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   ARCH 703

 

 

  Environmental

  Aesthetics

 

 

   Fall 2009

   Dr. David Seamon

 

Overview

Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the beautiful. This course explores the aesthetics of the natural and built environments, including landscapes, places, and buildings. A major emphasis is contrasting philosophical approaches, including semiotic, Marxist-structural, post-structural, and phenomenological perspectives. The course is conducted as a seminar and includes group discussion on readings. Students read from the following books as well as from photocopied articles that will be available for reading and copying in Weigel Library (in box on center table) and as PDFs at K-State On-Linear sit. Note the last two books listed, by Emily Brady and Robert Mugerauer, are recommended rather than required.

 

Required Texts

Christopher Alexander. A New Theory of Urban Form. NY: Oxford University Press, 1987. A provocative effort to develop a way of designing that creates a sense of place, order, and life in the modern city.

 

Thomas Thiis-Evensen. Archetypes in Architecture. NY: Oxford University Press, 1989. A study of the essential elements of architecture, which Thiis-Evensen argues can be understood in terms of floor, wall, and roof. An important effort to establish an aesthetic language of the built environment grounded in lived environmental and architectural experience.

 

Recommended Text

Emily Brady. Aesthetics of the Natural Environment. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 2003. A systematic account of human aesthetics and the natural environment, including an historical overview. A useful articulation of various conceptual approaches to aesthetic themes and issues.

 

Tentative Outline (the listed selections are to be read for that evening's class; numbers in bold refer to numbers of PDFs as listed in K-State On-Line files)

 

Aug 24: Introduction to Aesthetics and Ways of Seeing: The Aesthetic Field

            Readings to be discussed:

1.      Class syllabus.

 

Aug 31: The Nature of Environmental Aesthetics

            Readings to be discussed:

                        1. Ian H. Thompson, “Natural Aesthetics,” pp. 13- 25 of chap. 2 in Ecology, Community and Delight (NY: Wiley, 20000); photocopy in Weigel & available for reading or copying on center table; original book on reserve; available as PDF, K-State On-Line. [1a]

                        2. Richard E. Chenoweth & Paul H. Gobster, “The Nature and Ecology of Aesthetic Experiences in the Landscape,” Landscape Journal, vol. 9, no. 1 (1990), pp. 1-8; photocopy in Weigel & available for reading or copying on center table; available as PDF, K-State On-Line. [2]

                        3.  Juhani Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses, Part 1, pp. 6-25 (London: Academy Editions, 1996); photocopy in Weigel  & available for reading or copying on center table; original book on reserve; PDF, K-State On-Line. [3a]

                        4. Thomas Thiis-Evensen, Archetypes in Architecture, preface, introduction, & opening section on floor; pp. l-49 (NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987); required text; also on reserve in Weigel & available as PDF, K-State On-Line. [4a & 4b (1st part)]

 

Sept. 7: NO CLASS—LABOR DAY HOLIDAY

 

Sept 14: Floors, Stairs and Natural Symbols: Phenomenological Approaches to Environmental Aesthetics

            Readings to be discussed:

                        1. Ian H. Thompson, “Natural Aesthetics,” pp. 25-36 of chap. 2 in Ecology, Community and Delight  (NY: Wiley, 20000); photocopy in Weigel & available for reading or copying on center table; original book on reserve; PDF, K-State On-Line. [1b]

                        2. Juhani Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin, Part 2, pp. 26-56; photocopy in Weigel; PDF, K-State On-Line; [3b]

                                                3. Thomas Thiis-Evensen, Archetypes in Architecture, floor & stairs, pp. 50-57 & 87-105; PDF, K-State On-Line; [4b (2nd part) & 4c]

4. Karsten Harries, “The Voices of Space,” Center: A Journal of Architecture in America, vol. 4 (1988), pp. 34-49, photocopy in Weigel; PDF, K-State On-Line. [5]

 

Sept 21: Walls, Landscapes, and Natural Symbols

            Readings to be discussed:

                        1.  Thiis-Evensen, Archetypes, pp. 114-167; 192-219; on reserve & PDF, K-State On-Line. [4c, 4d & 4e]

                        2. Sherry Dorward, Design for Mountain Communities (NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1990), chap. 3, pp. 41-51; chap. 11, pp. 295-336, photocopy in Weigel; book on reserve; PDF, K-State On-Line. [6a, 6b, 6c, & 6d]

                        3. David Gebhard, “The Myth and Power of Place: Hispanic Revivalism in the American Southwest,” pp. 143-158 in N. C.f Markovich, W. E. Preiser, & F. G. Sturm, eds., Pueblo Style and Regional Architecture (NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1990); book on reserve; photocopy in Weigel; PDF, K-State On-Line. [7]

 

Sept 28: Walls, Peril, and the Deconstructionist Approach to Environmental Aesthetics

            Readings to be discussed:

