063-0805-23L  History and Theory in Architecture IX. Urban Challenges and the Agency of Architecture

SemesterAutumn Semester 2023
LecturersT. Avermaete, H. Teerds
Periodicityyearly recurring course
Language of instructionEnglish


063-0805-23 VHistory and Theory in Architecture IX. Urban Challenges and the Agency of Architecture
No course on 27.10 (seminar week) and in the last two semester weeks (final critiques).
1 hrs
Fri08:50-09:35HIL E 1 »
T. Avermaete, H. Teerds

Catalogue data

AbstractThis course offers a brief introduction to the city and its challenges, questioning the role of architectural and urban design facing these challenges. In a series of thematic lectures, the course explores how architectural and urban design has addressed and can address societal and urban questions.
ObjectiveThis course aims to offer a reflection upon the agency of design in the context of the city and its societal challenges.
ContentIn his famous book The Architecture of the City the Italian architect Aldo Rossi argues that architectural agency engages with the world in a twofold manner: (1) it is urged by the incentive to improve the world, and (2) to do so with an aesthetic appeal. Both aspects should be kept close together – an architecture that is focused solely on aesthetics has lost its societal and political calling, while an architecture that lost its aesthetic appeal, lost its instrument to establish a world-in-common. This view is close to the insight of philosopher Hannah Arendt, who argued that the world is a world-in-common. It is shared with others. Architecture shapes this world physically, through the design and construction of various buildings and public spaces, streets, housing blocks, squares, terraces, tables, courtyards, lobbies, and so on. Arendt stresses this physical world-in-common by urging how this world impacts the life contained by it: it creates the conditions of life, not just of its inhabitants, but also of the larger political communities, and not just now, but also in time. The world, as shaped by architecture, defines, for instance, where and how people meet. Architecture impacts and regulates the accessibility of spaces, and by doing so, it impacts the plurality of its users (or reduces it).

Starting from this political dimension of architectural and urban design, which is not only related to the incentive to intervene, but also to its aesthetic appeal, this course explores the insight how architectural interventions shape the world-in-common. Architects and urban designers, in this perspective, then have a responsibility to engage with this world and its challenges. This view is examined at the background of contemporary urban developments, questioning how architecture can have a (positive) impact on the huge societal challenges that cities face today. What impact can design have on processes of gentrification and segregation, climate change and poverty?
Architecture and urban design are obviously not the only scholarly fields addressing these urban challenges. Since the establishment of Greek and Roman city-states philosophers and poets, politicians and sociologists, historians and geographers, economists and artists have reflected upon the city. The lectures will explore a variety of past and current perspectives, not only in order to unlock the pedigree of reflections, but also to broaden the scope beyond regular Western-European and North-American discussions on the city. Each lecture therefore examines a particular topic from a variety of positions, which, together, offers a context to address the question how architecture can act upon the challenges at hand.

The course consists of weekly, one-hour lectures. Each lecture discusses one particular topic at a time. The topics are addressed by examining various texts and illustrated with case-studies that highlight crucial moments in the history and developments of cities, bridging between theoretical reflections and architectural interventions.

Students that participate in the course prepare the meetings by reading a fragment of one of the selected core texts. The course is finalised by writing a short essay during the final meeting.

Overview of lectures:

Lecture 01 – Introduction
Lecture 02 – Politics
Lecture 03 – Public Space
Lecture 04 – Plurality
Lecture 05 – Housing
Lecture 06 – Capital
Lecture 07 – Production
Lecture 08 – Technology
Lecture 09 – Migration
Lecture 10 – Architectural Agency
LiteratureFor this course, each week students will read fragments from key readings on the topics addressed. The readings will be made available via the course website
Subject-specific CompetenciesConcepts and Theoriesassessed
Techniques and Technologiesassessed
Method-specific CompetenciesAnalytical Competenciesassessed
Media and Digital Technologiesassessed
Social CompetenciesCommunicationassessed
Cooperation and Teamworkassessed
Customer Orientationassessed
Leadership and Responsibilityassessed
Self-presentation and Social Influence assessed
Sensitivity to Diversityassessed
Personal CompetenciesCreative Thinkingassessed
Critical Thinkingassessed
Integrity and Work Ethicsassessed
Self-awareness and Self-reflection assessed

Performance assessment

Performance assessment information (valid until the course unit is held again)
Performance assessment as a semester course
ECTS credits1 credit
ExaminersT. Avermaete, H. Teerds
Typegraded semester performance
Language of examinationEnglish
RepetitionRepetition possible without re-enrolling for the course unit.
Additional information on mode of examinationStudents finalise this course by writing a short essay during the last meeting of the semester

Learning materials

Main linkInformation
LiteratureCourse Page
Only public learning materials are listed.


No information on groups available.


There are no additional restrictions for the registration.

Offered in

Architecture MasterField of History and Theory of ArchitectureWInformation
Integrated Building Systems MasterSpecialised CoursesWInformation