University of Technology Sydney

11212 Architectural History and Theory: Orientations

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2023 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Design, Architecture and Building: Architecture
Credit points: 6 cp

Subject level:


Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


This survey course introduces key themes in the history and theory of architecture by tracing (dis)continuities in the production, habitation, and transformation of the built environment up to the 1800s. It follows a structure that grows in concentric circles from the sub-national to the national, regional and global scales. While the course centres around the history of Western Architecture, it takes a relational approach and connected understanding towards the 'non-Western' architectural histories that are often neglected. We begin with the emergence of the first societies from various localities and gradually expand to examine how different societies translated each other’s ideas and appropriated foreign objects and forms. Hence, the course aims to explores how the history of the built environment is constituted through its connections and overlaps with other geographical configurations that will help produce a more global perspective of history. In that sense, although the course is broad in scope, it is not an encyclopaedia. Rather it tries to provide a framework for learning and discussion.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

On successful completion of this subject, students should be able to:

1. Acquire a knowledge base of the different types of historical built environment in various parts of the world.
2. Gain an understanding of the requisite theories and concepts to describe, analyse, and debate 
the Western architecture and beyond.
3. Attain an awareness of historical time and space, particularly how the present and a place is 
historically constituted.
4. Earn a preliminary understanding of how historical changes in the built environment take place in relation to certain structures and agencies.
5. Demonstrate basic competency in formulating formal written arguments, interpretations of texts for meaning, academic referencing and research.

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject also contributes to the following Course Intended Learning Outcomes:

  • Establish and develop an informed and ethical position towards social, technical and environmental issues and practices (A.1)
  • Recognise and appreciate local and global cultural diversities and values (A.2)
  • Communicate ideas professionally and effectively through a variety of mediums: oral, written, visual, physical and digital (C.2)
  • Produce inspirational responses that demonstrate the successful integration of sub-disciplinary areas of knowledge: history, theory, tectonics and/or practice (I.1)
  • Respond to a comprehensive brief within the disciplinary context (P.3)
  • Position work within an extended and critically reasoned context through the identification, evaluation and application of relevant academic references and architectural case studies (R.1)
  • Independently analyse, synthesise and formulate complex ideas, arguments and rationales and use initiative to explore alternatives (R.3)

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

The term CAPRI is used for the five Design, Architecture and Building faculty graduate attribute categories where:

C = communication and groupwork

A = attitudes and values

P = practical and professional

R = research and critique

I = innovation and creativity.

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs) are linked to these categories using codes (e.g. C-1, A-3, P-4, etc.).

Teaching and learning strategies

Weekly on campus: 2 hrs lecture, 1 hr tutorial

The subject will be delivered through a combination of lectures and small group discussions and tasks. The lectures will be a place of engagement with topics and case studies. Each week you will be expected to prepare for the lectures and tutorials by reviewing reading and visual materiasl as noted in the Subject Outline. You will attend lectures where you must be prepared to interact, ask questions and address the discussion points in order to optimize the group’s transmission and retention of knowledge. The small group tutorials are offered to assist you through individual and group investigation of topics and to encourage debate. Student participation and understanding in lectures and tutorials will rely on a degree of individual reading and research. In the weekly pattern outlined below the contact hours will usually comprise two hours of lectures followed by a one-hour tutorial. This pattern may be varied to accommodate site visits, workshops, guest lectures, group work, or other topical events as they occur.

Collaborative Learning

UTS staff believe that collaborative peer learning enhances learning. You are encouraged to work in design clusters throughout the whole semester. You will be encouraged at all times to work in small teams for your initial investigation of tasks and as peer support throughout your development.

Online Coursework

There are a number of online resources used to support the learning objectives of this subject. A detailed overview of the pedagogy and associated tasks and assessment items are included in the DAB Generic Information Handbook. There is also online resource of essential and recommended readings and viewings.

All documents are accessible from UTS Online or through the e-reading facilities of UTS Library.


The subject provides a range of formative feedback strategies.

1. All assessments will be graded in ReView.

2. The subject is designed around the progressive development of three distinctive assessment tasks. In this sense weekly tutorial sessions aim to help you progressively to develop your project tasks and respond to your questions about the subject. It is therefore vital you complete the work outlined in the Subject Outline to receive useful formative feedback.

