Open only to undergraduate students admitted to the London architecture program. This course presents a social history of the built environment in London. It considers destruction and (re)construction as intertwined, rather than mutually exclusive, processes that together have shaped architecture and urbanism in the British capital. The course focuses on the two major events of destruction in London’s history, both of which had a profound impact on the built environment: the Great Fire of London (1666) and the Blitz (1940-41). While these two events are taken as nodes, the scope of the course stretches from the architectural context of London before the 17th century to that of the post-Second World War capital. The pertinence of destruction – in both social and material senses of the word – is therefore not limited to the two events and runs through London’s architectural history, stretching from the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, through Puritan iconoclasm during the English Civil War and the Romantic fascination with ruins in late 18th-century Britain, to the era of Metropolitan Improvements and Industrialization in the 19th century. The emphasis is on the urban, as each building under scrutiny is considered in terms of its relationship to its surroundings, to London’s inhabitants and visitors, and to the larger city. Matters of style, building materials and production methods are discussed as interlinked, and as both productive of and produced by social and political developments. At the end of this course, students will be familiar with examples from London’s history where the built environment precipitated destruction or served as a tactical tool during conflict, and those where destruction created opportunities for architects and informed the capital’s (re)construction strategies.
Semesters: Fall, Spring