module examines the institution of social hierarchies amongst our cognitive and physical senses and how they influence the design and perception of architecture, its histories and theories, and how architecture is written.


The seminar topics examine the general shape of sensory experience as a cultural construct and how this is reflected in architecture. Architecture’s contribution to sight is well recognised but how well does it deal with the other senses? Modern environments tend to be visually bright, acoustically dead, tactilely uneventful and preferably odourless. The material substance of space, the very air is neutralised. The seminars involve close readings and discussions of key texts.
Examples of seminar topics on the senses include:

Kant’s Critique of Judgment is a seminal text in the history and philosophy of aesthetics in which he sets out and explains the role and hierarchy of the senses in establishing aesthetic judgment – a contested “ architecture” of the senses that can be traced in philosophy from Plato to the present.

Proust’s In Search of Lost Time is an extraordinary work of recollection, many elements of which are constructed from memories of sensory experiences. What role does spatial experience play in constructing memory and how do we remember the experience of buildings? Is our current architectural preoccupation with visible space sufficient?  The ‘five senses’ are a cultural construct.

Ree’sI see a Voice deals with how we separate and substitute our senses and examines in detail the phenomenon of hearing.
Suskind’sPerfume presents an exotic landscape and drama of smells. It provides a contrast to our sanitised world as well as clues to the growing power of the fragrance industry now shifting its attention from bodies to buildings.

Tanizaki’sIn Praise of Shadows inverts the modernist twinning of sight and light and focuses instead on the rich qualities of perception found in the less illumined world of traditional Japanese culture.

The seminars are also themed differently from year to year, gathering together texts, films, exhibitions, buildings, which exemplify a particular aerial topography.  Examples of themes include ‘clouds’ that reflects on the ephemeral and transitory in architecture; ‘underground’ that reflects on immersive and alternate environments; ‘wind’ that reflects on change and movement.

Learning and teaching

The module comprises of a mixture of seminars that include introductory talks, close readings and discussion of set texts, extracts from films, visits to exhibitions and workshops. The module is supported by its weblearn site that gives access to module information, readings, bibliographies, links and seminar presentations. Opportunities for pdp are developed through the choice of essay topic and individual research work required, supported by individual tutorials.

Learning outcomes

On completing the module the student should be able to:

  1. read into the cultural construction of the senses and the effect this has on the way we view architecture;
  2. understand the relevance of a critical, philosophical problem in the development of aesthetics in architecture;
  3. demonstrate an acute observation of how the built environment is perceived;
  4. write lucidly about the experience of architecture.

Assessment strategy

Assessment will be based on a 4500word essay developing an aspect of 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).


1. Ackerman, Marsha E., Cool Comfort: America’s Romance with Air-Conditioning (Washington: Smithsonian, 2002)
2. Classen, Constance and David Howes and Anthony Synott,Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell (London: Routledge,1994)
3. Corbin, Alain, The Foul and the Fragrant: Odour and the French Social Imagination (Leamington Spa: Berg, 1986)
4. Crary, Jonathan, Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Centure (Cambridge:MIT, 1992)
5. Kelly, Kevin, Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines (London: Fourth Estate, 1995)
6. Klein, Yves, Air Architecture (Verlag, 2004)
7. Plato, ‘The Simile of the Cave’ in The Republic (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983)
8. Ree, Jonathan,I See a Voice: A Philosophical History of Language, Deafness and The Senses (London: HarperCollins,1999)
9. Shattuck, Roger, Proust’s Way: A Field Guide to In Search of Lost Time (London: Penguin,2000)
10. Sloterdijk, Peter, Terror From the Air, trans. Amy Patton and Steve Corcoran (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2009)
11. Suskind, Patrick, Perfume (London: Penguin,1986)
12. Tanizak, Junichiro, In Praise of Shadows (Leete’s Island Books, 1988)