Buildings Along the Chronological Boundaries

Historians begin research projects with a question or challenge about the way ideas about the past are understood, or by bringing new evidence to bear upon an established idea. They then develop a thesis that attempts to answer that question or challenge and continue to gather data from the particular point of view set out by the thesis. 

Along the way the thesis is continually checked against new conclusions drawn from the accumulating evidence. Finally, a point is reached when the question seems satisfactorily answered or argued. History is not a science, however; it is an unfolding argument through time, and you must set out to create the most persuasive argument with the material you find.

Choose a building, a group of buildings, a city (or part of one), or a landscape built within the chronological boundaries of the course, but that has not been or will not be discussed at length in lectures or sections.

Your GSI can help you choose an interesting topic that is well documented. Your choice should not be governed by aesthetic interest alone, but rather by a compelling intellectual engagement, issue, or problem.

To study the Parthenon because you like Greek temples is not enough. By contrast, to ask about the relationship of the Parthenon to Persian architecture might yield a stronger topic.

The Questions

Determine from some preliminary reading a significant question to ask. For example:

1. How and why has a particular building type changed over time?2. How might we see class, gender, or other aspects of culture manifested in a particular building or urban plan?

3. How is building form affected by technology in a particular moment and place?

4. How have the needs of the client or user affected architectural design or urban form in a specific cultural moment?

5. What is the relationship between theory and practice in a particular architect’s work? Alternatively, you might look at architectural knowledge and training in “anonymous” architectural traditions.

6. How did a particular style, form, technology, or building type move from one culture to another? Why did it do so?

7. The thrust of your research should then be to discover and argue for a convincing answer to the question.Since the assignment is to write an analytical essay, be sure you are asking and answering a question about your building(s).

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