module specification

AR7068 - Architecture and Modern Cultural Thought (2023/24)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2023/24
Module title Architecture and Modern Cultural Thought
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 200
155 hours Guided independent study
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Seminar 25%   Seminar presentation
Coursework 75%   4,000 word essay
Running in 2023/24

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

Module summary

The module examines the major epistemological and social changes, which led to the development of various avant-garde creative practices, characteristic of the international culture of the 20th – beginning of 21st century.

Module aims

The module aims to enable students to embrace, analyze, and conceptually evaluate the wide and heterogeneous spectrum of modern and postmodern creative practices in a broader context of the development of human knowledge in the 20th century. On the basis of this module students are expected to make the shift from a mere citation of the elements of contemporary formal and visual vocabularies to a conscious choice of their means of expression, developed out of their own personal, well-informed and responsible socio-cultural position.


Contemporary professionals in creative fields, including architecture, are compelled to deal in their everyday practice with the consequences of ongoing large-scale socio-cultural shifts, which can be roughly defined as linguistic, performative, pictorial, and network-digital revolutions (Peter Weibel). This module helps students to reveal correlations between these radical changes and the main directions of the 20th century scientific and humanitarian thought – quantum physics and chaos theory, phenomenology, Russian formalism, logical positivism, structuralism, hermeneutics, deconstruction and post-structuralism. While supplementing and extending the history and theory course of the first year, this module helps students to develop skills of independent judgment and precise cognitive orientation within the complex and sometimes dizzying variety of creative manifestations of modern culture.

Focusing in the first place on the relationships between sensual experience and text, the module brings to the fore the profound role of studies of language and sign systems in the formation of 20th century avant-garde and contemporary art. In order to maintain productive ties between abstract theoretical issues and practical tasks of architecture, the analysis of texts by prominent philosophers of the 20th century is paired with the study of theoretical texts, more immediately related to visual arts, design practice and urbanism.

Selected pairs of authors might include: Ferdinand Saussure and William J. Mitchell, Edmund Husserl and Peter Zumthor, Russian Formalists and Kazemir Malevich, Claude Levi-Strauss and Aldo van Eyck, Martin Heidegger and Massimo Cacciari, Michael Foucault and M. Christine Boyer, Theodor Adorno and Kevin Lynch, Jacques Derrida and Mark Wigley, Hans-Georg Gadamer and Christian Norberg-Schulz, Jean Baudrillard and Edward Soya, Guy Debord and Constant Nieuwenhujs, Gilles Deleuze / Felix Guattari and Pavel Florensky, Bruno Latour and Alexander Bogdanov. The pairs of text either directly supplement each other or form meaningful juxtapositions, which help to reinforce the dialogical format of learning. The module includes a subsection called ‘Intellectual Interventions’, – a series of individual lectures by leading Moscow and international intellectuals from various fields (philosophy, science, art theory, sociology, new media, experimental music etc.); the lecturers will be asked to project the key topics and problems of their own current professional activity onto the field of architecture and urbanism.

Learning and teaching

The lecture course will be supported by a printed reader of selected texts. Students will be assigned to write short reviews / comments on selected readings for each weekly seminar. Most successful reviews will be developed into student’s individual presentations. Towards the end of the module students will be asked to propose a theme for a 5,000 words essay related to both the theme of the module and the theme of their architectural studio project. Students will articulate and critically develop their own position through the choice of essay topics, supported by individual consultations, and suggestions for independent additional reading.

Learning outcomes

On completing the module the student should be able to:

    read and interpret key texts of various 20th century intellectual trends, particularly in relationship to langauge and sign systems;
    articulate his/her own personal understanding of the specificity of contemporary globalized cultural systems, through exploring particular relationships with the past and/or with particular territory;    
    make productive discursive links between the main theoretical concepts of  the 20th century and his/her design practice and professional interests;
    understand and employ conceptual instruments of semiotic, media and other theories in his/her professional thinking and design practice;
    put forward a sound critical thesis and express it effectively in writing.

Assessment strategy

Assessment will be based on a class presentation of one of the pairs of set texts (25%) and an essay of 5, 000 words on the topic, proposed by a student, which will reflect both the theme of the module and the theme of his/her architectural studio project (75%).


