Joseph C. Forte

BA, Brooklyn College. MA, MPhil, PhD, Columbia University. Special interest in art and architecture of the Italian Renaissance and the 17th century, the history of architecture, and art and architectural theory. Author of articles on Italian 16th-century drawings, French painting of the 17th century, and American 19th-century architecture. SLC, 1978–

Course Information

Current undergraduate courses

Problems by Design: Process, Program, and Production in Architecture, 1945 to the Present

Year

An intense inspection of attitudes in the immediate postwar period will be juxtaposed with post-9/11 issues. Readings will be analyzed and involve works in philosophy, theory, criticism, politics, and social analysis that deal with the aesthetic, formal, infrastructural and sociopolitical questions raised by the notion of ON?/OFF? The Grid: Sustainable SLC 2100. Buildings will feature major architects and movements in the postwar period (Le Corbusier, Brutalism, Venturi, Postmodernism, Eisenman Critical Modernism, Koolhaas, and Pragmatism), responses to powerful external events, small-scale interventions that change the design strategies such as blobs, dots and folds, fractal form, fractured landscapes, datatowns and metacities, ascetic aesthetic/minimalist consumption, megastructures, themed urbanism, transformational design grammars, and economic models for sustainable growth/development/design. Class will be divided into “firms”; group work is emphasized. Assignments involve analytical and critical papers, class PowerPoint presentations, and organized and directed discussions on both readings and buildings in chronological (time, place), typological (type of document, rhetoric of presentation), ideological (internal coherence), and philosophical (external critique) terms. Design projects will focus on ON?/OFF? THE GRID: SLC 2100 for exhibition in April 2016. This course complements courses on urbanism, visual arts, environmental science and studies, literary theory, physics, and, of course, art and architectural criticism and history.

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Related Cross-Discipline Paths

The Paradox of Painting: Theory and Practice in European Art and Architecture of the 16th and 17th Centuries

Year

Annibale Carracci’s painting (1597-99) of St. Margaret, an Early Christian martyr, shows the saint pointing upward while looking outward and leaning on an altar inscribed, “Sursum Corda” (Lift Up Your Hearts). An exploration of the multiple meanings and paradoxes of this image, admonition, epigram, and emblem form an introduction to the basic questions and challenges of this course. How is art in general—and painting in particular—to achieve this lifting up? Who or what should be lifted: the artists, the patron, the viewer, the material, the world? Lifting up from what and to what or to whom? Lifting the heart, the head, the mind, the body? Are all of the arts and all of the subjects of the visual arts supposed to serve this same purpose? Does this admonition pertain to aesthetic, social, and historical issues, as well as to the theological and political? What about the linguistic implications: Can an exalted “classical” language exist side-by-side with a dynamic, naturalistic vernacular? The course will cover the art of the High Renaissance and Mannerism in 16th-century Italy and frames the questions that painters, sculptors, and architects throughout Europe mediated in the following era, commonly called the Age of the Baroque. Included in the first semester will be studies of major artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Titian and art styles such as Mannerism; in the second semester, Caravaggio, Bernini, Rubens, Rembrandt, and Poussin and the style of Classicism, among others. Creative projects may be submitted for conference work by qualified students.

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Previous courses

First-Year Studies: Archi/Texts: Buildings and Philosophies, Environments and Interactions, From Periclean Athens to Contemporary Los Angeles and Beyond

Readings, lectures, presentations, and discussions in this course will focus on major statements made by architects, critics, and philosophers dealing with the built landscape from Athens in the fifth century to present-day Los Angeles and World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China. Authors include Plato and Aristotle, St. Augustine, Leon Battista Alberti, Denis Diderot, Adolf Loos, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wight, Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, Jane Jacobs, Peter Eisenman, Rem Koolhaas, Reyner Banham, Frank Gehry, and Thom Mayne. Readings will range from Aristotle’s Politics and Vitruvius’s Ten Books on Architecture (73BCE) to Loos’s Ornament and Crime (1909) and Koolhaas’s Junkspace (2000) and beyond. Emphasis will be on close reading of texts, historical context for ideas, and buildings that are prescribed, described, or proscribed by theory in practice. Environmental issues will be assimilated into historical and sociological, as well as scientific, context. The first assignment will deal with the uses of literature in developing a  critical theory; the second will be class presentations on theorists and attitudes toward architecture in the ancient world. Class will be broken into firms that will develop responses to texts and to a particular architectural program and project in second semester—the design of a retrofitted student center and campus plan for Sarah Lawrence College. Conference projects may focus on a variety of architectural venues: new towns, world’s fairs, religious structures of symbolic (or other) import, architectural NGOs, favellas, and utopia, both inside and outside the Western tradition.  

