Teaching Philosophy

My teaching challenges students to conceptualize the global realities of our time by pointing to the common historical experiences that link urban space with modern notions of selfhood. I teach the history and theory of architecture and urbanism as the emergence of a new, planetary imaginary and the discovery of a new temporality that potentially belongs to all of humanity.

My courses foreground the importance of diverse historical inquiry as the foundation for creative and critical design. I use the historiography of architecture and the history of the design profession as lenses through which to critique the political, economic, and aesthetic biases that have shaped the way the past is narrated through the built environment. 


Introduction to the History of Architecture, 1500 to the present

This survey course seeks to create a critical understanding of the global history of architecture by examining the ways utopian ideals were translated into physical geometries. Drawing on case studies in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and the Americas, students will examine the ways that architectural forms, ideas, materials, and labor circulated from about 1500 until the present. The course integrates political, economic, and art history in the study of architecture and the built environment. Through lectures, readings, discussions, and classroom exercises, students will engage with the temporal and spatial biases of the discipline of history. While this course will familiarize students with the methodologies and literature of design history, it also engages with a number of comparative problems of interest to a range of disciplines including History, Area Studies, Art History, and Critical Cultural Studies. 

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Museum für Asiatische Kunst der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin–Preußischer Kulturbesitz

Buddhist Architecture: from stupa to theme park

This lecture course traces the development of Buddhist architecture from early reliquaries and monastic halls to contemporary mega-structures and theme parks. It is organized according to a general chronology that begins with the Buddha and his teachings and then develops across regions and themes. This organization seeks to map out the relationship between Buddhist architecture and the teachings and practices of Buddhism, from its genesis and development in South Asia to its dissemination, and translation across the world. The course is designed to provide an understanding of the interaction of different Buddhist cultures and regions in Asia, with different religious practices in Asia, and with “the West.”

Drawing by Christian Martinez

Drawing by Christian Martinez

Slums of Utopia: Postcolonial Spaces

This seminar challenges students to examine the histories of utopia from the peripheries of the world capitalist economy in order to speculate on the future of global cities. Over the course of the semester, students first engage with the history and theories of utopia, examining formal and programmatic utopias from the 16th to 20th centuries. We then examine a series of micro-urban histories that test utopian theories in colonial and post-colonial cities like Hong Kong, Shanghai, Calcutta, Mumbai, and Bangkok. In the final part of the course, students read speculative novels based on these historical models and then design a project that illuminates the urban terrain of these fictional cities. By underscoring the importance of peripheral perspectives and theoretical experimentation to the design process, the course stimulates a critical understanding of the ways that formal, programmatic, and narrative utopias have informed the aesthetic and functional development of not only urban master plans, but the informal communities that have responded to them. 

Drawing by Jun Cao

Drawing by Jun Cao

Provincializing China

This survey course seeks to critically examine the relationship between the concept of China as a continuous civilization and how that continuity has been expressed in architectural form. Methodologically, the course integrates techniques of formal analysis with questions of political and economic history in order to create an understanding of the importance of architecture, landscape, and urban planning to the idea of “China,” the relationships between building practices in the Chinese nation, “Greater China,” and the Chinese diaspora, and the very notion of a singular Chinese architecture. Particular attention will be paid to how Chinese architectural history has been framed in order to consider the ways Orientalism, modernism and reform, historicism, formalism, Marxist historical analysis, critical regionalism, and globalization have shaped the way we understand China and its architecture.