Spring 2023: Phl 820/850 – Architecture and Politics

Tatlin Tower

General information


Here is more information about Prof. Lotz

Class Meetings

Days: Wednesdays
Time: 6-9pm
Place: SK 530

Office & Office Hours

Phone: 517.355.4490 [dept.])
Place: SK 503
Hours: Wednesdays, 3:30-5:30pm

Other Contact

E-mail: lotz@msu.edu
Home Phone: please ask
Webpage: http://christianlotz.info


You will find my box in the front office of the philosophy department (SK 503)


Block I: Architecture and Politics

Jan 11, Introduction: Architecture, Emancipatory Politics, Philosophy

Cunningham, Architecture and the Politics of Aesthetics
Cunningham, Architecture, Capitalism and the ‘Autonomy of the Political’, in: Lahiji, Can Architecture be an Emancipatory Project? Dialogues on Architecture and the Left
Swyngedouw, On the Impossibility of an Emancipatory Architecture, in: Lahiji, ibid.

Corna, Architecture (entry in the SAGE Handbook on Marxism)

Jan 18, Introduction: Political vs Social

Main text: Aureli, The Project of Autonomy. Politics and Architecture within and against Capitalism
Farris, Gentili, Stimili, Strong, The Autonomy of the Political

Voluntary/Critical of Aureli:
Spencer, Less than Enough: A Critique of the Project of Autonomy
Spencer, Schmitt, Aureli, and the Geopolitical Ontology of the Island

Protocol 1: Haller

Jan 25, Introduction: Architecture and Politics

Main text: Aureli, Toward the Archipelago. Defining the Political and the Formal in Architecture (chapter 1 of his book on absolute architecture)
Tronti, The Autonomy of the Political
Mouffe, What is Agonistic Politics?, in her Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically
Butler, Bodies in Alliance and the Politics of the Street, chapter 2 of her Notes Towards a Performative Theory of the Assembly

Perone, Public Space and its Metaphors
Arendt, Labor, Work, Action, in: Thinking without a Banister. Essays in Understanding 1953-1975, ed. Kohn

Protocol 2: Connor
Text Presentation 1: (Butler): LaRosa

Block II: Architecture and Modernism

Feb 1, Modernism I: Utopia

Hilberseimer, Metropolis & Urban Planning & The Will to Architecture, in : Metropolisarchitecture, ed. R Anderson, pp. 84-134 & 282-289
Gropius, The New Architecture and the Bauhaus
Muthesius, Style Architecture and Building-Art, main essay, section II, pp.71-100
Loos, Ornament and Crime & The Old and New Architecture & Building Materials (essays), in Loos, Ornament in Crime. Thoughts on Design and Materials
Read selected entries in Conrads, Programs and Manifestos on 20th Century Architecture: Loos, Muthesius, Gropius, van de Velde, Scherbart, Meyer, Taut, Mies, Meyer, Lissitzky, van Doesburg

Cheng, Structural Racialism in Modern Architectural Theory
Tafuri/Dal Co, Modern Architecture 1&2, chapters 6, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17

Brief Background Presentation 1 (Red Vienna): LaRosa
Brief Background Presentation 2 (Bauhaus): Connor

Feb 8, Modernism II: Estrangement

We will be discussing again the readings for last class: Gropius, Muthesius, Loos, and some manifestos.

Benjamin, The Arcades Project, Convolute F, L, N
Buck-Morss, Dream World and Mass Culture, from her Dialectics of Seeing

Protocol 3: Haller

Visit of Hadid exhibition in MSU’s Art Museum & and Curator Talk, tentatively scheduled for 4:30pm

Voluntary/Critical: Schumacher, Architecture and Politics, chapter 9 in The Autopoiesis of Architecture; Schumacher was one of the main theorists in Hadid’s architecture firm; Foster on Hadid: here

Feb 15, no class
canceled because of the gun shooting and violence on campus

Feb 22, no class

Mar 1, Modernism III: Metropolis

Benjamin, Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century, The Arcades Project, 14-27 (1939 version) [if this is your first encounter with Benjamin, read Tiedemann’s afterword to The Arcades Project]
Simmel, City and Mental Life
Cacciari, Architecture and Nihilism, Part 1, sections 1-4

Protocol 4: Connor

Mar 8, no class
Spring Break

Mar 15, no class
ProfLotz is at a conference

Mar 22, Modernism IV: Lukacs, Adorno, Habermas

Lukacs, Realism in the Balance [whenever he uses the term “Expressionism” replace it with “Modernism”], in Bloch, Lukacs, etc., Aesthetics and Politics
Adorno, Functionalism Today

