Syllabus of Advanced Theory of Architectural Design


David Leatherbarrow (Professor, University of Pennsylvania,

SHI Yonggao (Associate Professor, Southeast University,


1. Objectives

This course is designed for postgraduate students in the school of architecture. The course objectives are as follows:

(1) Promote a topographical understanding of architecture, which keeps a distance from the actual design work and develop a theoretical enquiry while focuses on the fundamentals of architectural problems;

(2) Help students develop an in-depth understanding of the specific topic discussed in the year;

(3) Strengthen students’ ability to develop an argument and express that in a proper and forceful way.


2. Course contents

It’s not a repetitive course. Different topic will be introduced and discussed for each year, depending on the lecturers’ current study. However, there is a basic structure of the contents of this course:


Module 1 – Introduction

What is architectural theory?

How is it related to and different from history and critics?

Three fundamentals of architectural study: Site, Enclosure, Material


Module 2 – Main Body (it usually includes:)

Historical background of the topic

Contemporary thinking on the topic

Major thematic arguments related to the topic


Module 3 – Regional Reflection

How is the topic related to China?

How is this theoretical thinking challenging architectural practice, both historically and for nowadays?


3. Grading

(1) Final course paper: 60%

(2) Class performance: 20%

(3) Attendance and others: 20%


4. References

References will vary according to different topics in different years, nevertheless, the following are relatively fundamental the course and would be a general background for taking the course.


English literature:

1  Kenneth Frampton, Modern architecture: A Critical History (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1992).

2  Kenneth Frampton, Studies in Tectonic Culture: The Poetics of Construction in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Architecture (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, c1995).

3  K. Michael Hays, ed., Architecture Theory Since 1968 (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, c1998).

4  K. Michael Hays, ed., Oppositions Reader: Selected Readings from A Journal for Ideas and Criticism in Architecture, 1973-1984 (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, c1998).

5  Reyner Banham, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age, (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1980).

6  Adrian Forty, Words and Buildings: A Vocabulary of Modern Architecture (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2000).

7  David Leatherbarrow, The Roots of Architectural Invention: Site, Enclosure, Materials (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

8  David Leatherbarrow and Mohsen Mostafavi, Surface Architecture (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, c2002).

9  David Leatherbarrow, Topographical Stories: Studies in Landscape and Architecture (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004)

10  Mohsen Mostafavi and David Leatherbarrow, On Weathering: The Life of Buildings in Time (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, c1993).

11  David Leatherbarrow, Architecture Oriented Otherwise (Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press, 2009)

12  Todd Gannon, ed., The Light Construction Reader (New York: The Monacelli Press, 2002).



1  史永高.材料呈现: 19和20世纪西方建筑中材料的建造-空间双重性研究.南京:东南大学出版社,2008

2  董豫赣.极少主义:绘画·雕塑·文学·建筑.北京:中国建筑工业出版社,2003

3  贾倍思.型和现代主义.北京:中国建筑工业出版社,2003

4  邵宏.美术史的观念.杭州:中国美术学院出版社,2003


Note: There will be no class in the week of submittal of the design studio project.


Dr. Leatherbarrow supervises research and directs the Ph.D. program at The School of Design, University of Pennsylvania, USA. He has taught theory and design at the Polytechnic of Central London and Cambridge University, England and maintains a private practice with Lauren Leatherbarrow. Dr. Leatherbarrow was the recipient of the Visiting Scholar Fellowship from the Canadian Center of Architecture (1997-98). Books include: Topographical Stories, Surface Architecture (with Mohsen Mostafavi), Uncommon Ground, Roots of Architectural Invention, On Weathering: The Life of Buildings in Time, and Masterpieces of Architectural Drawing. Research on history and theory of architecture and the city.