1.      Thiis-Evensen, Archetypes, pp. 220-39; 251-97; PDF, K-State On-Line. [4f, 4g, 4h, 4i, 4j]

2.        Michael Brill, An Architecture of Peril: Design for A Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, Carlsbad, NM, Environmental and Architectural Phenomenology Newsletter, vol. 4, no. 3 (1993), pp.8-10; photocopy in Weigel; PDF, K-State On-Line. [8]

3.      Robert Mugerauer, “Derrida and Beyond,” Center: A Journal of Architecture in America, vol. 4 (1988), pp. 66-75; photocopy in Weige; PDF, K-State On-Line.[9]

4.      Mikita Brottman, “The Last Stop of Desire: The Aesthetics of the Shopping Center,” in A. Berleant & A. Carlson, eds., The Aesthetics of Human Environments. Petersborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, pp. 119-38, photocopy in Weigel; book on reserve; PDF, K-State On-Line. [10]

 

Oct 5: NO CLASS—FALL BREAK

 

Oct 12: Approaches to Aesthetics: Semiotics and Prospect-Refuge Theory

            Readings to be discussed:

                        1. Charles Jencks, “Introduction” & “A Semantic Analysis of Stirling's Olivetti Centre Wing,” in G. Broadbent, R. Bunt, & C. Jencks, eds. Signs, Symbols, and Architecture (NY: Wiley, 1980), pp. 7-10 & pp. 233-241; photocopy in Weigel; book on reserve; PDF, K-State On-Line. 11]

                        2. Grant Hildebrand, Origins of Architectural Pleasure (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), chap. 2, “Finding a Good Home,” pp. 15-49; photocopy in Weigel; book on reserve; PDF, K-State On-Line. [12]

                        2. Jay Appleton, The Experience of Landscape (NY: Wiley, 1975), chap. 3, "Behaviour and Environment," pp. 58-80, photocopy in Weigel; book on reserve; PDF, K-State On-Line. [13]

 

Oct 19: Cognitive, Visual, and Formalist Approaches to Aesthetics

            Readings to be discussed:

                                                1. Matthew Carmona, Tim Heath, Taner Oc, & Steve Tiesdell, Public Places, Urban Spaces: The Dimensions of Urban Design (London: Elsevier, 2003), chap. 7, “The Visual Dimension,” pp. 130-64; photocopy in Weigel; book on reserve; PDF, K-State On-Line. [14]

                        2. Linda N. Groat, "Contextual Compatibility in Architecture: An Issue of Personal Taste?" in Jack L. Nasar, ed. Environmental Aesthetics (NY: Cambridge, 1988), pp. 228-253 (photocopy); PDF, K-State On-Line. [15]

                        3. Daniel J. Levi, “Does History Matter? Perceptions and Attitudes Toward Fake Historic Architecture and Historic Preservation” Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, vol. 22, no. 2 (2005), pp. 148-159;photocopy in Weigel; PDF, K-State On-Line. 16]

                        4. Ruth Connell, “The Deceptive Environment: The Architecture of Security,” in G. Backhaus & J. Murungi, eds., Transformations of Urban and Suburban Landscapes (NY: Lexington Books, 2002), pp. 81-95; photocopy in Weigel; book on reserve; PDF, K-State On-Line. [17]

 

Oct 26: Artistic, Historical, and Marxist-Structural Approaches to Aesthetics

            Readings to be discussed:

                        1. Dominic Riccioti, “Symbols and Monuments: Images of the Skyscraper in American Art,” Landscape, vol. 25, no. 2 (1981), pp. 22-29; photocopy in Weigel; PDF, K-State On-Line. [18]

                        2. Mona Domash, “Those ‘Sudden Peaks that Scrape the Sky’: The Changing Imagery of New York's First Skyscrapers,” in Place Images in the Media, L. Zonn, ed. (Savage, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1991) (photocopy); PDF, K-State On-Line. [19]

                        3. Kimberley Dovey, “Corporate Towers and Symbolic Capital,” Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, vol. 19 (1992), pp. 173-88; photocopy in Weigel; PDF, K-State On-Line. [20]

 

Nov 2: NO CLASS—Prof. Seamon at IAEP Conference, Washington, DC

 

Nov 9: Environmental Aesthetics and Differences in Taste: The Example of Public Art

1.      Mary McLeod, “The Battle for the Monument: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial,” in K. L. Eggener, ed., American Architectural History (NY: Routledge, 2004), pp. 380-404; photocopy in Weigel; book on reserve; PDF, K-State On-Line. [21]

2.      James Dickinson, “In Its Place: Site and Meaning in Richard Serra’s Public Sculpture,” in A. Light & J. M. Smith, eds., Philosophies of Place (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998), pp. 45-72; photocopy in Weigel; book on reserve; PDF, K-State On-Line. [22]

 

Nov 16: Pattern Languages and Aesthetics

            Readings to be discussed:

                        1. Christopher Alexander, A New Theory of Urban Design (NY: Oxford University Press, 1987). Read Part I, “Theory,” pp. 1-99; required text; copy on reserve in Weigel; [23]