Lukacs, Expressionism. Its Significance and Decline

Protocol 5: LaRosa
Text Presentation 3 (Lukacs): Haller

Mar 29, Tafuri: Architecture and Ideology

Tafuri, Architecture and Utopia. Design and Capitalist Development
Habermas, Modern and Postmodern Architecture
Jameson, Architecture and th e Critique of Ideology

Tafuri, L’architecture dans Ie boudoir. The Language of Criticism and the Criticism of Language, in Tafuri, The Sphere and the Labyrinth
Day, Manfredo Tafuri, Fredric Jameson and the Contestations of Political Memory
Aureli, Intellectual Work and Capitalist Development. Origins and Context of Manfredo Tafuri’s Critique of Architectural Ideology
Rosa, Manfredo Tafuri, or, Humanism Revisited
Ghiardo, Manfredo Tafuri and Architectural Theory in the U.S., 1970-2000

Protocol 6: LaRosa
Background Presentation 3: Gonzales

Block III: Marxism, Power, and Materialist Epistemology

Apr 5, Harvey: Marxism and the City

Harvey, Spaces of Utopia
Harvey, The Right to the City (2 versions)
Harvey, The Political Economy of Public Space

Harvey, The Insurgent Architect at Work

Protocol 7: Gonzales

Tentative: Guest Lecture by Carolyn Loeb

Apr 12, Foucault: Power, Knowledge, and Architecture I

Foucault, Power & Knowledge, chapters 2-5 & 8
Foucault, Space, Power and Knowledge (from Rabinow reader)
Foucault, Heterotopias
Foucault, The Utopian Body

Bourdieu, Social Space and the Genesis of Appropriated Physical Space
Bourdieu, The Kabyle House
Wacquant, Bourdieu comes to town. Pertinence, Principles, Applications

Protocol 8: Gonzalez

Text Presentation 4 (Foucault): Connor

Apr 19, Foucault: Power, Knowledge, and Architecture II

Foucault, Discipline and Punish, partI.1 (The body of the condemned) and part 3 (panopticism)

Hirst, Foucault and Architecture, in Hirst, Space and Power Politics
Wallenstein, Bio-Politics and the Emergence of Modern Architecture

Brief Background Presentation 4 (Panopticon): Haller

Apr 26, no class
ProfLotz is out of the country, gives a paper at a conference

May 5, Final Paper
Final paper due via email by the end of May 5. I might not be able to return comments before May 11.

Seminar Description

“Modern architecture finds itself caught at the begining of the 21st century, at the threshold of the information age, in a curious double paradox for while the developed world becomes an ever more barbarous and ruined place, torn apart by multifarious forms of rapid consumerist development, a process which shows little sign of abatement, the quality of architecture worldwide, considered on an individual basis, has perhaps never been higher, thanks in large part to sophisticated forms of professional education and to the dispensations of the media which have effectively dissolved, once and for all, the former hierarchical cultural dependency between the center and the periphery. At the same time, we also know that apart from the effective loss of the traditional city (except where it still survives in old historical cores) a greater tragedy attends us beyond the confines of this urban matrix, namely our total failure as a democratic society to arrive at an accepted, normative pattern of industrial land settlement; one that would be both culturally nuanced and ecologically viable” (Frampton, The Evolution of Modern Architecture, 146)

“I don’t see it as a phrophecy, but what I wrote fifteen years ago in Architecture and Utopia has since become a rather normal analysis. Utopias don’t exist anymore. Engaged architecture, which I tried to make politically and socially involved, is over. Now the only thing one can do is empty architecture. Today architects are forced into either being a star or being a nobody. For me, this isn’t really the ‘failure of modern architecture’; instead, we have to look to what architects could do when certain things weren’t possible and when they were.” (Tafuri, quoted in Braghi, 27)

“First of all: I do not believe that ideology is an enemy. That which we call ideology we might call – it would be better – representation, and since humanity cannot do without representations – the ‘symbolic forms’ of Cassirer – thus, in order not to bear this burden unconsciously, the need for analysts. The historian is only an analyst. I do not believe that he has a privileged status, nor does he lead armies, nor do battle with castles in the air. The obsession that is attributed to me to conquer through history what the architect may not confront appears to me a misinterpretation owed to ‘American’ cultural prejudices. I do not intend, in fact, by the term ‘political’ a partisan engagement or direct intervention. It is, however, typical for every historian to know that every discipline acts on its own, within the ever more intricate microphysics of power. And if architecture has its powers, history has others. Moreover my criticism is directed not at architecture in itself, but at its overstepping of meaning, its attempts to exceed limits. To know limits is already a good deal, and history can contribute to that.” (Tafuri, quoted in Ockman, Venice and New York, 67)

