ARC 331: Semester Project (2019)


Semester Project: Technology and Change in Architecture between 1875 and 1975

Address an issue of technological change in architecture, roughly between 1875-1975; submit your findings as a link to a digital artifact (e.g., blog, website, video, podcast, screencast) hosted somewhere in the internet.


This project responds to several foundational expectations for ARC 331:

  • Advanced-level students should have opportunities to increase research and communication skills
  • Contemporary educational theory emphasizes the importance of active learning and individual/social construction of knowledge by learners.
  • True historical studies are present-tense actions in which a learner interprets and understands past events, rather than seeing “the past” as a mere timeline of static events.

Your work will embrace these ideals by serving as a vehicle through which you will help construct the content of the course and contribute to your colleagues' learning. In other words, rather than seeing ARC 331 as a list of pre-determined subjects to be consumed, you will decide what matters, investigate it, and share your findings with the rest of the class (within certain boundaries put in place by your professor to ensure overall cohesion of the course—and recognizing this as an exercise in knowledge-construction, as well). While aligning with general expectations for individual research in a 300-level humanities course, it also embraces a broader concept of research sources and communication. By deciding what matters, researching it, and presenting it to an audience of your peers, you will not only be studying history, you will be acting as a historian.

learning objectives

The learning objectives for this project directly relate to, and build upon, those for the course overall. By successfully completing this project, you will be able to:

  1. integrate and apply professional terminology specific to technique, style, and structure (knowledge),
  2. describe the introduction and integration of new technologies (both material and non-material) in architectural practices of/by a particular time, place, specific person/ project (comprehension),
  3. interpret stylistic and technical change within a specific historical context (comprehension),
  4. critique the agency of people and technology within the process of design (evaluate),
  5. show proficiency in the use of at least one digital tool and/or online application (knowledge), and
  6. participate in the historical enterprise of the class as a whole (evaluate).

These objectives comprise the criteria for assessing your work, which will be done by your professor and some of your peers. Review the rubric below:

detailed description


Submit your project as a link to a digital artifact hosted somewhere in the internet. Plan your project so that it requires 10-15 minutes of engagement (a written text would be some 2,000-3,000 words; a video, podcast, screencast, or clearly-navigable website that takes 10-15 minutes to navigate would be acceptable; other projects will be likewise considered)

Time Frame

Your topic shall be a part of the history of architecture between ca. 1875-1975. Consider the historical eras/themes we will consider during each lesson in the last half of the class (i.e., the eras in which you’ll conduct your research). For illustrative examples, see calendar.


As you develop your topic, pursue your research, and develop your project, keep checking the learning objectives to make sure you address them all.

Your topic will be unique among the work of your colleagues and should address your subject in greater detail than you will find in your textbooks. As you consider topics to propose, think deeply/specifically. For example:

  • “How and why did Louis Sullivan embrace terra cotta as a primary building material for his skyscrapers?” rather than “Something about Sullivan;” or
  • “Why was 'Ornament and Crime' one of the most influential manifestos among Early Modernist architects?" rather than "The Importance of Theory to Early Modernism."

Remember: history is a creative field. Your project should be unique to you and your architectural values.


While most of the criteria are pretty self-explanatory, make sure that you take a clear stance on what technology means to your particular project. You may find that you need to take a broader view of what “technology” than construction materials and methods. This is one approach, but here are others, that we will consider in the first half of the semester (i.e., before your topics appear):

  • Publication technology that make books more readily available to builders & clients
  • Availability or lack of materials/capacities in the New World (timber, brick-making, quarrying, manufactured nails) that affect the design of buildings and the level of skill on job sites
  • Ships and railroads that allow (some) architects to expand their practice/education, both out-of-state and internationally
  • Invention of the centrolinead, which eases the construction of perspective drawings and thus elevates the presentations of designers who can afford spiffy drafting supplies
  • The chicken-and-egg relationship between the scroll saw and “Carpenter Gothic” style
  • Scientific developments allied with other professions (e.g., medicine) that prompt the development of new building types (e.g., general and specialty hospitals)
  • Theories that address the form that naturally formless materials (most significantly, iron) “ought” to take
  • Rejection of mechanized production for its (1.) inhumane impact on workers and (2.) removal of craft from building-making, rendering the architect little more than a drawer of pictures

Another way to think about this is to consider an issue or problem that’s come up in another architecture course (perhaps your recent studio) that is a notion you can trace back to the period under discussion? I can pretty much guarantee that any issue currently in architecture that tickles your fancy is prompted, at least in the abstract, by questions they were dealing with at least since the 19th c. Leaf through the textbooks for the class (or other books or online sources on the period in question) and look for something interesting; dig in, and see what kind of tech-related question you can ask of it.


Due Dates

Due dates will vary depending on the topic you choose. To complete the project successfully, you will follow this schedule:

January 23: date that all subjects must be finalized

  • begin approval process begins with proposal worksheet (see below)

Late January through your particular due date (DD)research

3 weeks prior to DD: submit annotated bibliography and outline/storyboard

2-3 weeks prior to DD: meet with your group to discuss progress, give/get feedback for improvement using rubric

10-14 days prior to DD: submit link to project

Time and Timing

Use the following as a guide to plan your work schedule. Expect to spend:

  • 1-2 hours identifying the topic/posing a research question and securing approval
  • 10-20 hours conducting research in published (print) sources and vetted online sources; preparing annotated bibliography
  • 10-20 hours addressing learning objectives (writing/designing project; submitting a storyboard; mastering the chosen medium)
  • 1-2 hours participating in peer review/critique
  • 10 hours completing the artifact

Important: While timeliness is expected of all work, it is especially crucial for this project since you are each responsible for a portion of the class and, thus, your colleagues' learning. Late submissions at each stage will be penalized. Failure to submit a project that is acceptable for sharing with the class by the stated due date will be penalized harshly.