Content (topics)

Topics of the lecture will cover the history and theory of the built environment from the first settlements until the 1800s. Further to the history of Western Architecture, the course will include:

  • a brief survey of Islamic Architecture
  • South East Asian Architecture
  • East Asian Architecture
  • Architecture on the Cultural Borders


Assessment task 1: Presentation of Reading Responses


Students are expected to read all the required readings listed in this outline and discuss them in tutorial as a group. The presentation should summarise the key argument(s) presented in the reading and relate them to the lecture(s).

You may discuss, for example: How the advantages and limitations of using the concept of style for interpreting the architecture of a particular period; How Imperial Roman architecture embodied the idea of ecumene; How the topography and architecture of the medieval city reflect the institutions and practices that contributed to its transformation.


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1, 2, 3 and 5

This task also addresses the following course intended learning outcomes that are linked with a code to indicate one of the five CAPRI graduate attribute categories (e.g. C.1, A.3, P.4, etc.):

A.2, C.2, I.1 and P.3

Type: Presentation
Groupwork: Group, group assessed
Weight: 25%

10 Minute Presentation, 10 Minute Discussion through Q&A


Students are to form groups of 3-4 students such that each tutorial will have 6 groups. The group should also draw up 1-2 questions for discussion in tutorial. The group is expected to lead and moderate the discussion with the help of their tutors. A softcopy of the presentation material is to be submitted to your tutorial group’s folder in Canvas.

Note: Each group will be given 5 minutes for presentation and 15 minutes for discussion.

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Scope and Content 30 1 A.2
Delivery and presentation 30 5 C.2
Communication and discussion 30 3 P.3
Participation 10 2 I.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 2: Abstract and Annotated Reading


Students are to submit an abstract (200-300 words) that summarises the topic and a main argument and a short annotated reading list that will be used as a guide for their final paper. The tutors will provide a short feedback for the students to revise for their final paper.


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1, 2 and 5

This task also addresses the following course intended learning outcomes that are linked with a code to indicate one of the five CAPRI graduate attribute categories (e.g. C.1, A.3, P.4, etc.):

A.1, R.1 and R.3

Type: Literature review
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 25%

A succinct summary of the main arguments should: state the basis of the arguments (i.e. its underlying assumptions, evidence, and structure); express your position on the coherence and significance of the arguments; be no more than one short paragraph for each reading. Refer to the final assessment criteria for more information.

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Appropriate framework of analysis 25 1 A.1
Clear and concise summary of the main argument(s) 25 5 R.1
Expression of your position on the coherence and significance of the arguments 50 2 R.3
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 3: Essay


This task is aimed to develop your analytical and written skills as researchers. Students are to submit a written essay (1,500 words, double-spaced) with a revised abstract (200-300 words) on the topic of their choice.


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

2, 4 and 5

This task also addresses the following course intended learning outcomes that are linked with a code to indicate one of the five CAPRI graduate attribute categories (e.g. C.1, A.3, P.4, etc.):

C.2, R.1 and R.3

Type: Essay
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 50%

1,500 words with 250-300 word abstract.


Select one building (or more if it is a comparative piece) and discuss it in relation to the particular socio-political ideas, movements or conditions of the time using one or more of the three following themes:

1. Environment: Analyse how the building accommodates its particular context (for example, orientation to the surrounding environment/urban fabric.

2. Plan, Section and Use: Analyse drawings (your own sketches or existing images) and discuss its principal elements in relation to how the building operates.

3. Materiality and Light: Discuss its aesthetic qualities. How are the materials used and why?

The discussion may address for example, "How the period of expansion across the globe for European colonial powers and the Catholic Church expressed (or not) in the architecture of the time."

Remember that your TA is available for help and discussion. In each case, your paper (1,500 words, double spaced) will be evaluated in terms of argument, richness and specificity of observations, and coherency of writing.