Manfredo Tafuri
Mies, 1925, Monument to the Revolution, destroyed by the Nazis

The connections between architecture and philosophy have been discussed by many and span centuries. Some argue that architecture is a form and practice of philosophical and theoretical knowledge. Moreover, the concepts of space and embodied perception have been central for phenomenology, French critical social thought and the cultural sciences. More recently, geography and urbanization studies have paid increasing attention to the “spatial turn” within the humanities and social sciences disciplines. In addition, design studies have begun to focus on how normative biases and social-political assumptions figure into the (technological) design of objects, buildings, towns, etc. In this seminar, we will discuss the issue primarily from the perspective of critical theory & Marxist theory, focusing on [1] architecture and the political, [2] architecture and ideology, as well as [3] architecture and materialist social theory and epistemology. To some extent, this seminar is related to other material that I have taught in recent years, such as aspects of a materialist theory of knowledge and the problem of the political for Marxist thought.

Gropius, 1922, Monument to the March Dead, destroyed by the Nazis

The guiding clues and questions come from one of the greatest Marxist historian and theorist of architecture, Manfredo Tafuri. For the introductory background on Marxism and Architecture read the entry in the Sage Handbook of Marxism, and for helpful context on Tafuri read Ockman’s brief paper “Venice and New York”, and Aureli’s brief “Intellectual Work or Aureli’s Capitalist Development. Origins and Context of Manfredo Tafuri’s Critique of Architectural Ideology”. Although some of the discussions are no longer “fashionable”, it is my conviction that the questions raised remain pressing today and are helpful to develop a contemporary version of a materialist theory of culture and society.

Course Goals

This course should make you familiar with selected relations between critical theory and architecture, architecture and space, as well as architecture and ideology.


This graduate seminar is not based on a set of fixed knowledge and, as such, is not based on a behavioral idea of education; rather, we will try to learn together and critically examine the material. The material is the absolute center of this class. Free floating discussions about things unrelated to the material are to be avoided.


The dissolution of the boundaries between architecture, painting, and sculpture; Pechstein, Socialist Arbeitsrat for Art, 1919


Histories of Modern Architecture

  • Tafuri, Dal Co, Modern Archgitecture 1 & 2 (used in this class)
  • Frampton, Modern Architecture. A Critical History
  • Giedion, Space, Time & Architecture. The Growth of a New Tradition

Books for Orientation

  • Wallenstein, Architecture, Critique, Ideology (Axl Books 2016)
  • Tafuri, Architecture and Utopia. Design and Capitalist Development (MIT Press 1976)
  • Harries, The Ethical Foundation of Architecture (MIT Press 1996)
  • Leach (ed.), Rethinking Architecture. A Reader in Cultural Theory (Routledge 1997)
  • Lahiji (ed.), Can Architecture be an Emancipatory Project? Dialogues on Architecture on the Left (Zero Books 2016).


Mies van der Rohe in front of a model of Crown Hall, Illinois Institute of Technology

Films on Kanopy (accessible through MSU Library)


Course Requirements

  • 2 protocols, write-up, up to 900 words, take questions in class
  • 1 presentation, write-up, up to 900 words, 20-25 minutes, leading class discussion
  • 1 short background “intervention” presentation, no write-up, 10min
  • Final paper, conference style, 3600-4500 words
  • Regular participation, you are expected to attend every week, except in cases of reasonable excuses


The class protocol should cover our discussion in class. Protocols should have a length of 2-3 pages (no more than 900 words), and they will in and outside of the classroom force us to have an ongoing reflection on our texts that we study for class. They can also include problems or questions that the writers had either with our class discussion or with the texts itself, but above all protocols should cover what I lectured about and what we discussed afterwards. Protocols should clarify and discuss selected issues in question. Protocols have to be sent out to everyone by Tuesdays at noon. Everyone will read the protocols before class. Please avoid late turn ins. The student who wrote the protocol will address questions during the first 15-20 minutes of the next class meeting.

Michel Foucault

Presentation & Write-Up

Each student will be responsible for working out introductory presentations, which should function as a platform for our discussions. Please focus on selected aspects of the readings; desired length of presentations: around 25 minutes. Please distribute a brief write-up/overview of what you will be talking about by Tueasday at noon. Your write-up should have a length of 2-3 pages. A write-up differs from a handout (used during a presentation); i.e., the write-up should consists of a coherent text that either interprets, reflects on, or explains the primary material. Let’s call it a “miniature-paper” that everyone reads before class. Note: the reading material should be the absolute focus of your presentation. Free floating discussions that are completely unrelated to the readings are to be avoided by all means.

