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Taking Architectural Theory to the streets

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The real-world approach to teaching and learning at the School of Architecture is not just limited to the studio. When possible, students in critical studies courses get out of the classroom to examine how theory can be applied to actual buildings throughout the city. Bringing history to life and making it more tangible enables students to make connections to works of the past and understand how they remain relevant to design issues of today.

Recently Assistant Professor Amanda Reeser Lawrence took students from her undergraduate seminar, “Influence and Originality in Architecture,” to visit the Boston Public Library designed by the firm McKim Meade and White.

The course considers how architects are influenced by the past, and how this contributes to their ability to invent the “new.” As one of the case studies in the class, the Boston Public Library was analyzed in terms of its relationship to specific precedents–particularly Henri Labrouste’s Biblioteque Sainte-Genevieive in Paris, from which the building’s facade was derived.

Putting a local building in its proper historical context can deepen a student’s appreciation for all types of architecture. Understanding how architects interpret and use other historical buildings as models and inspiration can help students understand the importance of this approach in their own design work.  Boston is a city rich with both historical and contemporary architecture and provides an unparalleled learning environment for the developing designer.