UnBuilt and FarOut:

Experiments in Architecture since 1945 

Instructor: Ken Ehrlich

CalArts School of Critical Studies 

Spring 2018

Wednesdays 1:00 – 3:50 

Room: E 58

This class will look at a broad range of design groups and experiments in architecture since 1945. We will consider unbuilt, rigorously designed architecture and pay particular attention to practitioners who sought to expand architectural practice beyond a purely functional or visual form. This course traces the evolution of architectural representation from drawing to film, performance and media and ultimately to three-dimensional modeling and digital representation. Particular focus will be given to groups that were intent on experimenting with ideas of community, authorship, and urbanism and those that consider a social role for the architect or designer. 

This class is specifically designed to introduce students to basic architectural concepts and vocabulary as well as understand the transitions in architecture from Modernism through Post-modernism and beyond. We will also investigate of historical and contemporary design collaboratives as well as critically evaluate architectural and urban planning projects. Each week we will look at the work of an architect or designer and reflect on the methods and strategies employed to generate models, designs, writings and interventions. Students will be expected to lead discussions on class readings and complete a final research project. 

Course Goals:

  1. Students will become familiar with historical and contemporary vocabulary and discourses around architecture, urban planning and landscape.
  2. Students will learn to engage with and think critically about architectural drawings, models and experiments.
  3. Students will learn to evaluate radical and visionary spatial propositions within a historical context.

Course Outcomes:

  1. Students will write a series of Reaction Papers and participate in discussions relating the course readings to contemporary architecture and urban design.
  2. Students will write about a broad range of cultural approaches to intervening in the built environment.
  3. Students will research an architectural or urban planning project using both critical and artistic methods, culminating in an essay and a class presentation.


Week one – Introductions. Discussion on architectural practice as intervention, critiques of Modernism, and the emergence of globalization and the Neo-liberal spatial order.

Week two –  Convention in the context of architecture, Authorship and the architect as collaborator

reading: “Toward a theory of normative architecture” by Joan Ockman in Architecture of the Everyday.

Week three – Re-imagining the City, Architect as planner vs. Architect as critic.

Case Study: Superstudio

reading: "Only Architecture Will Be Our Lives" by Lang and Menking in Superstudio: Life Without Objects.

Week four – An Anarchist Architecture?

Case Study: Anarchitecture

reading: “Towards Anarchitecture: Gordon Matta-Clark and LeCorbusier.” By James Attlee

Week five – Architecture as science fiction and the aesthetics of Pop

Case Study: Archigram

reading: selections from Archigram (Princeton University Press, 1999) and Archigram: Architecture without Architecture by Simon Sadler 

Week six – Nomadism and Media

Case Study: The Ant Farm

reading: “Introduction”, “Sex, drugs, rock and roll, cars, dolphins, and architecture” & “Searching for Energy” in Ant Farm 1968–1978 by Constance Lewallen and Steve Seid

Week seven – The utopia of print

Case Study: Utopie

reading: Utopie: Texts and Projects, 1967–1978, edited by Craig Buckley and Jean-Louis Violeau

Week eight – New Babylon

Case Study: Constant Nieuwenhuys

reading: Constant's New Babylon: The Hyper-Architecture of Desire by Mark Wigley (selections)

Week nine – Experiment as drawing practice and process

Case Study: Lebbeus Woods

reading: Pamphet Architecture 15: War and Architecture by Lebbeus Woods and Lebbeus Woods, Architect by Joseph Becker and Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher (selections)

Week ten – Bio-technics and the city

Case Study: The Metabolists: Kenzo Tange, Kiyonori Kikutake and Kisho Kurokawa

reading: Kenzo Tange and the Metabolist Movement: Urban Utopias of Modern Japan by Zhongjie Lin 

Week eleven – The Fun Palace and beyond

Case Study: Cedric Price

reading: From Agit Prop to Free Space: The Architecture of Cedric Price by Stanley Mathews

Week twelve – Community redevelopment as social sculpture  

Case Study: Project Row Houses, Watts House Project, and Theaster Gates

Week thirteen – Unbuilt Los Angeles: 

Case study: The utopia/dystopia of now

reading: Never Built: Los Angeles by Greg Goldin and Sam Lubell

Week fourteen – Student presentations.

Week fifteen – Student presentations.

Grading Policy/Absences

CalArts does not grade on the A-F scale.  

We grade using:

  1. High Pass (HP): Passing with Excellence
  2. Pass (P): Passing with Quality
  3. Low Pass (LP): Passing
  4. Incomplete (I): Temporary evaluation. Through agreement between student and instructor, Incompletes must be made up during the following semester.  Incomplete evaluations not made up within the specified period of time will convert to NC. 
  5. No Credit (NC): Work did not meet the criteria for credit. “NC” evaluations may not be converted to credit bearing grades except by petition to the deans council initiated by the instructor of the class or, in the instructor’s absence, the dean of the school offering the course.

If a student misses more than 3 sessions of class and does not pursue the withdrawal option, a NC will be given and will appear on external records.

To read the Grading Policy in its entirety as well as frequently asked questions, click on the link below:

Change of Grade

In the interests of operating an equitable grading system, Critical Studies stringently enforces CalArts’ change of grade policy.  Students have one semester upon receiving an “Incomplete” grade to make up any missing coursework and/or projects.  If this work has not been completed by the end of the semester, the Incomplete converts automatically to a “No Credit”.  After that time, changes require the approval of Deans Council.  Deans Council will approve such grade changes only in the case of extreme, extenuating circumstances or in cases of administrative/faculty error. 

Services for Students with Disabilities

CalArts will provide reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities who have registered with the Student Affairs office.  Registration with the Office of Student Affairs is on a voluntary, self-identifying basis. Services are available only after a student has presented certified, current documentation of the disability from an appropriate medical or educational specialist, and this documentation has been reviewed and accepted as complete. Please go to for extensive information on services for students with disabilities.


Critical Studies endeavors to teach students the essential skills and basic ethics involved in any academic enquiry.  To this end, we are committed to observing the policy on plagiarism set out in the CalArts Course Catalog.  This stipulates that plagiarism is the use of ideas and/or quotations (from the internet, books, films, television, newspapers, articles, the work of other students, works of art, media, etc.) without proper credit to the author/artist.  Critical Studies holds to the view that plagiarism constitutes intellectual theft and is a serious breach of acceptable conduct.  It is also the policy of CalArts that students who misrepresent source material as their own original work and fail to credit it have committed plagiarism and are subject to disciplinary action.  In the case of Critical Studies, any student caught plagiarizing will immediately be given a ‘no credit’ for that class.  The student will not be allowed to re-write the paper, and if there is further evidence of plagiarism, Critical Studies will recommend more severe disciplinary action, including suspension or dismissal. 

If you have any questions regarding plagiarism or want direction on how to credit source material, ask the member of faculty and refer to reference guides on permanent reserve in the CalArts library.  The CalArts reference librarians may be able to offer additional information as well.