MITx MOOC aims to start worldwide conversation about global architecture (MIT News)

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MITx course aims to start worldwide conversation about global architecture

4.605x A Global History of Architecture offers fresh perspective on the principles and forces at play in the discipline.

Mark Brown
Office of Digital Learning

Mark Jarzombek, MIT Professor of the History and Theory of Architecture, is already deeply familiar with the concepts behind global architecture—he has authored and co-authored two highly regarded books in the field, “A Global History of Architecture” (Wiley Press, 2006) and “Architecture of First Societies: A Global Perspective” (Wiley Press, 2013). Starting this September, however, he’ll gain a whole new appreciation for what it means to teach globally when he launches 4.605x A Global History of Architecture. “I used to teach this course to 35 students each semester, and now I will be teaching it to 35,000. Of course,” he jokes, “I don’t know how many of them will survive till the end.”

A favorite among students for his engaging lectures, Jarzombek takes his subject matter very seriously. “I learned architecture in a very Eurocentric fashion. My first survey course covered Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. But the gap between today’s assumption that we live in a global world based on our economic inter-relations, and how little we really know about the cultures within that world, is becoming so extreme that it’s a problem. This course is partly meant to help build our ability to think globally.”

4.605x A Global History of Architecture offers a fresh perspective on the principles and forces at play in architecture. A variety of influences, Jarzombek explains, can determine how a civilization develops its own architectural style. The Greeks used technological advances in iron to rapidly cut stone and build enormous monuments. Just as often, however, the transformations exercised on architecture are metaphysical: “Buddha generated a whole revolution of thought around him, but he never said anything about what a temple should look like. There was no architectural script, so its adherents began making essentially prototypes of what a proper Buddhist temple should be,” explains Jarzombek. “The Christians, on the other hand, used Roman architecture as a model, without referencing its pagan temples. They chose the law forums — the basilica — and began to customize it for themselves. In both cases, their architecture was never frozen in time. It continued to change and reflect the core dynamics of human cultures.” Read more.

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