This course studies the object of architecture—canonical buildings in the history of architecture—not through the lens of reaction and nostalgia but through a filter of contemporary thought. The emphasis is on learning how to see and to think architecture by a method that can be loosely called “formal analysis.” The analyses move through history and conclude with examples of high modernism and postmodernism. Reading assignments and one formal analysis are assigned each week.

The most difficult thing for an incoming graduate architecture student is learning what ‘learning how to see’ as an architect is. All graduate students in architecture believe, because of a lifetime of being in and around buildings, that they know what architecture is; they already think they know what their subject is. Therefore, the first activity in this class is one of unlearning. I remember my shock when traveling with Colin Rowe in Italy in the summer of 1961, after my first year of teaching at Cambridge. Rowe said to me in front of my first Palladian villa: “Tell me something about the villa that you cannot see.” He did not want me to tell him about its three stories, about its material rustication, about its symmetrical window arrangement; these were obvious and seeable. But an architect must learn to see beyond the facts of perception. An architect must see as an expert. This expertise implies two things. First, being able to see, as a form of close reading, the not present - the unseen. Second, and more importantly, an architect is a maker, not just a reader. In order to make what contains ‘what cannot be seen,’ one has to know what that is, i.e. in order to make what can be close read, one has to know first how to close read. This is a class about that kind of learning. And its first and most basic form of close reading is formal analysis.

Composition vs. Diagram

There are two related processes and forms of close reading: composition and the diagram. The differences are important. Composition always works from an a priori idea or image in the designers mind and the process proceeds until that image is realized. The diagram is an approximate abstraction, which begins from an unknown and moves to a final resolution. The diagram attempts to produce non-representational icons, indices of organization. Both of these lead to the critical. The nature of the critical is something beyond the necessary program, such as shelter. The critical is that which participates in the expansion and transformation of the discipline of architecture. It could be argued that any critical architecture requires close reading.


Each week there will be an illustrated lecture of 1-½ hours and a drawing review of 1-½ hours. The purpose of the drawing each week will be to see if you can conceptualize in drawing what has been presented in your reading and the lecture. Seeing, therefore, becomes a way of thinking, and drawing as a way of reading. Thus, each week there will be three aspects to your work: assigned reading, assigned drawing, and attendance at the lecture and drawing review. The drawing reviews will take place from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM on Thursdays. All drawings must be turned in to your section Teaching Fellows (TFs) by 9:00 PM on Wednesday night before the corresponding Thursday lecture. Late drawings will not be accepted; see Policy on Late Drawings and Absences. The “pencils down” rule has been instituted in order to better coordinate assignment deadlines between the design studio, the history/theory sequence, and the visualization curriculum.

The class will be divided into five sections, each of which will meet on Tuesday nights with an assigned TF for drawing instruction and reading discussion. Weekly paragraphs (no more than 300 words) must be submitted to assigned TFs Monday evening before individual meetings on Tuesday. The paragraph should outline an idea for the drawing or put forth a critique of the readings/lecture that may in turn inform the drawing. Each section will meet with Professor Eisenman and Miroslava Brooks twice during the course of the semester, once every five weeks at 8:30 AM on Thursdays in the drawing room to review in a small group the progress of student work. In addition, the teaching fellows are available to any student throughout each week.

Teaching assistants and 8:30AM Thursday section meetings are as follows:
Section A: Dima Srouji (17 September, 29 October)
Section B: Sarah Kasper (24 September, 5 November)
Section C: Wesley Hiatt (8 October, 12 November)
Section D: Anthony Gagliardi (15 October, 19 November)
Section E: Elaina Berkowitz (22 October, 3 December)

Final Project and Portfolio Review

There will be one term paper, analytic in nature, with seven diagrams accompanied by seven extended captions due on 18 December 2015 at 5PM, along with a portfolio of the weekly drawing assignments. A digital copy of the paper and the drawing portfolio will also be saved on Yale Box. A one-page précis of the paper topic is due the week before Thanksgiving, on 19 November 2015. The paper will be on Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library and should allow the student to demonstrate his or her analytic skills developed in the course. Suggested reading: Wittkower, Rudolf. “Michelangelo’s Biblioteca Laurenziana,” in The Art Bulletin, vol.16, 1934.

Policy on Late Drawings and Absences

Although the school has a clear policy on late work and absences, in the past this has not been uniformly enforced. In an attempt to bring a more cohesive and coordinated curriculum to the First Year Core design, history/theory, and visualization sequence, the following guidelines have been established in all three disciplines: any combination of three unexcused absences or late drawings will be grounds for a Low Pass. Any further delinquencies will be grounds for course failure.

Review of Work

In an attempt to ameliorate past complaints, the TFs will determine, after collection of the work, which two or three drawings from their sections will be critiqued during the drawing review. While every attempt will be made to review each students’ work at least twice in the semester, only work which raises subjects related to the problematics of the course will be discussed.


1. Close Reading as a Critical Pedagogical Model
Thursday, 10 September 2014, 9:30 AM

Rowe, Colin. “The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa,” in The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa and Other Essays. New York: MIT Press, 1976, p. 2-27.
Wölfflin, Heinrich. “Part Two: The Causes of the Change in Style” in Renaissance and Baroque, p. 71-88.

2. Brunelleschi—The Humanist Origins of Close Reading
Thursday, 17 September 2015, 9:30 AM

San Lorenzo and Santo Spirito – Florence, Italy

Argan, Giulio Carlo. “The Architecture of Brunelleschi and the Origins of Perspective Theory in the Fifteenth Century.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institute 8, London: 1945, p. 96-121.