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Structure and organization of the text 25 5 C.2
The research and evidence supporting the position and cause with proper referencing to sources 25 2 R.1
Ability to draw connections between Architecture and the expanded fields (society, culture, history, literature, philosophy, etc.). 50 4 R.3
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Minimum requirements

The DAB attendance policy requires students to attend no less than 80% of formal teaching sessions (lectures and tutorials) for each class they are enrolled in to remain eligible for assessment. Pursuant to “UTS Rule 3.8.2”, students who do not satisfy the attendance requirements may be refused permission by the Responsible Academic Officer to be considered for assessment for this subject. Students can make themselves familiar with all University rules here:

Students are expected to come to tutorials adequately prepared having read weekly reading materials

Required texts

This subject does not require specific text books to be purchased.

Full details of all readings required for the tutorial discussions will be provided. Such readings will be available digitally in e-Readings.

In addition, individual students will need to find for themselves academic papers and books for the research tasks.

Recommended texts

Full details of further useful references will be provided in the lecture / tutorial sessions as appropriate.


Ching, F. D.K., Jarzombek, M., and Prakash, V. 2006. A Global History of Architecture. London: Wiley.

Dixon Hunt, J. 1994. Gardens and the Picturesque: Studies in the History of Landscape Architecture. Cambridge, Mass: MIT.

Dixon Hunt, J. and Willis, P., eds. 1988. The Genius of the Place: The English Landscape Garden 1620-1820. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Doxiadis, C., 1972. Architectural Space in Ancient Greece. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Dumbarton Oaks:

Etlin, R., 1994. Symbolic Spcae: French Enlightenment Architecture and its Legacy. Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press.

Evans, R. 1995. The Projective Cast: Architecture and Its Three Geometries. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Farhat, G., 2013, André Le Nôtre in perspective, Paris : Hazan ; New Haven : distributed by Yale University Press.

Fletcher, R., 2013, Infinite Measure, Learning Design in Geometric Harmony with Art, Architecture and Nature, Staunton, VA., Thompson.

Gerbino, A., 2014. Geometrical Objects, Architecture and the Mathematical Sciences 1400-1800, London, Springer.

Girot C., 2016. The Course of Landscape Architecture: A History of Our Designs on the Natural World, from Pre-history to the Present. London: Thames and Hudson.

Hersey, G. 1988. The Lost Meaning of Classical Architecture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

James, J. 1982. Chartres: The Masons who built a Legend. London: Routledge.

Jellicoe, G. A., and S. Jellicoe. 1987. The Landscape of Man: Shaping the Environment from Prehistory to the Present Day. London: Thames and Hudson.

Kostof, S. 1995. A History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kruft, H.W. 1994. A History of Architectural Theory from Vitruvius to the Present. London: Zwemmer.

Mallgrave, H.F., ed. 2006. Architectural Theory. Volume 1: An Anthology from Vitruvius to 1870. London: Blackwell


Middleton, R., ed. 1982. The Beaux-Arts and Nineteenth-Century French Architecture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Onians, J. 1988. Bearers of Meaning: The Classical Orders in Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Princeton: PUP.

Padovan, R., 1999. Proportion: Science, Philosophy, Architecture. London: Spon Press.

Rabinow, P., French Modern: Norms and Forms of the Social Environment. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Rykwert, J. 1980. The First Moderns: The Architects of the Eighteenth Century. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Sennett, R. 2002. Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City in Western Civilization. London: Penguin.

Steinberg, Leo., 1977. Borromini’s San Carlo alla Quattro Fontane: a Study in Multiple Form and Architectural Symbolism. NY: Garland.

Summerson, J. 1995. The Classical Language of Architecture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Tzonis, A. & Lefaivre, L. 1986. Classical Architecture: The Poetics of Order. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Watkin, D. 2005. A History of Western Architecture (4th Edn), New York: Watson-Guptill Publications.

Weiss, A., Mirrors of Infinity: the French Formal Garden and Seventeenth-Century Metaphysics. NY: Princeton Architectural Press.

Williams, K., and Ostwald, M. J., 2015, Architecture and Mathematics from Antiquity to the Future, London, Springer.

Wittkower, R., 1949. Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism, London: Academy Editions.

Wölfflin, H., 1966. Renaissance and Baroque. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.