Department of Architecture

Research in Penn's Graduate Group in Architecture is carried out in any one of six fields of specialization. Three are internal to the discipline of architecture (history and theory, representation, and technology) and the others are in related disciplines (landscape architecture, urbanism, and historic preservation). The dissertation is undertaken after the completion of required and elective courses, and examinations in history and theory, the literature of a student's field, and foreign languages. Much of the scholarship in the program seeks to provide a theoretical context for contemporary practice.




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Now showing 1 - 10 of 17
  • Publication
    The Persistence of the Open Flame: Work and Waste in the Healthy, Modern Home
    (1999-11-06) Braham, William
    We still maintain open flames in our homes despite the development of cleaner, cheaper, and more efficient devices that can provide the same heat or light, often with greater comfort and control. My attention was drawn to this condition by Wolfgang Schivelbush's thoughtful book on the industrialization of light in the nineteenth century, which recounted the rejection of gas and then electric lighting in the living rooms of bourgeois and upper-class houses in Europe. A similar condition exists in America and, for example, we still light candles when we sit down to particular kinds of meals, whether those are ritual meals like thanksgiving and the Passover Seder, or intimate occasions, or even expensive restaurants.
  • Publication
    Eyes That Do Not See? The Practice of Sustainable Architecture
    (1995) Braham, William
    Under New York law, roof-top water towers are invisible. The terms of the code are not vague; the silhouette of a water tower and the shadow it casts are transparent to the zoning envelope and the sky-exposure plane. This is not, of course, truly mysterious; it results from the neglect of a small effect in the guarantee of sufficient light at street level. But water towers are invisible in quite another sense and this raises useful questions about architecture.
  • Publication
    Work 2006/2007
    WORK is an annual publication of the Department of Architecture that documents student work in design studios and courses in the Master of Architecture and Post-Professional programs, as well as events, faculty news and student awards. It also includes abstracts of PhD dissertations defended that year. It provides an opportunity to explore the creative work of our students and is a permanent record of work in the Department.
  • Publication
    Do Houses Evolve? Neo-biology at House_n
    (2002-01-01) Braham, William
    Do houses evolve? The intuitive answer would have to be yes. The general assessment that houses are better apparently supports that conclusion, as does the fact that those improvements occurred incrementally over the last century or so with the steady introduction and refinement of indoor plumbing, central heating, refrigeration, air conditioning, electric lighting. Despite a certain resistance to the conditions of rapid change, best characterized in architecture by historic preservation, belief in evolutionary development is now so very widely accepted that the collective attention of designers has shifted to the process of adaptation itself, to anticipating and providing for the next technique, device, or development.
  • Publication
    After Typology: The Suffering of Diagrams
    (2000-01-11) Braham, William
    Architects produce diagrams, not buildings, but diagrams that are wholly immanent, wholly embedded and coextensive with the materials, configurations, and forms of buildings. Theories of representation and expression have tended to privilege the concept over the building, treating the artifact as a site of interpretation, a mere extension of the process of its production. But if such concepts could be adequately expressed or understood separately from their manifestations, then the buildings themselves would be unnecessary. Architectural concepts only exist fully in their realization, as discoveries through the non-linear process called design. That condition of immanence inspires the recurring attention to method and process in the architectural discourse and equally the frustration with the embedded quality of the theorizing that it reveals.
  • Publication
    Design in the World: An Interview with Detlef Mertins
    (2006-09-11) Manaugh, Geoff; Mertins, Detlef
    Geoff Manaugh, editor of BldgBlog , interviews Detlef Mertins, Professor and Chair of the Architecture Department at the University of Pennsylvania for the website Archinect . The interview covers a range of subjects concerning architecture and education today, including the nature of contemporary experimental design, the role of digital media, formats of commercial development, issues of ecological design, and architecture's social and political responsibilities.
  • Publication
    Walter Benjamin and the Tectonic Unconscious: Using Architecture as an Optical Instrument
    (1999) Mertins, Detlef
    The writings of Walter Benjamin include appropriations and transformations of modernist architectural history and theory that offer an opportunity to broaden the interpretation of how the relationship between the 'unconscious' and technologically aided 'optics' is figured in his commentaries on cultural modernity. This essay focuses on three moments in his writings, each of which touches on this topic in a different way: first, on Benjamin's reading of Carl Bötticher's theory of architectural tectonics as a theory of history in which the unconscious serves as a generative and productive source that challenges the existing matrix of representation; secondly, on Benjamin's transformation of Sigfried Giedion's presentation of iron structures into optical instruments for glimpsing a space interwoven with unconsciousness, a new world of space the image of which had seemingly been captured by photography; and thirdly, on Benjamin's suggestion that the mimetic faculty continues to play within representation, history and technology to produce similarities between the human and the non-human. In each instance, Benjamin reworked the dynamic dualism of nineteenth-century architectural tectonics - (self)representation seeking reconciliation with alterity - into a dialectic. In so doing, he set the cause of revolution (of a modernity yet to come) against metaphysical and utopian claims, progressive and regressive alike.
  • Publication
    Dynamic Indices of Building Thermal Performance
    (1981) Braham, William
    Frequency transform and finite difference techniques are applied to a simple network developed using the equivalent thermal parameter (ETP) methodology. Subsequently a set of normalized parameter groups derived from the systems equations and solutions are discussed as indices of building thermal performance.
  • Publication
    Biotechniques: Form Follows Flow?
    (2003-01-01) Braham, William
    This paper examines the eco-systems model that underlies the LEED Green Building Rating System, comparing it to a number of other contemporary manifestations of the same model. As attendants at Greenbuild know well, the rating system offers credit for a number of well-recognized strategies that improve resource efficiency and indoor quality. Those strategies are based on an ecological model of the building and its occupants, which views them as agents in a dynamically interconnected system of flows and exchanges. between humans, their technological activities, and the biosphere. Or, in Sim van der Ryn's apt motto of ecological design: "form follows flow." (van der Ryn 2003)
  • Publication
    The Modernity of Zaha Hadid
    (2006-01-01) Mertins, Detlef
    During the heyday of postmodernism in the 1980s, as architects turned to historical styles, urban traditions, and popular culture to rebuild the public support that modernism had lost, Zaha Hadid declared that modernity was an incomplete project that deserved to be continued. This was an inspiring message and its bold vision was matched by projects such as the competition-winning design for The Peak in Hong Kong (1982-1983). Hadid's luminous paintings depicted the city and the hillside above it as a prismatic field in which buildings and landform were amalgamated into the same geological formation of shifting lines, vibrant planes, and shimmering colors, at once tangible and intangible, infused with the transformative energy that Cubist, Futurist, and Expressionist landscapes had sought to capture.