UWA Handbook 2017

Unit details

ARCT5529 Forensic Architecture

Credit 6 points
  Offering
(see Timetable)
AvailabilityLocationMode
Not available in 2017UWA (Perth)Face to face
Content This unit employs the methodologies of architectural drawing, modeling and analysis, backed by historical knowledge to undertake experimental reconstructions of lost buildings and urban environments—'forensic architecture'.

Traditionally, architectural history and theory have concerned themselves with the existing—projects that exist as standing buildings, or as more-or-less well documented unbuilt or demolished buildings. These form the 'landmarks' of our architectural history. Thus, for example, Hagia Sophia and the Pantheon form key 'moments' in this history, not least because they physically exist, and have been extensively documented, so that if they disappeared in a calamity they would still exist as part of the historical record and the canon of architecture as 'Great Moments'. Such projects appear 'permanent'—despite the actual transformations that time has made to them. Surviving unbuilt projects similarly convey a finite character that hides the transformations that inevitably would occur if the project had been built, while record photographs and drawings generally depict the monument at one point in time.

But what of monuments and urban configurations which have disappeared, both physically, and from the record? Can they still be considered within the framework of architecture? Perhaps, they might have served as models, exerting enormous influence on later architecture. Thus, we have the historic example of San Marco in Venice, whereas we have lost the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople, which its builders emulated. In such cases, frequently the only evidence can be supplied by archaeology and by ancient textual descriptions, from which scholars must interpret and hypothesise. For such tasks, the methodology of architecture- the understanding of structure, space and spatial narrative—the movement through environments—can often be an effective tool. Thus, architectural methods have been used within or in collaboration with other disciplines in research projects, notably with historians and archaeologists in studying the ways in which urban environments and architectural ensembles (evidence of material culture) have developed and transformed. Furthermore, current digital technologies can be used both to extract evidence from historical representations, and to simulate the temporal environment created by spatial sequences through which rituals might proceed.
Outcomes Students are able to (1) develop knowledge of digital and manual drawing techniques which can be used in an exploratory manner to extract information from a range of source documents on urban structures and environments; and (2) develop skills in cross-disciplinary research, using historical, archaeological and architectural evidence in a cross-disciplinary methodology to gain insight into urban and architectural structures.
Assessment Typically this unit is assessed in the following ways: (1) research report; (2) digital modelling of data; and (3) hypothetical reconstruction of lost architectural complex. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit.
Unit Coordinator(s) Associate Professor Nigel Westbrook
Contact hours seminars: 3 hours per week for up to 12 weeks

  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Books and other material wherever listed may be subject to change. Book lists relating to 'Preliminary reading', 'Recommended reading' and 'Textbooks' are, in most cases, available at the University Co-operative Bookshop (from early January) and appropriate administrative offices for students to consult. Where texts are listed in the unit description above, an asterisk (*) indicates that the book is available in paperback.