2023-2024 / ARCH2219-1

The philosophy and aesthetics of architecture


40h Th

Number of credits

 Bachelor in architecture5 crédits 


Stéphane Dawans

Language(s) of instruction

French language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the first semester, review in January


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

Like architecture, reason does have a history - which François Châtelet has recounted with a rare talent for popularization. In this course, we will try to show how they are linked since the thought of the archè.

In this course, which goes back to the pre-Socratic thinkers to Nietzsche, we will only have the opportunity to freeze on a few great periods and great figures of philosophy, the aim being to highlight what underlies our way of thinking "in the West" and above all to shed light on concepts and problems that are necessary prerequisites for the training of any academic and any architect. We will finally try to update what Jacques Derrida designated with a touch of philosophical suspicion by "the architecture of architecture", since it is a cultural construction.

If architecture cannot be reduced to its sole artistic dimension, no one would seriously consider questioning that it belongs to the Fine Arts. Therefore, the future architect cannot do without an introduction to the fundamental questions of aesthetic philosophy: What are the stakes of the question of beauty? How has the question shifted in two thousand five hundred years? What makes architecture specific as an artistic practice? Why is art in crisis today? etc. To answer such an objective, it is necessary to have acquired a set of historical, thematic and conceptual reference points. We will obviously not have the opportunity to address all the philosophers and concepts that have made the history of the Western tradition, from Socrates to Goodman, but we will study some of the most fundamental texts that from Antiquity to today fuel the debate: we will address the essential notions that should allow the student of architecture to situate himself in relation to the major issues of art in general and architecture in particular.


Learning outcomes of the learning unit

Part 1: The learning objectives of the teaching unit described from an operational point of view
The course essentially aims to stabilize a series of general concepts in philosophy and philosophy of art, with the ambition of making them operational in the "expanded field" of architectural thought. It meets, among others, and in a specific way, the objectives of the transversal theme that our faculty project indexes under the title ART: "creative dimension, valorization of art, poetic or sensitive dimension, knowledge and culture of architecture recognized as an artistic discipline"...
General objectives: at the end of the course, the student will be able to:
- 1. define the status of the architect in the history of our civilization from the scale of life styles in Aristotle to the coronation of the architect by the modernists and to inventory and explain the specificities of architecture as an art. - 2. to identify and describe the different basic concepts, the great currents, schools or thinkers of the Western tradition by placing them in the line of time, and, more precisely, from the point of view of philosophical aesthetics, to inscribe the theories of architecture in the different paradigms that saw them being born in the lapse of time that separates the building of the Parthenon and that of the new WorldTradeCenter. - 3. to establish relationships between the ideals (or fictions) that have been handed down to us by Western culture: democracy, rationality, mastery of nature, culture vs. nature, emancipation, modernity, science & technology, progress, the Enlightenment project, rational city, individualism, ... - 4. to compare the strategies monopolized today by classical, modern and contemporary art (Nathalie Heinich).
Part 2: Link with the optional skills reference framework :
Competency 1: Investigate an architectural issue

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

In the courses of human sciences, philosophy, history of construction/architecture, etc., the teachers try to put the different realities studied into perspective by constructing a timeline on which we ask the students to place progressively, throughout their course, the essential milestones that allow them to understand the history of their civilization and the evolution of their discipline (Parthenon, Vitruvius, Gothic church, Descartes, Louis XIV, Quattrocento, ... Industrial Revolution, postmodernism...). We count on the knowledge of the periods of history expected at the end of a high school curriculum. We invite everyone to be proactive in mastering this tool of representation. It is very easy to remedy one's own possible shortcomings.

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

A significant part of the class sessions will be given in lecture form, but we will diversify the activities as much as possible: lectures, fun exercises, commented readings, viewing of very short excerpts from programs, etc.

We will also explain weekly the instructions for work in the library or at home: watching programs, lectures, reading scientific articles, etc.

Mode of delivery (face to face, distance learning, hybrid learning)

Face-to-face course

Additional information:

Lecture (large auditorium)

Recommended or required readings

Notes are available on the structure and the main lines of the course - they are also accompanied by a portfolio of readings consisting of scientific articles, definitions taken from specialized dictionaries, selected pages of major works...

Book from which the course is built for the philosophy of art part: Sherringham M., Introduction à la philosophie esthétique, Paris, Payot & Rivages, 1992.

Recommended dictionary : Clément é. & al, La philosophie de A à Z. Les auteurs, les notions, les concepts clés, les personnages symboliques, les textes de référence, Paris, Hatier, 2000 (new edition in 2021).

Exam(s) in session

Any session

- In-person

written exam ( open-ended questions )

Work placement(s)

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course



Association of one or more MOOCs