                        2. If you are not familiar with Christopher Alexander's Pattern Language (New York: Oxford, l977), please spend some time browsing through it. Copies are on reserve in Weigel. Pay particular attention to pp. ix‑xxxiv and select two patterns that strike you as good and two that strike you as weak;

                        3. Stephen A. Mouzon, Traditional Construction Patterns (NY: McGraw-Hill, 2004); pp. 1-14; pp. 58-73; photocopy in Weigel; book on reserve; PDF, K-State On-Line. [24]

                        4. Rachel Kaplan, Stephen Kaplan, & Robert L. Ryan, With People in Mind: Design and Management of Everyday Nature (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1998); pp. ix-xi; pp. 3-6; pp. 31-48; pp. 81-87; photocopy in Weigel; book on reserve; PDF, K-State On-Line. [25]

 

Nov 23: Christopher Alexander’s Approach to Environmental Aesthetics

            Readings to be discussed:

1.      Christopher Alexander, A New Theory, Part II, “Experiment,” pp. 100-79; required text; copy on reserve in Weigel; ]23]

2.      Christopher Alexander, The Nature of Order, Volume 1: The Phenomenon of Life (Berkeley: Center for Environmental Structure, 2002), “Prologue” & “Preface,” pp. 1-24; chap. 3, “Wholeness and the Theory of Centers,” pp. 80-98; photocopy in Weigel; copy of reserve in Weigel; PDF, K-State On-Line. [26a]

3.      M. Silverstein, “The First Roof: Interpreting a Spatial Pattern,” in David Seamon, Dwelling, Seeing and Designing (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1993); photocopy in Weigel; copy of book on reserve in Weigel; PDF, K-State On-Line. [27]

 

Nov 30: A New Theory of Urban Design

1.      Christopher Alexander, A New Theory, Part II, “Experiment” & Part III, “Evaluation,  pp. 179-249; required text; copy on reserve in Weigel. [28]

2.      Christopher Alexander, The Nature of Order, Volume 1: The Phenomenon of Life, chap. 5, “Fifteen Fundamental Properties,” pp. 144-78, which discuss the first five properties  (levels of scale, strong centers, boundaries, alternative repetition, and positive space); photocopy in Weigel; copy of reserve in Weigel; PDF, K-State On-Line. [26b]

3.      To get a sense of Alexander’s designed and built works, browse through A Vision of a Living World (2004), which is the third volume of The Nature of Order; this volume is on reserve at Weigel.

 

Dec. 7: Class Presentations

 

Dec. 14: Class Presentations

 

Take-Home Examination due: Thursday, December 17, 5 pm.

 

Class Project

Since this class is an upper‑level course, I feel that students should have the freedom to pursue a research or field project in which they have a personal interest. Please keep your thoughts open to a possible topic in the first few weeks of class; I will ask for a specific focus about the fifth week. Graduate students should consider a topic that would help them develop and focus their thesis or dissertation work.

 

What I do ask is that your topic arises in some way from class readings and discussions. Let's say, for example, that you find a particular author interesting. You might want to take his or her point of view and apply it to a particular building or place—for example, doing a Thiis-Evensen analysis of a particular architect or particular building or buildings. Or you find the work of one particular author interesting—for example, Thomas Thiis-Evensen, Jay Appleton, or Karsten Harries—and decide that you would like to look at his or her work in greater detail. Or you might want to select a particular architect or designer and use some of the themes we discuss to explore that person's work.

In short, I am leaving the focus of your class project open. I will expect you to speak to me sometime fairly early in the semester about what particular topics you are considering.

 

Grades will be based on the following criteria:

            l. Attendance (twenty per cent of grade). I expect students to attend all classes, since we meet only once a week. One absence is acceptable, but any beyond that will affect your grade. Please let me know beforehand if you will not be attending class.

            2. Reading reports. I require a weekly 1‑2 pp. report on readings. This essay should express your reactions to the readings—e.g., what you liked, disliked, found useful, found questionable, etc. (thirty percent). Please note that I do not want a summary of the readings but rather, an “opinion piece,” grounded in your personal response to the readings. Comparing and contrasting the readings is often a valuable tool to use in the paper.

            3. Class project (see above)(thirty percent).

            4. A Take‑Home Problem at the end of the semester. This exercise will work as a final exam. I will prepare several essay questions, and you will answer two. These essays will be broad in focus and will be due the week of exams (twenty percent).

As students know, the academic honor code is an integral part of the Kansas State University grading system. All students in this seminar agree to the KSU honor code, which states that: On my honor, I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on the academic work I have done for this seminar.

Contacting Instructor

My office is Seaton, Rm. 202C, and the phone there is 532‑1121. My office hours are 10:30‑11:30am, M‑W‑F. Please stop by if you have any questions or problems. Email: triad@ksu.edu. Please note that any student with a disability who needs an accommodation or other assistance in this course should contact me in the first two weeks of the course.

Cover image: Caspar David Friedrich’s The Wanderer above the Mists (1818)

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