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FA 0450 Twentieth Century Architecture (Spring 2011)

FA 0450 Twentieth Century Architecture
University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown 
248 Biddle Hall  
T-Th 11:00 a.m.-12:20 p.m.  
Spring 2011
Dr. Valerie S. Grash, Associate Professor of Fine Arts  
Office: 230B Biddle Hall  
Phone: 269-7164  

Office Hours: Tuesdays & Thursdays, 12:30-2:00 p.m., and by appointment.


"Architecture is the triumph of human imagination over materials, methods and men, to put man in possession of his own earth."-Frank Lloyd Wright


In this course, we will closely examine the development of architectural styles and building technologies from the late nineteenth century to the present. This will be accomplished by thoroughly investigating (through assigned readings, classroom discussion and visual/contextual analysis) individual architects and their significant structures, as well as the relationship between the built-environment and societal conditions. At the conclusion of the course, you should:

  1. Possess a strong understanding of basic architectural terminology and how structures are built.
  2. Recognize the characteristics of specific architectural styles, particularly as they relate to technological advances and unique regional or historical forms.
  3. Comprehend the uniqueness of individual architects and their major works.
  4. Have detailed knowledge of a specific building and architect, acquired through formal analysis and research.

Required textbook

William Curtis, Modern Architecture Since 1900 Third Edition (Phaidon Press, 1996) ISBN 978-0714833569

Course Web Site:

Additional textual and visual materials for this course (including terms and lists of works you will be tested on and PowerPoint presentations of class lectures); additional required readings; your grades; and pertinent announcements concerning class meetings and examinations are found at:

Notice Regarding Course Changes:

I reserve the right to modify the timing, order and content of the course schedule. It is your responsibility to attend class and be aware of any changes. Check the course website regarding any class cancellations should they become necessary due to adverse weather conditions or other situations.

Course Policies:

Please carefully read the following-they are policies that I steadfastly maintain in this course.

Faculty Statement:

My role is to facilitate learning through lecture and clarification of specific points through questioning and discussion, whether in the classroom, during office hours or via electronic correspondence. It is your responsibility to attend class, take accurate notes and approach me with any questions and issues for clarification in a timely manner.


While there is no attendance policy for this course, be forewarned that most of what you will be tested on is discussed thoroughly in class. Even with the textbook, nothing replaces viewing the images projected on screen. Therefore, regular attendance is necessary to succeed in this course. In addition, as classroom discussion is expected, poor attendance will adversely affect you if it comes down to a borderline decision on your final grade.

Notes and Note Taking:

Under no circumstances do I provide notes for missed classes. It is your responsibility, if you miss a class, to acquire the lecture notes from a classmate. Class assignments and announcements are available on the course website. You may tape-record lectures as long as you do not disturb others in the class.

Makeup Exams:

I give make-up exams only in cases with legitimate, documented reasons (death in the family, personal hospitalization, required fieldtrips, etc.). In such cases, inform me in advance and provide written confirmation of your absence. Do not assume every absence is excused or warrants special consideration. The alternative make-up exam (all essay questions) must be taken within one week of the scheduled test; only one makeup exam per student will be permitted. No one can make-up the final exam, which must be taken at the scheduled time.

Late Assignments:

No extensions are granted for class assignments. The due dates are clearly noted on the syllabus at the beginning of the semester. You should begin each assignment in a timely manner and even complete assignments early. Illness or any other excuse has no bearing on the fact that your work was not turned in on time. Any assignment not turned in by the due date will not be graded, thus earning 0 points for the work. No exceptions are permitted so do not ask!

Cell Phones:

Be certain your cell phone is turned OFF, as it is both annoying and disruptive to the entire class when it rings. Anyone sending or receiving text messages will be asked to leave-this course deserves your full attention. If you can't do that, drop the class immediately.

Academic Integrity:

Please read carefully the Academic Integrity Guidelines in your student handbook. They will be followed to the letter in this course. There is ZERO tolerance for cheating or plagiarism. Any time that you use another person's words or thoughts as your own without giving them proper credit is plagiarism, including copying and pasting from the Internet. Any instance of cheating or plagiarism will result in an automatic "F" (0 points) for that assignment, and steps will be taken, according to the Academic Integrity Guidelines, to receive an "F" for the course and for action leading to expulsion from the university. I will not permit re-writing any suspected plagiarized assignment.


