module specification

CP4012 - Critical & Contextual Studies 1 (Architecture) (2022/23)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2022/23
Module title Critical & Contextual Studies 1 (Architecture)
Module level Certificate (04)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 300
225 hours Guided independent study
75 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 33% 40 Patchwork and Reflection
Coursework 33% 40 Case Study
Coursework 34% 40 Essay
Running in 2022/23

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year City Tuesday Afternoon
Year (Spring and Summer) City Tuesday Afternoon

Module summary

Critical and Contextual Studies (CCS) Level 4 aims to orient and critically engage students in the history and theory of their discipline, its extent and conventions, and its broader social and material context in culture and contemporary practice.

The module helps students to reflect on what they see, and to read connections between different ideas that have shaped their discipline. In particular the module investigates how thinking and articulating ideas about practice in their field might be framed – for example in relation to history, the economy, society and the environment, or through theory and practice.

The module introduces students to a range of academic skills needed to produce a graduate-level study in their final year. It helps students to develop their own interests, and to reflect on and take responsibility for the development of their own learning. This includes surveys in the history of their discipline, research and writing workshops, seminars, library sessions, visits and tours in addition to guided independent learning.


Critical and Contextual Studies Level 4 is structured in the form of three equally-weighted, intensive teaching blocks. Each of these blocks culminates in a summative assessment. Assessments include a range of different modes of written assignments such as patchwork-writing, a case study, or an essay. The first assessment includes a 500–700 word learning reflection element. The syllabus and assessments are designed to support the development of academic skills, including inductions to using libraries and archives, critical reading skills, presentation skills, writing skills, working with feedback, avoiding plagiarism, referencing, as well as note taking, planning and time management skills. The following themes and activities are indicative.

Context and Practice  L.O 1–6 

This block introduces students to the subject and practice of architecture and interior architecture and the professional context within which they sit in society and the constructed environment.  Lectures, seminars, workshops and visits will enable students to explore issues of professionalism and to study current and past forms of architectural and design practice.  Working in groups and individually students investigate a range of study and management skills and methods used to communicate within the industry and to its range of users and intended audiences.

Histories and Texts  L.O 1–6

This survey course introduces the history of western architecture, interior design and urban form from Ancient Greece to the 19th century. Lectures take a broad view, concentrating on canonical examples, comparing them with works of art of the same period and setting them broadly in their social and political context. In the seminars, students discuss texts written during the period in question as well as texts written by historians. They also write short critical texts of their own, based on what they have learnt in lectures and experienced in the streets and museums of London. The aim of the course is to familiarise students with the common stock of examples drawn upon in theoretical and critical writings, and to encourage critical thinking and the coherent expression of ideas.

Histories and Theories  L.O 1–6

The course continues the historical survey of architecture, interior design and urban form begun in ‘Histories and Texts’, bringing the story up to the present day and introducing non-western traditions. Canonical examples are compared with works of art of the same period and set in their social and political context. Seminars constitute a thematic course in basic architectural theory, introducing important ideas such as representation, language, form and the organic metaphor, in plain English. Students write short theoretical texts of their own and are encouraged to express their ideas clearly and simply. The theory course forms a foundation for more advanced studies in ‘Architecture and Modernity: by Design’ (Level 5)

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 are expected to, and have the opportunity to, continue with their studies outside of scheduled classes. There will be a range of learning strategies deployed and individual learning styles will be accommodated. The module’s learning outcomes, its contents and delivery, have been scrutinised and will be regularly reviewed to ensure an inclusive approach to pedagogic practice.

The module and course utilise the University’s blended learning platform to support and reinforce learning, to foster peer-to-peer communication and to facilitate tutorial support for students. Reflective learning is promoted through assessment items and interim formative feedback points that ask students to reflect on their progress, seek help where they identify the opportunity for improvement in learning strategies and outcomes, and make recommendations to themselves for future development. Throughout the module, students build a body of work, including reflections on progress and achievement.

The School’s programme of employability events and embedded work-related learning within the curriculum supports students’ personal development planning. Through these initiatives, students are increasingly able, as they progress from year to year, to understand the professional environment of their disciplines, the various opportunities available to them, and how to shape their learning according to their ambitions.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module students will be able:

1. To use information retrieval systems effectively and develop appropriate methods for collecting, organising and deploying knowledge
2. To read, analyse and interpret different kinds of written texts and other key sources of documented knowledge, such as recorded sound or images, objects and artefacts
3. To demonstrate familiarity with the scope of their discipline and its and broader ethical, historical, social, cultural, economic and practice-based contexts
4. To articulate a critical understanding of the objects of their study, using a range of written forms of presentation, noting specific terms, languages, references, genres and audiences
5. To become aware of the relationship between the theories and practices of their discipline in its creative application
6. To effectively respond to and reflect upon feedback on their own work in order to develop and improve their learning.

Assessment strategy

The module is assessed in a developmental way and structured as a sequence of summative assessments submitted at the end of each teaching block. Students receive formative tutorials before each submission, and feedback during the first session of the following block. This helps students to build and improve skills as the syllabus progresses and distributes time spent preparing for assessments evenly throughout the year. Assessments comprise different types of written texts that enable students to use different modes of presentation, for example:

1. patchwork assessment and short written exercises (900–1,200 words) and learning reflection submission (500–700 words);
2. case study or studies (900–1,200 words);
3. essay (1,700–2,200 words).

The word count for the whole module is between 4,000–5,300 words.  

Module assessment criteria:
1. application and engagement;
2. quality of content (research, accuracy, relevance, scope);
3. quality of presentation (English, references, terminology, literacy, protocols);
4. effective structure (clarity, links, synthesis);
5. deployment of critical and analytical skills (argument, interpretation, discussion).

Students must pass all three coursework components individually at 40% in order to be eligible for the BA (Hons) Interior Architecture and Design, BA (Hons) Interior Design and BA (Hons) Interior Design and Decoration awards.


The Critical and Contextual Studies reading list is responsive to emergent ideas, and designed to introduce students to current debates in their discipline and a broad range of different resources. The critical analysis of recent publications and materials is supported by a set of core readings. The following list is indicative.

Context and Practice
• Forty A. (2002) Objects of Desire; design and society since 1750
• Hertzberger H. (1991) Lessons for Students in Architecture
• Deamer, P., and K. Lewin (2011) “Practicing Practice.” Perspecta 44: Domain(2011): 160-203.
• Koolhaas R. and Mau, B (1997) S.M.L.XL.
• Kostof S. (1983) The Architect: chapters in the history of the profession

Histories and Texts 
• Kostof, S. (1995) A history of architecture: settings and rituals. Oxford University Press
• Pevsner, N (1964) An outline of European architecture, Harmondsworth, Penguin
• Millon, H. A. (1964) Key monuments of the history of architecture, Prentice-Hall, New York
• Bruno, G. (2002) Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art, Architecture and Film, Verso
• Harbison, R. (2006) Travels in the history of architecture, Reaktion

Histories and Theories 
• Frampton, K. (1980) Modern Architecture: A Critical History. New York: Oxford UP
• Wigglesworth, S., and Jeremy Till (1998). The everyday and architecture. Vol. 134. Architectural Design
• Honour, Hugh and John Fleming (1982) A World History of Art. London: Laurence King
• Davies, C. (2011) Thinking about architecture, Laurence King
• Nesbitt, K, editor (1996) Theorizing a new agenda for architecture: an anthology of architectural theory 1965-1995, Princeton Architectural Press

Journals, Websites and Databases
• Journals: Architectural Review, The Architect’s Journal
• Websites:
• Electronic databases: JSTOR, Art full text