Class Projects

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General Directions

This semester you will complete one individual project that addresses the central theme of ARC331 by studying an aspect of technology in architectural design and/or practice in the period ca. 1750-1975. Your project should have enough depth to require research and reflection appropriate for an upper-division course. You will record your findings and conclusions either in a traditional essay (a short piece of writing) or an "unessay" (some other format in which writing plays a support function to some other means of communication.)

January TBD

By this date, propose two subjects to Dr. Amundson and also the means by which you plan to produce the results of your research/reflection (essay or unessay.) (If the latter, what format are you thinking of? See "Notes" below for encouragement/direction.) You can discuss your ideas via email or during office hours (advised if you are taking an unconventional route). This communication will begin the negotiation process that should be concluded in a week's time to finalize your chosen topic and method of delivery.

Advice on choosing subjects: you could study an architect, a building/project, a book, a material, an aspect of communication in practice, issues of context and site design, codes, patronage and clientele, style issues, ornament issues, methods of drawing/modeling buildings by designers, engineers, or preservationists, new building types, developments in education and/or practice, representation of the profession, a question of stylistic development, a question of theoretical development, or one of a thousand other things. Maybe it is an isolated event; maybe it is a comparative study across/among eras, people, or places. See this as a way to go deeper with something we will cover in class or to study something we do not address in class. You want to identify something that is significant to the history of architecture in the last centuries but also see this as an opportunity to delve into something that is of interest to you personally. Only specific questions/subjects will allow the kind of depth required of the project; steer clear of super-famous subjects (e.g., no general biographical studies of Frank Lloyd Wright or research on "history of the skyscraper").

Once you have Dr. Amundson's blessing on your subject and approach, commence your research.

February TBD

Due: working bibliography and project narrative/abstract that identifies the direction that your research is taking and progress on your final product. Send written work as a 1-2 page Word doc (no other word processing program, nor files in the cloud, nor PDFs, etc.) attached to an email with subject line "ARC 331 project proposal" to Always name your files with your last name and title your submission with the question that your analytical project will address. As is always the case for this discipline, use the Chicago Manual of Style "author-date" format.

April TBD

Optional: turn in rough drafts/unfinished projects for review and comment.

April TBD

Due date for final submission.

  • Essays: Email text as Word docs and illustrations as a separate PDF. Name both files with your last name. Submit between the hours of 9 AM Monday and 9 AM Tuesday.
  • UnEssays: Bring physical projects to Dr. Amundson's office between the hours of 8:30 and 9:00 AM on Tuesday. For digital projects, submit supporting documentation and links via email, in accordance with "Essay" directions above.

In case you are interested, here is the evaluation rubric.

Notes for all projects

Essays shall be no longer than 2,000 words in length, plus endnotes, bibliography with proper format and illustrations as needed.

Unessays must communicate content commensurate with the essay, and provide source-material citations in an appropriate manner. Talk with Dr. Amundson about how best to achieve this.

Essays and unessays should depend upon research that make use of all of the following:

  • published (print) sources
  • well-vetted online sources
  • secondary sources
  • primary sources

All projects will be graded on the comprehensive and persuasive way in which they present an argument and support it with evidence and communicate ideas with historical accuracy and keen interpretation.  Organization, grammar skills, and quality of presentation will also be assessed in the grading of this assignment. Although they may take different final forms, both essays and unessays should be interesting, comprehensive, and accurate; they must also be legible (readable as text and graphically clear), appropriate in their communication medium (format suits the topic), and professionally presented. Regardless of chosen media, the best projects will reveal critical and active engagement with the chosen subject, serious effort, focused definition of the project, a clear argument, creative reflection, and demonstrate efforts in both the research and production stages of the project.

Notes for the "unessay"

The unessay provides an opportunity for students to present findings/arguments (as do conventional essays) free of the formal structure and demands of a traditional (written) essay. With this option, you have near-complete freedom of choice about the form your research and reflections will take ("near-complete" in that Dr. Amundson needs to approve your idea for depth and focus). Presentation and media are open for consideration. What matters most is that the format you choose will help, rather than hinder, communication of your ideas. When considering form, consider your personal strengths, talents, and skills, and how they might be applied to conveying the lessons of architectural history.

Some options might be, or include, or be a fusion of: a radio show or podcast, interviews, completion of an unfinished design,the design of an advertisement/press releases for the opening of a particular building or project, the application of some manual or digital method to analyze a building, a game, a pop-up book, a graphic novel, a poem, song, or play, a scrapbook or diary, a proposal to curate a museum exhibit, an illustrated dictionary, a website or blog, compilation of images or findings from a trip to the architecture library at the Art Institute, an oral history, a study texts with word clouds, a listicle.

If you are interested in reading more about unessays, check out the blogs/websites of Suzanne ClarkRyan Cordell, and  Michael Ullyot and search #unessay on Twitter to see a lot of profs posting cool student work.