Summer Course - Aesthetic Autopsies ARCH 179-001, 3 credits

Attention All Architecture Students!  The following course will be offered in 
Summer Session C...

AESTHETIC AUTOPSIES
ARCH 179-001, 3 credits

Instructor: Braden Engel, archengel@berkeley.edu

CLASS TIME: 18 June – 10 August, 2012 (Session C)
                           Tuesday & Thursday, 9am-12pm
LOCATION:   104 Wurster

Course Description:
If we find a mound in the forest, six foot long and three foot wide,
formed into a pyramid shape by a shovel we become serious and something
within us says, ‘Someone lies buried here’.  This is architecture.
Adolf Loos, “Architecture” 1910

au•top•sy [<Gr autos, self + opsis, a sight] examination of a dead body to
discover the cause of death.

Histories of architecture are full of descriptions of dead buildings.
Historians, then, write eulogies, or at best, belated biographies. But if
this is the case, then what was the cause of death, and who is
responsible? The etymology of the term “autopsy” reveals that it is
essentially an act of seeing oneself. But, just as the deceased can longer
enquire into their own death, buildings are not aware of themselves, so an
outside correspondent is needed. And thus the post-mortem begins.

This course takes an overtly skeptical approach to historiography – the
analysis and writing of architectural histories – treating them as various
forms of aesthetic malpractice. For if works of architecture are works of
art that dynamically participate in aesthetic performances (and thus very
much “alive and kicking”), then any historian or critic who leaves a
victim in stiff rigormortis must be treated as a suspect. Each student
will assume two roles: Investigator and Coroner. Not unlike homicide
detectives, students will conduct rigorous investigations into the
motives, alibis and “weapons” used in architectural murders. By carefully
examining the corpse (building), students will also attempt to determine
time and cause of death.

The final submission will attempt the perverse exercise of the live
autopsy, or pre-mortem. By visits to buildings in the Bay Area students
will furnish visual material accompanied by written analyses seeking to
treat the work as a living, aesthetic body. In the foreground of the
interrogations and diagnoses compiled throughout the term, these living
autopsies will exhibit the ability of the students to both critically
engage with past interpretations of buildings and argue their own
analytical and aesthetic positions.

Hope to have you in the course!

Kind regards,

Braden Engel