Drawing #1: Draw ‘what cannot be seen’–the critical difference between Brunelleschi’s Church of San Lorenzo and Santo Spirito in Florence.

Drawing #1 is to be drawn by hand. All drawings throughout the semester should be done in ink on 11” x 17” Mylar sheets. They should be saved, along with the paragraphs, in a bound portfolio for evaluation at the end of the semester and a digital copy should be saved on Yale Box.

3. Alberti—The Definition of Space as the Production of What is Not Seen
Thursday, 24 September 2015, 9:30 AM

San Andrea–Mantua, Italy
San Sebastiano–Mantua, Italy
Tempio Malatestiano–Rimini, Italy

Borsi, Franco. Leon Battista Alberti: The Complete Works. New York: Rizzoli, 1989, Chapter 7.
Rykwert, Joseph. On the Art of Building: In Ten Books. Cambridge, Mass; London: MIT Press, 1992, Introduction, Book One: Lineaments, Book Two: Materials.
Tafuri, Manfredo. “Discordant Harmony from Alberti to Zuccari,” Architectural Design 5/6, 1979, p. 36-44.

Drawing #2: Draw the critical elements of the front façade of Alberti’s Sant’Andrea in Mantua and their relationship to the interior facades.

[Note: There will be no class during advanced studio travel week on Thursday, 01 October 2015]

4. Bramante—Organism From Concinnitas
Thursday, 8 October 2015, 9:30 AM

Prevedari etching – Rome, Italy Cortile of Sta. Maria della Pace – Rome, Italy Plans for St. Peter’s – Rome, Italy

Bruschi, Arnaldo. Bramante. London: Thames + Hudson, 1977, Chapters 3,5,9.

Drawing #3:
Analyze the difference between the corners at Bramante’s Santa Maria della Pace in Rome and Laurana’s Palazzo Ducale in Urbino as they define the space of the cortile.

5. Serlio—A First Critique of Homogeneous Space
Thursday, 15 October 2015, 9:30 AM

Friedlaender, Walter. Mannerism and Anit-Mannerism in Italian Painting. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990 edition, p. 3-43.
Serlio, Book VI.

Drawing #4:
Analyze one of Serlio’s palazzo inventions.

6. Giulio Romano
Thursday, 22 October 2015, 9:30 AM

Palazzo del Te–Mantua, Italy

Hartt, Frederick. Giulio Romano. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1958, p. tbd.
Forster, Kurt W. and Richard Tuttle. “The Casa Pippi: Giulio Romano’s House in Mantua.” Architectura 1, 1973, p. 104-30.
Lotz, Wolfgang. Architecture in Italy 1500-1600 (rev. by Deborah Howard). New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995, p. 67-82.

Drawing #5:
Analyze the façade of Giulio Romano’s Palazzo del Te in Mantua.

7. Palladio
Thursday, 29 October 2015, 9:30 AM

San Giorgio Maggiore and Il Redentore–Venice, Italy

Aureli, Pier Vittorio. “The Geopolitics of the Ideal Villa,” in The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011, p. 47-84.
Wittkower, Rudolf. “5. Palladio and the Problem of Harmonic Proportions.” Principles of Palladio’s Architecture II, p. 68-106.

Drawing #6:
Compare the compositional elements of the plan and facades of Il Redentore and San Giorgio Maggiore.

8. Borromini—Surface As Space
Thursday, 5 November 2015, 9:30 AM

Sant’ Ivo and San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane–Rome, Italy

Wölfflin, Heinrich. Renaissance and Baroque, p. 44-70.

Drawing #7:
Analyze the difference in the underlying geometries of Sant’ Ivo and San Carlo.

9. Bernini and Rainaldi—Baroque Heterogeneity
Thursday, 12 November 2015, 9:30 AM

Sta. Maria in Montesanto (Bernini) and Sta. Maria dei Miracoli (Rainaldi)–Piazza del Popolo, Rome

Wittkower, Rudolf. Carlo Rainaldi and the Roman Architecture of the Full Baroque, p. 242-313.

Drawing #8:
Draw the critical differences between the two churches at the Piazza del Popolo in Rome.

10. Nolli and Piranesi—Figural Space as Ground
Thursday, 19 November 2015, 9:30 AM

Nolli: Map of Rome–Rome, Italy 1762 Piranesi: Campo Marzio–Rome, Italy

Aureli, Pier Vittorio. “Instauratio Urbis,” in The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011, p. 85-140.
Tafuri, Manfredo. “The Wicked Architect: G.B. Piranesi, Heterotopia, and the Voyage,” In The Sphere and the Labyrinth. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990, p. 25-54.

Drawing #9:
Analyze the critical differences between Nolli’s Map of Rome and Piranesi’s Campo Marzio.

A one-page précis of the paper topic is due at the beginning of the class.

11. Drawing Contest
Thursday, 03 December 2015, 9:30 AM

Drawing #10:
From all of your drawings, make a synthetic diagram of one idea that you will take away from this class. Cartoons are not counted for this architectural exercise.

12. Eyes Which Do Not See—The Phenomenology of the Digital
Thursday, 10 December 2015, 9:30 AM

Mario Carpo. The Alphabet and the Algorithm. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011.
Greg Lynn. Archeology of the Digital. Montréal: Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2013.

No drawing required.

Thursday, 17 December 2015, 5:30 PM
Sing-along: required participation.

Friday, 18 December 2015, 5:00 PM
All work due.

All Semesters

Fall 2017
Formal Analysis
Peter Eisenman, Elisa Iturbe
Fall 2016
Theories of Authority: Seeing as an Architect
Peter Eisenman, Elisa Iturbe