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The Opening of our Architectural History | Architect Magazine

Aaron Betsky on the move towards a more complex and global approach to teaching the past.

   Flickr/Creative Commons License/James Kerwin The abandoned diamond town of Kolmanskop, Namibia

Flickr/Creative Commons License/James Kerwin The abandoned diamond town of Kolmanskop, Namibia

By Aaron Betsky

When we speak of architecture history—or the history of just about every other cultural field—we usually mean the history of architecture in Europe and the United States, with a few examples thrown in from South and Central America, Asia and, very occasionally, Africa. I think this is true for much of the world outside of the “West,” even if an architecture history course in Mexico might include a good number of local buildings and design work, or a course in Beijing would highlight that country’s heritage. Our history is biased and dominated by educational models, traditions, and textbooks produced, usually in English, in the U.S. and Europe.

That era is coming to an end, however, a fact that was accentuated by the announcement that my alma mater, Yale University, is dropping its introductory course in art history, replacing it with an array of offerings that highlight the arts of different cultures. I learned the basics of what I thought was the full history of art and architecture from Vincent Scully in his introductory courses, and his passionate sweep through those centuries-long narratives was a major reason why I went into the field. The breadth and beauty of the work he presented with such verve and precision convinced me that the careful study of art and architecture were the best ways to understand human endeavors.

The obvious answer to these issues is to abandon the notion of both the historical progression and the spatial sweep that a true survey class would necessitate. It also means treating your classes—and, by extension, the history of art and architecture—more like a collage than a hierarchical and focused body of knowledge.

Read on >>> Source: Architect The Opening of our Architectural History | Architect Magazine

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