Background Presentation

Each student will be responsible for a brief background presentation (architectural example or movement); no write-up is necessary, around 10min

General Remark

Given that this is a graduate seminar, I expect self-motivation, autonomy, civility, as well as self-responsibility. My seminars are completely open: you can always bring in your own positions or criticize others. My job is to clarify thoughts. The attendance requires the willingness to intensively study the texts selected for class.

Final Paper

The class essay should be well researched and should present a substantial reflection on some parts of the material discussed in class. I expect excellent papers in regard to research, form, and content. The paper should be accompanied by an abstract of no more than 150 words. The paper should be “conference style,” i.e., it should have a length of around 15 pages and, ideally, could be presented at a conference.


I will refuse giving DFs in this class, unless you find yourself in an emergency situation (health issues, etc.)

Course Evaluation

Assignments (traditional)

2 protocols + class discussionpass/fail, 10pts
1 oral presentation + write-uppass/fail, 10pts
1 background presentationpass/fail, 5pts.
final paper75 points
   100 points


4.0 (=A)100 – 93
3.592 – 87
3 (=B)86 – 82
2.581 – 77
2 (=C)76 – 72
1.571 – 65
1.0 (=D)64 – 60
0.0< 60

GENERIC SYLLABUS (might not be applicable to each class)

Laptop/Cell Phone/Tablet Policy

You are not permitted to use laptops or cell phones in class, unless needed for medical reasons. Flat devices, such as tablets, are permitted  if you have purchased the literature required for class electronically. Please do not text under the table. Cell phones should be removed from tables. Failure to follow this policy will lead to unannounced assignments in class or loss of points (at the digression of the instructor).

Laptops in the Classroom

Class Attendance

As mentioned above, I do not employ in my classes a class attendance policy. Having said this, you should be aware that class attendance is very important. When engaging in a philosophical and humanistic dialogue it is necessary to be an active and present participant in the ongoing discussion. If you miss class please do not email me asking if you missed anything important. Every class is important. You should get a study buddy for the class; a student in class who will inform you of what you missed. If you miss a class you can come to my office hours or make an appointment to discuss the material, providing you have read the material and you simply want to see if your understanding of the material is on target. Time in office hours will not be used to repeat the class lectures.

Grading Criteria + Paper Writing Tips

Check out this page for grading criteria, example of assignments, etc.

Online Research Sources

Unfortunately, some people think that the internet as such is a reliable source of information. If you decide to use online sources for additional information or your paper then do not just use one of the common internet search engines, such as Google; rather, use reliable academic sources, such as Britannica Online, or the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The Internet Ecyclopedia of Philosophy isn’t very good, but still acceptable. Check out MSU’s library resources! And, as with other sources, you must cite any online sources to which you refer in your essay.

Writing Center Information

MSU’s writing center offers excellent help on all matters regarding writing and learning. Check the website at http://writing.msu.edu for an overview and hours. For more information, please call 517.432.3610 or send an e-mail to writing@msu.edu.

Grief Absence Policy

I follow MSU’s general grief absence policy, which can be found here.

Integrity of Scholarship and Grades (Plagiarism)

The following statement of University policy addresses principles and procedures to be used in instances of academic dishonesty, violations of professional standards, and falsification of academic or admission records, herein after referred to as academic misconduct. [See General Student Regulation 1.00, Protection of Scholarship and Grades.]

Academic Honesty

Article 2.3.3 of the Academic Freedom Report states that “The student shares with the faculty the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of scholarship, grades, and professional standards.” In addition, the (insert name of unit offering course) adheres to the policies on academic honesty as specified in General Student Regulations 1.0, Protection of Scholarship and Grades; the all-University Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and Grades; and Ordinance 17.00, Examinations. (See Spartan Life: Student Handbook and Resource Guide and/or the MSU Web site: www.msu.edu) Therefore, unless authorized by your instructor, you are expected to complete all course assignments, including homework, lab work, quizzes, tests and exams, without assistance from any source. You are expected to develop original work for this course; therefore, you may not submit course work completed for another course to satisfy the requirements for this course. Students who violate MSU rules may receive a penalty grade, including but not limited to a failing grade on the assignment or in the course. Contact your instructor if you are unsure about the appropriateness of your course work. (See also https://www.msu.edu/~ombud/)

Plagiarism, from the Ombudsman’s page

Plagiarism (from the Latin plagiarius, an abductor, and plagiare, to steal) is defined by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on Misconduct in Research (take that!) as “ . . . the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit.”

