module specification

AR7051 - Writing About Architecture (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Writing About Architecture
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 25%   Seminar Report
Coursework 75% 50 Essay
Attendance Requirement 0%   Attendance requirement
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester City Wednesday Morning

Module summary

This module reviews the main ways of writing about architecture, using a wide range of texts by outstanding practitioners to exemplify each type. Students will practice the various modes themselves.


Prior learning requirements


Module aims

The module will provide a comprehensive view of the opportunities facing a writer about architecture, defining the main ways of writing about the subject and exemplifying them in carefully chosen texts by a variety of outstanding writers.  The module will encourage students to experience the writing firsthand, involving them in a structured series of practical experiments in the various modes of writing.


This module takes both a theoretical and practical view of its subject, asking the most difficult and searching questions about what writing is and is not capable of, and applying the answers in practice every week.
The course begins with wide-ranging sessions on what works and what doesn’t work for a writer. Then it moves on to more architectural topics, setting a new challenge each week. Students will see each of these exemplified in texts by experienced writers, some of whom are listed in the bibliography. Then they will try each form of writing themselves. These might include evoking a place, reviewing a building and analyzing how it works both spatially and technically, making links between architecture and ideas, writing about structures from a remote culture, writing about a particular designer, writing about a historical period, ‘architecture and…’ exploring the connection between architecture and art, science, technology or another human activity. All of these experiments will be firmly grounded in built reality and particular cases. The module will draw constantly on its two convenors’ experience in every phase of writing about architecture, from conception to publication and from short reviews to books of ambitious scope.

Learning and teaching

The module is delivered in weekly seminar sessions. Discussion of texts are combined with students' presentations who will explain their approach to that week’s problem, after which their writing will be examined in depth by the class, all of whom will also have tried the same assignment themselves.

Opportunities for pdp are available through the development of practical writingskills in the context of peer review.

Learning outcomes

On completing the module the student should be able to:

1. show fluency in their knowledge and understanding of architectural writers;
2. analyze what is involved in a writing project;
3. demonstrate skill and confidence in writing effectively in a variety of modes for a range of different audiences.

Assessment strategy

The assessment will be based on a compilation of the weekly writing assignments, together with a short preface and conclusion that supply an overview of the experiment. This composite piece of work is intended to be equivalent in scope and scale to the standard essay of 4500words; it will count for 75% of the mark. The class presentation will make up the remaining 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. Bachelard, Gaston, Poetics of Space (New York: Orion Press, 1964)

2. Banham, Reyner, Los Angeles, The Architecture of Four Ecologies (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990)

3. Barthes, Roland, Empire of Signs (New York: Hill & Wang, 1982)
4. Calvino, Italo, Invisible Cities (London: Pan Books, 1979)
5. Kafka, Franz, Parables and Paradoxes (New York: Schocken, 1961)
6. Koolhaas, Rem, Delirious New York (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 1994)
7. Larkin, Philip, Collected Poems (London: Marvell, 1988)

8. Le Corbusier, Radiant City (London: Faber & Faber, 1967)
9. Kostof, Spiro, A History of Architecture: settings and rituals (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985)

10. Ruskin, John, The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849)

11. Shepheard, Paul, What is Architecture?(Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1994)

12. Summerson, John, The Classical Language of Architecture (London: BBC, 1963)