part three: foreground & background

William Strickland (John Neagle, 1929)



Dichotomy suggests a hierarchy that applies to people (professional architects/vernacular builders) as well as things (important, high-style buildings/common vernacular buildings).

  • Watch this presentation on paths of privilege (race & gender)

From a Christian perspective, how might we approach this dichotomy?


one class in three parts

To fulfill social distancing guidelines, our class will be divided into three groups. Each week, all three groups will complete the same Wednesday-Monday material. For Tuesday meetings, one third of the class will complete asynchronous or synchronous online work while the other two-thirds meet in person in Hitch Hall. Please note your group and stick with it (at least, until further notice):

RED: name, name, name, name, name, & name
YELLOW: name, name, name, name, name, & name
BLUE: name, name, name, name, name, & name

Note: students who are in need of online work for one or more weeks should contact Dr. Amundson about changing their alignment with the groups.

learning objectives

At the conclusion of this part of the course, you should be able to:

  • xxxxx (REMEMBER--recall facts and basic concepts) define, duplicate, list, memorize, repeat, state
  • xxxxx (UNDERSTAND--explain ideas and concepts) classify, describe, discuss, explain, identify, locate, recognize, report, select
  • xxxxx (APPLY--use information in new situations) execute, implement, solve, use, demonstrate, interpret, operate, schedule, sketch
  • xxxxx (ANALYZE--draw connections among ideas) differentiate, organize, relate, compare, contrast, distinguish, examine, experiment, question, test
  • xxxxx (EVALUATE--justify a stand) appraise, argue, defend, judge, select, support, critique, weigh
  • xxxxxx (CREATE--produce new or original work) design, assemble, conjecture, develop, formulate, investigate

for Thursday (11 PM)

Intellectual Developments

The ancient and medieval worlds were not without intellectual demands and contributions to building design--especially for permanent, civic architecture. Still, the general tradition of building designers being attached to the building trades was rarely challenged or changed until the Renaissance, when new cultural currents (based in ancient thought) changed everything (at least for elite architecture).

Expectations for the training and responsibilities of building designers began to change in the fifteenth century as one of many outcomes of Humanism, which is the defining characteristic of the Renaissance. Watch this brief clip for a refresher on Humanism, then take the quiz right below it.

Take the quiz.

Architects (and their patrons) with Humanist educations drew from the source material described in the video, expanding the interest in written texts from antiquity to include buildings from antiquity as sources of truth, dignity, and civic virtue. Just as with the more abstract applications of Humanism, architects did not see this development as a way to overthrow Christian thought and the Church itself, but rather a way to learn more about God's truth than accepting the inherited wisdom of the Middle Ages---and its buildings, now considered to be in terribly bad and irrational taste.

From this intellectual backdrop emerges a new standard of architectural practice based in professional literacy, aided tremendously by the discovery of a manuscript of Vitruvius that became the model for the first great architectural publication of the Renaissance, De Re Aedificatoria (1452) by Leon Battista Alberti. Like any good Humanist would do, Alberti modernizes (and "Christianizes") his source material, setting the standards for definitions of beauty, hierarchies in building types, and instituting the ideal of the architect as a person who could both read and write.  Read the following excerpts from his treatise:

  • on hierarchy

On the heels of the Renaissance (and adjacent to it, to the East), architects who rose to the greatest levels of prominence followed this kind of Humanist education and found their courses mapping with the development of great nations and empires. In particular, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw a number of political powers institutionalize architecture in a way that bound its architectural production to political expansion and symbolism. Among this very elite group are:

  • Christopher Wren (1632-1723), Surveyor General of Public Works for the King of England
  • Louis Le Vau (1612-1670), Royal Architect to the King of France
  • Mimar Sinan (1490-1588), Chief Royal Architect in the Ottoman Empire

The next significant development takes practice down to a more recognizable scale, retaining the idea of architectural design as an intellectual activity that did not require manual training as preparation. With the professionalization of architecture, which occurs at the same time as new professional standards were put in place for old and new professions like medicine and engineering, academies and professional organizations began to develop and shape the character of what a professional architect would be. Key figures and related institutions in this story include:

  • John Soane

Watch this presentation on architectural education and definition of "architect" from the Renaissance through the eighteenth century


Take this quiz.

for Monday (11 AM)

Vernacular Methods

While learning about the development of the professional practice of architecture, it has been shown to be worthwhile to consider the traditions of "anonymous" builders, who have been responsible for the vast, vast majority of buildings constructed globally. In addition to their cultural merit, these buildings oftentimes represent vernacular traditions that receive renewed interest from the building-design community due to regional appropriateness and ecological sustainability issues.

Watch the following video on vernacular architecture:



Now, read this brief article on "Vernacular Architecture and the 21st Century." and CNN's "What Traditional Buildings Can Teach Architects about Sustainability."

  • Take the quiz

As you can see, vernacular can refer to materials, methods of construction, decorative techniques, as well as planning traditions. For this week's project, you'll focus on construction materials and their assemblies into structural methods.



  • bamboo
  • dried grass
  • half-timbering
  • mudbrick
  • rammed earth
  • reeds
  • snowbrick


  • batak house (Indonesia)
  • Cappadocian rock-cut houses (Turkey)
  • long house (Scandinavia)
  • minka (Japan)
  • mudhif (Iraq)
  • poteau-en-terre house (Mississippi Valley)
  • saltbox (Northeast USA)
  • yurt (Mongolia)
  • tulou (China)


Planning and function; permanent or ephemeral; materials and methods, decorative qualities

Yasmeen Lari


for Monday (11 AM)

continuing project 1

Develop your history into an essay

Submit for peer review

Find the rubric here

for Tuesday: on campus

red yellow blue


  • Vernacular Methods
  • Professionalism
  • Goldberger
  • Foreground/Background; Public/Private

Presentation & Reflection

  • Assignments for historic and contemporary architects


  • NOMA

for Tuesday: online

red yellow blue


  • Vernacular Methods
  • Professionalism
  • Goldberger
  • Foreground/Background; Public/Private

Presentation & Reflection

  • Assignments for historic and contemporary architects
  • Morality and Architecture


  • NOMA