If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and the Office of Health & Wellness (OHW), G-10 Student Union Building, (814) 269-7119 to schedule an appointment as early as possible in the term.  OHW will verify your disability and determine reasonable accommodations for this course.

Course Requirements:

Overall, you can earn 500 points during the semester. On this scale:

500-490 (A+)                          489-465 (A)                            464-450 (A-)

449-440 (B+)                          439-415 (B)                             414-400 (B-)

399-390 (C+)                          389-365 (C)                            364-350 (C-)

349-300 (D)                            299 and below (F)


Your grade will be determined in the following manner:

Examinations (450 points):

There will be four (4) examinations given during the semester. The first three exams (on February 3, March 3 and April 7) are each worth 130 points, and will consist of 30 multiple choice questions (3 points each) and 4 essay questions (10 points each) drawn from class notes and readings. Approximately a week in advance of each exam, a study guide will be posted online, along with the PowerPoint slides that will cycle through as the exam is given.

The final exam (on April 25) will not be comprehensive; it will consist entirely of objective questions (multiple choice and/or matching) regarding the information presented by your classmates in their oral presentations, and will be worth a total of 60 points. No study guide will be provided in advance of the final exam, so take good notes.

Term Project (50 points):

In consultation with the professor, each student will select a specific contemporary building and architect to research during the semester-with the end result being a 5-7  minute oral presentation during the final few weeks of class. A list of appropriate buildings is provided on the CourseWeb site, so stake your claim early if you are set on a particular building or architect. You must choose one of those listed, or provide a compelling reason for another choice to the professor in advance. Everyone must have selected their building before Spring Break! Further information on how to format and structure your talk is provided on the CourseWeb site under "Assignments."


Course Schedule

January 6      Course Introduction

January 11    Revivalism and Mid-19th Century Architectural Thought (Curtis, Chapter 1)

January 13    Henry Hobson Richardson and the Beaux-Arts Tradition (Curtis, Chapter 2)

January 18    American Skyscrapers: New York vs. Chicago School (Curtis, Chapter 2 con't)

January 20    Frank Lloyd Wright and Prairie School Architecture (Curtis, Chapters 5, 7)

January 25    European Art Nouveau (Curtis, Chapter 3)

January 27    The Problem of Ornament (Curtis, Chapter 3 con't)

February 1    Frank Lloyd Wright's Wasmuth Portfolio and European Contact (Curtis, pp. 126-129; Chapter 9)

February 3    Exam I  

February 8    The Deutscher Werkbund and Futurism (Curtis, Chapter 6)

February 10  Architecture and Revolution in Russia (Curtis, Chapter 12)

February 15  Le Corbusier's Quest for Ideal Form (Curtis, pp. 246-249; Chapters 10, 16)                 

February 17  Walter Gropius, German Expressionism and the Bauhaus (Curtis, Chapter 11)

February 22  Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe (Curtis, pp. 188-192; Chapter 15)

February 24  Totalitarian Architecture in Germany and Italy (Curtis, Chapter 20)  

March 1        The Ideal Community: Alternatives to the Industrial City (Curtis, Chapter 14)  

March 3        Exam II

March 8        No Class-Spring Recess

March 10      No Class-Spring Recess

March 15      American Skyscrapers between the Wars (Curtis, Chapter 13)                          

March 17      Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1920s and 1930s (Curtis, pp. 227-232; Chapter 18)

March 22      Late Work of Le Corbusier (Curtis, Chapters 23, 24)                            

March 24      European Modernism Arrives in America (Curtis, Chapter 22)                      

March 29      The Late Work of Frank Lloyd Wright (Curtis, pp. 412-415)                            

March 31      Alvar Aalto, Louis Kahn and Eero Saarinen (Curtis, Chapters 19, 25, 28)                              

April 5          The Curse of the Miesian Glass Box (Curtis, pp. 401-412; 557-559)                

April 7          Exam III                               

April 12        Student Presentations-Skyscrapers and Corporate Headquarters                                 

April 14        Student Presentations-Skyscrapers and Corporate Headquarters (con't)                              

April 19        Student Presentations-Public and Exhibitions Spaces, including Museums                              

April 21        Student Presentations-Homes and Religious Structures

Final Exam: Monday, April 25, 12:30-2:30 p.m.

Last Reviewed: August 21, 2007