Accidental or Unintentional
One may not even know that they are plagiarizing.  It is the student’s responsibility to make certain that they understand the difference between quoting and paraphrasing, as well as the proper way to cite material.

Here, students are well aware that they are plagiarizing.  Purposefully using someone else’s ideas or work without proper acknowledgment is plagiarism.  This includes turning in borrowed or bought research papers as one’s own.

Turning in the same term paper (or substantially the same paper) for two courses without getting permission from one’s instructor is plagiarism.

The Spartan Code of Honor

Student leaders have recognized the challenging task of discouraging plagiarism from the academic community. The Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) is proud to be launching the Spartan Code of Honor academic pledge, focused on valuing academic integrity and honest work ethics at Michigan State University. The pledge reads as follows:

“As a Spartan, I will strive to uphold values of the highest ethical standard. I will practice honesty in my work, foster honesty in my peers, and take pride in knowing that honor is worth more than grades. I will carry these values beyond my time as a student at Michigan State University, continuing the endeavor to build personal integrity in all that I do.”

The Spartan Code of Honor academic pledge embodies the principles of integrity that every Spartan is required to uphold in their time as a student, and beyond. The academic pledge was crafted with inspiration of existing individual college honor codes, establishing an overarching statement for the entire university. It was formally adopted by ASMSU on March 3, 2016, endorsed by Academic Governance on March 22, 2016, and recognized by the Provost, President, and Board of Trustees on April 15, 2016.

SIRS Evaluations

Michigan State University takes seriously the opinion of students in the evaluation of the effectiveness of instruction and has implemented the Student Instructional Rating System (SIRS) to gather student feedback (https://sirsonline.msu.edu). This course utilizes the online SIRS system, and you will receive an e-mail during the last two weeks of class asking you to fill out the SIRS web form at your convenience. In addition, participation in the online SIRS system involves grade sequestration, which means that the final grade for this course will not be accessible on STUINFO during the week following the submission of grades for this course unless the SIRS online form has been completed. Alternatively, you have the option on the SIRS website to decline to participate in the evaluation of the course. We hope, however, that you will be willing to give us your frank and constructive feedback so that we may instruct students even better in the future. If you access the online SIRS website and complete the online SIRS form or decline to participate, you will receive the final grade in this course as usual once final grades are submitted.

Social Media and Sharing of Course Materials

As members of a learning community, students are expected to respect the intellectual property of course instructors. All course materials presented to students are the copyrighted property of the course instructor and are subject to the following conditions of use:

  • Students may record lectures or any other classroom activities and use the recordings only for their own course-related purposes.
  • Students may share the recordings with other students enrolled in the class. Sharing is limited to using the recordings only for their own course-related purposes.
  • Students may post the recordings or other course materials online or distribute them to anyone not enrolled in the class with the advance written permission of the course instructor and, if applicable, any students whose voice or image is included in the recordings.
  • Any student violating the conditions described above may face academic disciplinary sanctions.

Student Support Program (SSP)

Michigan State University is offering all MSU students access to counseling support 24/7/365 through My SSP: Student Support Program. My SSP is free to all MSU students. My SSP is confidential, and can help with:

  • Adapting to new challenges
  • Being successful at school
  • Relationships with friends and family
  • Practical issues with studying
  • Stress, sadness, loneliness, and more

The My SSP professional counselors are available to help anytime, anywhere with:

  • Immediate support by phone and chat
  • Ongoing support by appointment via phone and video
  • In addition, culturally relevant support is available in the language of the caller’s choice.

There are multiple options for connecting with a My SSP counselor:

  • Download the free My SSP app on Google Play or iTunes
  • Chat online at http://us.myissp.com
  • Call 1-866-743-7732
  • From outside North America, call 001.416.380.657

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities should contact the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities to establish reasonable accommodations. For an appointment with a counselor, call 353-9642 (voice) or 355-1293 (TTY)

Drops and Adds

The last day to add this course is the end of the first week of classes. The last day to drop this course with a 100 percent refund and no grade reported is (see Academic Calendar). The last day to drop this course with no refund and no grade reported is (see Academic Calendar). You should immediately make a copy of your amended schedule to verify you have added or dropped this course.

Note on Attendance

Students who fail to attend the first four class sessions or class by the fifth day of the semester, whichever occurs first, may be dropped from the course.