ARC 121: Introduction to Architecture

Two villas on the outskirts of Paris, separated by 60 years—at left: Villa Savoye; Le Corbusier; 1928–1931; Poissy, France; at right: Villa dall'Ava; Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA); 1985–1991; Saint-Cloud, France.

Photo credit: Peter Aaron (

Arc 121: Introduction to Architecture provides a fundamental examination of architecture and the built environment. Course material is presented in a lecture format, utilizing multiple media. Course topics include historical examples of architecture, using past and present buildings, landscapes, and urbanism as a tool for developing an understanding and appreciation of the architecture discipline and its design objectives. 

The course will present students the opportunity to cultivate a vocabulary in architecture, and begin to understand design as a tool to enhance the human experience. Students will gain critical insight on the contexts that drive concepts and ideas behind thoughtful design. Be it scale, place, material, history, environment, atmosphere, technology, or representation, architecture is host to a wide range of contextual forces that give rise to forms that transcend subjectivity. Thus (and per the university course catalog), course material is drawn from numerous fields including architectural history and theory, the arts and letters, design studies, philosophy, literature, and urban studies, all supporting Louis Kahn’s claim that architecture is “the handwriting of humanity.”


Clinical Assistant Professor - Director of Recruitment and First Year Experience - Department of Architecture - Hayes Hall 128 - 716-829-5884

As a vehicle for advancing an understanding of contemporary architectural discourse, the class will introduce students to fifteen architects. Each a visionary in his or her own right, these individuals have made significant contributions to the field in both practice and theory, carving new paths and laying the groundwork for generations to follow. As the practice of architecture is one of intense collaboration—within firms, across disciplines, and between architects, contractors, craftsmen, and clients—the course will examine not only the individual lives and personas of these architects, but will track the people and places that helped form and inform the buildings and ideas that cemented their legacies in the history of architecture. Thus, the lectures will not only present the canonical projects that traditionally define their careers, but will explore the arc of their practices, beginning with first works and early influences. From there, the course will trace the formation of ideas—through their words, drawings, buildings, and biographies—across geographies and through time. By concentrating on the twentieth-century, the class will arm students with a framework from which contemporary positions of the field will unfold.