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History of Architecture: Beauty, Bridges, Boxes, and Blobs: “Modern” Architecture From 1450 to the Present

Spring

This course aims to give, through slides and readings, a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of modern architectural practice and theory—from its origins in Renaissance notions of ideal beauty, classical authority, and scientific function to its latest iteration in Blobs—based on the theory of the abject, pop inflatable structures, and the science of topology. Along with major movements—Baroque Corporialism, Enlightenment Rationalism, The Sublime, Arts and Crafts, Technological Sublime, Art Nouveau, Bauhaus and Figures, William Morris, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, and Frank Gehry—we will learn to read architecture and read with architects; to contextualize form and its urban, sociopolitical, and epistemological implications; and to see how architecture gives form to context. Group conferences will deal with primary sources. Three papers and an architectural notebook dedicated to class notes, readings, drawings, musings, etc. will be required.

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More or Less: Architectural Theory From Modern to Contemporary

Fall

Readings in this course will focus on major statements made by architects, critics, and philosophers dealing with the built landscape from 1900 to the present. Authors include Adolf Loos, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, Jane Jacobs, Peter Eisenman, and Rem Koolhaas; readings will range from Ornament and Crime (1909) to Junkspace (2000) and beyond. Emphasis will be on close reading of texts, historical context for ideas, and buildings that are prescribed, described, or proscribed by theory in practice. The first assignment will deal with the uses of critical theory; the second will be a design project. Class will be broken into firms that will develop a response to a particular architectural program and project—the design of a retrofitted cultural center and residential/commercial area at the Yonkers Glenwood Power Plant.

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The Paradox of Painting: Pictures and Practices, Histories and Theories, in Renaissance and Baroque Art, 1500-1700

Year

Annibale Carracci’s painting (1597-9) of St. Margaret, an Early Christian martyr, shows the saint pointing upward while looking outward and leaning on an altar inscribed, “Sursum Corda” (Lift Up Your Hearts). An exploration of the multiple meanings and paradoxes of this image, admonition, epigram, and emblem form an introduction to the  basic questions and challenges of this course. How is art to achieve this lifting up? Who or what should be lifted: the artists, the patron, the viewer, the material, the world? Lifting up from what and to what or to whom? Lifting the heart, the head, the mind, the body? Are all the arts and all the subjects of the visual arts supposed to serve this same purpose? Does this admonition pertain to aesthetic, social, and historical issues, as well as to the theological and political? What about the linguistic implications: Can an exalted “classical” language exist side-by-side with a dynamic, naturalistic vernacular? The course will cover the art of 16th-century Italy, the Italian High Renaissance, as it frames the questions that painters, sculptors, and architects throughout Europe mediated in the following era, commonly called the Age of the Baroque. Included in the first semester will be studies of major artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Titian and art styles such as Mannerism; in the second semester, Caravaggio, Bernini, Rubens, Rembrandt, and Poussin and the style of Classicism, among others.  First-semester group conferences focus on the challenges posed by the career of Michelangelo; second semester, on the issues in art and architecture posed by the career of Bernini. 

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“A Talent For Every Noble Thing”: Art and Architecture in Italy 1300-1600

Year

This class is an in-depth survey of the major monuments of Italian art and architecture from 1300 to 1550. Equal emphasis will be given to the canon of art works by artists such as Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo; to readings of major critics and historians of Italian art; and to the broader intellectual trends and social realities and movements that provide a context for our understanding the artist’s and, to a lesser extent, the critics’ creations. Thus, unified Italian churches will be juxtaposed with gender-segregated social practice, theories of genius with concepts of handicraft, pagan ideals with Christian rituals. The first semester will focus on a close reading of texts surrounding the first polemical pamphlets about art in early modern history, Alberti’s On Painting and On Architecture, and will include works by Erwin Panofsky, Michael Baxandall, and Anthony Grafton. The second semester will engage the intellectual and aesthetic debates surrounding Michelangelo as genius, model, courtier, and outcast. Class papers will deal with developing a vocabulary for compositional analysis, critical issues in Italian intellectual and social history, and varied interpretive strategies applied to works of visual art and culture. Conference projects may engage from a variety of critical and historical viewpoints, European art and architecture from 1300 to 1800, and relevant historical and literary issues from 1400 to 1700.

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