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Online Course

The Architectural Imagination

Harvard University via edX

Found in Visual Arts
  • Provider edX
  • Cost Free Online Course (Audit)
  • Session Self Paced
  • Language English
  • Certificate $99 Certificate Available
  • Effort 3-5 hours a week
  • Duration 10 weeks long
  • Learn more about MOOCs

Taken this course? Share your experience with other students. Write review


Architecture engages a culture’s deepest social values and expresses them in material, aesthetic form. This course will teach you how to understand architecture as both cultural expression and technical achievement. Vivid analyses of exemplary buildings, and hands-on exercises in drawing and modeling, will bring you closer to the work of architects and historians.

The first part of the course introduces the idea of the architectural imagination. Perspective drawing and architectural typology are explored and you will be introduced to some of the challenges in writing architectural history.

Then we address technology as a component of architecture. You will discover ways that innovative technology can enable and promote new aesthetic experiences, or disrupt age-old traditions. Technological advances changed what could be built, and even what could even be thought of as architecture.

Finally, we'll confront architecture’s complex relationship to its social and historical contexts and its audiences, achievements, and aspirations. You will learn about architecture’s power of representation and see how it can produce collective meaning and memory.

Architecture is one of the most complexly negotiated and globally recognized cultural practices, both as an academic subject and a professional career. Its production involves all of the technical, aesthetic, political, and economic issues at play within a given society. Join us as we examine how architecture engages, mediates, and expresses a culture’s complex aspirations.


Part I: Form and History
  • Module 1: The Architectural Imagination: An Introduction
  • Module 2: Reading Architecture: Column and Wall
  • Module 3: Hegel and Architectural History
  • Module 4: Aldo Rossi and Typology
Part II: The Technology Effect
  • Module 5: The Crystal Palace: Infrastructure and Detail
  • Module 6: The Dialectics of Glass and Steel
  • Module 7: Technology Tamed: Le Corbusier’s Machines for Living
Part III: Representation and Context
  • Module 8: Drawing Utopia: Visionary Architecture of the 18th Century
  • Module 9: The Pompidou Center in the City of Paris
  • Module 10: Presenting the Unrepresentable

Taught by

K. Michael Hays, Erika Naginski and Antoine Picon

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Reviews for edX's The Architectural Imagination Based on 5 reviews

  • 5 stars 60%
  • 4 star 0%
  • 3 star 0%
  • 2 star 0%
  • 1 stars 40%

Did you take this course? Share your experience with other students.

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  • 1
Karen C
2 years ago
by Karen completed this course, spending 8 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.
I loved this course - I've never really understood what the term "architecture" means beyond making a building that won't fall down, and here I got some glimmer of the additional nuances that result both from cultural attitudes and from function. I have no background whatsoever in architecture, but I was able to follow along and I learned a great deal. It's a very engaging class, inviting opinion and speculation as well as academic understanding. As a beginner I found the supplementary videos on perspective and drawing particularly helpful; sometimes the more theoretical lectures went just a little wide for me, but I never felt lost, just like there's more to learn.

FMI see my personal blog post at
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
a year ago
Anonymous completed this course.
I'm a fairly intelligent individual, however the words used seemed to be big for the sake of being big not for the sake of clarity. It only confused me more. I had to go back through each sentence two or three times just to parse what he was saying. I understand a lot of this is theory rather than practice so it is a little more abstract. However I couldn't finish the course because I didn't want to try and figure out what he was saying. The material and concepts weren't inherently that difficult, it was that he made it harder than it had to be. I also felt like I wasn't learning much, I would much rather rent an architecture 101 book.

I will not be continuing this course.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Rodrigo M
7 months ago
by Rodrigo completed this course, spending 5 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.
I took this course two years ago when I was attending the fourth year of Architecture, and although it might be a bit hard to understand sometimes (I’m not a native English speaker) I thought it was really good, it is an introduction to architecture, a different point of view of this field, at least compared to what I’ve learnt in my country. I learned new things, but also saw things that I was already familiar with. I think it was great, it was the first MOOC I took, and thanks to this I’ve taken many more.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
9 months ago
Anonymous is taking this course right now.
This course is very heavy going. I’ve been really trying hard to understand what is being explained and I’ve come to the conclusion that it is unexplainable because it makes no sense unless you just swallow it whole just as it is. And I’m talking as someone who works with buildings on adialy basis for 20 years.

The sad thing is that this kind of teaching is going on in every architectural school. This has nothing to do with making or understanding good buildings, it’s just theory.
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a month ago
Anonymous is taking this course right now.
The Architectural Imagination is one of the greatest basic architectural course conducting by Harvard team. At present I'm taking the course and I'm very much impressed. Love Harvard edX from Sri Lanka.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
  • 1

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