American Architecture 58.314/201/301
Dr. Marie Frank


20th century art image

Syllabus of Lectures


COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course will begin with Native American architecture and extend to the present. Although it will proceed chronologically, course lectures will follow a number of themes that stem from one question: what makes architecture in America "American"? This question will give us a basis for understanding the contributions of some of our greatest architects, the popularity of certain movements, the response to environment and landscape, and the repeated interest in technology and new materials.


Please purchase two books: D. Handlin, American Architecture; and P. Johnson, The International Style.
You will also be given a reader with photocopied extracts from L. Roth, America Builds. It is very important to read these extracts!
Readings on reserve:
-W. Cronon, Changes in the Land.
-A. Friedman, Women and the Making of the Modern House: A Social and Architectural History.
-A. Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
-R. Wilson, The American Renaissance.

A homepage for this course includes all the images for which you are responsible on exams.


Tests. There will be one quiz (worth 10%), a mid-term (worth 20%), a final (worth 30%); questions on these tests will stem from class lectures, the readings, and points of discussion raised in class.

Projects. There are two projects for this class (worth 20% each). For the first, you will design your dream house (in any medium you choose!); in the second, you will expand on its location and response to its environment. The details will be provided on a separate sheet.

he course includes five field trips. Most of these will occur on weekends--let me know if this is a problem for anyone.


Note: Each week you will read regularly from the Handlin book; in addition, I have noted extra readings from the reserve list for each week. You must come to class prepared to discuss the reserve readings!

Week One: Introduction and Native American

Read: Handlin, p. 9-36; Cronon in its entirety.

Week Two: Colonial architecture of Spain, France, the Netherlands, and England
Read: Handlin: p. 39-70.

Week Three: Early 19th century. Fieldtrip: Lowell’s Mills
Read: Handlin, p. 70-100; Roth handout

Week Four: Mid-century. Quiz 1: February
Read: Handlin, p. 100-132; Downing handout.

Week Five: The American Renaissance
Read: Handlin, p. 132-167; Wilson, chapters 1 and 6.

Week Six: The Home: the Prairie School and Wright. Guest speaker on 19th century materials
Read: Speaker’s handout; Roth.

Week Seven: The City: The Skyscraper. Mid-term: March 6
Read: Roth.

Week Eight: Art Deco and Industrial Design.
Read: Handlin, p. 167-197.

Week Nine: The International Style. First project due: March
Read: Handlin, 197-232; and Johnson, introduction and chapter 4.

Week Ten: High Modernism. Guest Speaker on Gender and Architecture
Read: Friedman

Week Eleven: The 1950's. Fieldtrip: Urban Planning Office, Lowell
Read: Handlin, p. 232-268; and Leopold

Week Twelve: Post Modernism. Guest Speaker on Historic Preservation
Read: Handlin, p. 268-279; Roth handout

Week Thirteen: Sustainable Design
Read: A. Stang, The Green House

Week Fourteen: Current work. Second project due: April

Final: May