1. Adorno: Адорно Т.В. Эстетическая теория. Москва, «Республика», 2001.
2. Baudrillard: Бодрийяр Ж. Символический обмен и смерть. Москва, «Добросвет», 2000.
3. Bogdanov: Богданов А. О пролетарской культуре. Ленинград, «Книга», 1924.
4. Boyer: Бойер М. К. Как работают вещи: схемы и диаграммы. – Проект International 19, Москва, 2008.
5. Cacciari: Каччари М. Эвпалинос или Архитектура. – Проект International 20, Москва, 2009.
6. Debord: Дебор Г. Общество спектакля. Мocква, «Логос», 1999.
7. Deleuze-Guattari: Делёз Ж., Гваттари Ф. Тысяча плато: капитализм и шизофрения. Москва, «У-фактория-Астрель», 2010.
8. Derrida: JaquesDerrida. ‘Architecturewheredesiremaylive’, interviewwithEvaMeyer, Domus, vol. 671, 1986, pp. 17–25.
9. Florensky: Флоренский П.А. У водоразделов мысли. Москва, «Правда», 1990.
10. Foucault: Фуко М. Другие пространства: об утопиях и гетеротопиях. – Проект International 19, Москва, 2008.
11. Gadamer: Гадамер Х.- Г. Актуальность прекрасного. Москва, «Искусство», 1991.
12. Heidegger: Хайдеггер М. Строить обитать мыслить. – Проект International 20, Москва, 2009.
13. Husserl: Гуссерль Э. Кризис европейских наук и трансцендентальная феноменология: Введение в феноменологическую философию. С-Петербург, 2004.
14. Press, 2000, pp. 660–675.
15. Latour, Bruno and Weibel, Peter (Eds). Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy MIT Press, 2005.
16. Latour: Латур
Б. Сферы и сети: Два способа реинтерпретировать глобализацию. – Проект International 31, Москва, 2012.
17. Levi-Strauss: Леви-Стросс К. Тотемизм сегодня; Неприрученная мысль. Москва, «Академический проект», 2008
18. Lynch: Линч К. Образ города. Москва, «Стройиздат», 1982.
19. Malevich: Бог не скинут. Искусство, церковь, фабрика. Витебск, «УНОВИС», 1922.
20. Mitchell: Уильям Митчелл. Я++. Человек, город, сети. Москва, StrelkaPress, 2012.
21. Nieuwenhujs: Ньивенхёйс
К. Новый урбанизм. – Проект International 24, Москва, 2009.
22. Norberg-Schulz: Норберг-Шульц
К. Смысл в архитектуре, – Проект International 30, Москва, 2011
23. Quantumtheory / Chaostheory: Гейзенберг В. Избранные философские работы: Шаги за горизонт. Часть и целое (Беседы вокруг атомной физики). Санкт-Петербург, «Наука», 2006; Порядок из хаоса: Новый диалог человека с природой. Москва, «Прогресс», 1986.
24. RussianFormalists: Шкловский В.Б. Гамбургский счет. Статьи, воспоминания, эссе (1914-1933). Москва, «Советский писатель», 1990; Медведев П.Н. Формальный метод в литературоведении. Москва, «Лабиринт», 1993.
25. Saussure: Соссюр Ф. де. Труды по языкознанию. Москва, «Прогресс», 1977.
26. Soja: Сойя Э.-У. Дигитальные сообщества, 
Сим-сити и гиперреальность
повседневной жизни. – Проект International 15, Москва, 2007.
27. A. van Eyck: Aldo van Eyck. The interior of time. A Miracle of moderation. – in Charles Jencks and George Baird ed. Meaning in Architecture. London, Barrie and Rockliff, The Cresset Press, 1969, pp. 151–213.
28. Wigley: Mark Wigley. 'The translation of architecture, the production of Babel’, – in K. Michael Hays ed. Architecture theory since 1968, Cambridge MA. – London, the MIT Press
29. Zumthor: Peter Zumthor. Thinking Architecture. Basel – Boston – Berlin, Birkhauser, 1999