Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lancaster: The Architecture of Faith

Dr. Kostis Kourelis
Preliminary Syllabus

Franklin & Marshall College, Art and Art History Department, ART 271, Spring 2009

Lancaster is a veritable museum of architectural history. Using the city as a living laboratory, we will investigate its religious buildings, churches, mosques, and temples. We will focus on the buildings of the 19th and early 20th centuries, when places of worship received lavish attention and artistic investment. We will explore how American communities imported old architectural models (Roman, Greek, Romanesque, Byzantine, Islamic) to create new social identities. Places of worship linked the past with the present and anchored demographic groups to an urban fabric that never ceased to change. Studying individual buildings will reveal the history of the American city, its social classes, ethnicities, and religious differences. The class is a workshop. Students will conduct original research, collaborate in a shared final project, and learn the methods of architectural history.

The seminar will run like a communal workshop. Although each student will have his/her individual assignment, we will create a collective body of knowledge and will teach each other through our processes. Although no previous knowledge is assumed, we will build on each student’s previous experiences and strengths.

Produce architectural documentation (drawings, photos, narratives) · Learn how a building’s fabric can be used as historical evidence · Understand architecture’s visual vocabulary across time · Explore urban identity, community, religion, ethnicity and politics · Learn how to conduct archival research and oral histories · Present architectural research through polished prose

During the first week of the seminar, we will explore the different chapters of architectural history, and how they have created a cumulative vocabulary that was fully understood by Lancaster’s citizens. We will understand the significance of style as marker of identity. After a survey of ancient and medieval architectural developments, we will see how historical precedents inform modern cultural practices. We will focus on 19th- and early-20th-century sensibilities regarding the value of imitating historical styles.

Anthropologists define religion as the net accumulation of social practices and rituals. We will investigate the ways by which social activities organize space, produce hierarchical experiences and commemorate sacred time. At some level, the architecture of faith is nothing more than the monumental expression of religious ritual. We will investigate various religious practices and how they gave birth to architectural spaces.

America’s religious landscape is extremely complex. Not only does the United States contain a multiplicity of religious communities, but its own history experienced intense change and development with religion at the center. In order to understand the architecture of faith, we must understand denominational history and the competition among faiths in the American public sphere. Guest lecture: Professor Eric T. Baldwin, Department of Religious Studies

Different religions cohabited the American city creating an urban tapestry of monumental expressions. Churches, temples and mosques became focal points around which ethnic communities coalesced during the growth of the American industrial city. Religious buildings defined the social identity of a certain neighborhood and its dominant belief system. It is impossible to understand America’s religious buildings without understanding the social and economic context in which they played their role.

Maps will be our first source material. We will trace the development of Lancaster through a series of cartographic sources. Focusing our attention on the year 1914, we will then map all the religious buildings within the city limits. This chronological snapshot will give us a clear view of the numbers, types, and varieties of buildings. Class meets at Franklin and Marshall Library, Archives and Special Collections.

In order to understand a historical community and its buildings, we must learn how to analyze its historical documents. Archives are collections of historical material that have been deposited for safekeeping. Archives contain letters, publications, photographs, genealogies and all kinds of narratives. This week, we learn how to use those documents to place a historical building in its appropriate chronological setting. Class meets in Lancaster County’s Historical Society

The special (sacred) nature of religious architecture has guaranteed its preservation. In many cases, the community that built a certain building continues to inhabit it and worship in it. Thus, there is an organic connection between generations whose histories are not always written down on paper. Tapping oral histories is an invaluable skill in accumulating local knowledge. This week, we will learn how to conduct interviews and understand their value as repositories of information.

Buildings undergo change from the moment of their construction. Deciphering the concept of relative chronology in buildings requires an archaeological reading of their fabric. Some buildings simply deteriorate with time. Others are changed by their occupants through renovation, extension, addition, or partial demolition. A building is, thus, the sum of its chronological phases. Understanding its biography involves the careful sorting out of its parts in space and time. Guest Lecture: Benjamin Leech, Lancaster Building Conservancy http://lancasterbuildingconservancy.wordpress.com/

The objective of this class is not only to understand Lancaster’s architecture of faith but also to produce a record of it. Buildings are recorded by a standard set of drawing types—plans, sections and elevations. During this part of the course, we will learn how to produce documentary drawings that will sufficiently describe the structure in the case that the building at some point disappears. Documenting the walls of a historical structure is a central component to its preservation. We will also consider the standards of Historic Preservation. Field Trip: University of Pennsylvania Architectural Archives, Philadelphia.

Buildings are not made up entirely of walls and humans occupants. Religious buildings especially become containers or repositories of other art forms that are occasionally far more valuable than the shell that contains them. Vestments, ritual vessels, sacred books, crosses, icons, frescoes, paintings, mosaics, stained glass windows, statues, furniture, fabrics and lights are typical objects found in religious spaces. In this last lecture class, we will learn how to document and interpret those treasures that make the space of religious architecture extraordinary.

Student presentation of final projects. Discussion. On-site visits and walking tours.

Kilde, Jeanne Halgren. Sacred Power, Sacred Space: An Introduction to Christian Architecture (Oxford, 2008)
Lewis, Michael J. The Gothic Revival (New York, 2002)
Schuyler, David. A City Transformed: Redevelopment, Race, and Suburbanization in Lancaster, Pennsylvania 1940-1980 (University Park, 2002)

Each student will complete a semester-long research project involving one building. Half of the class grade will depend on the final project that will be formally presented to the class. All final work should be of professional quality and will be made available to the public through Scholar’s Square, F&M’s digital research archive. The other half of the class grade will be based weekly exercises based on specific projects and readings. Unexcused late assignments will automatically drop down by a half-grade per day (e.g. a B grade will go to a B- if it is turned in 1 day late). Attendance is mandatory and class participation is required. If unable to attend class for medical reasons, you must inform me by email BEFORE class time and provide adequate documentation. All other absences will require previous authorization. Absolutely no cell phones, computers or other electronic distractions are permitted in class. All readings must be completed BEFORE their assigned date. Although no formal arrangements have been yet made, the students are encouraged to collaborate with two other classes offered this semester by Professor David Schuyler (American Studies) and Professor Eric T. Baldwin (Religious Studies).


Anonymous said...

Spring 2010?

I read the description of the first assignment yesterday, and I am afraid that 10 churches are too many for one student to survey.


All they'll have to do for the first class is visit the address (which I'll cluster in neighborhood), take a photo, and mark the co-ordinates for the database. That will provide the contextual 2009 map. Exposure to a diversity of building locations and historical conditions will then provide the experience on which we'll base our building selection in the second class. Most of the locations on the list are 1990s and later. We'll focus on pre-1950s, but must be aware of the general horizon. Like good archaeologists, we'll excavate the city in reverse chronological order.

Katie Rask said...

I am really bummed out that I never took this class and that it didn't exist in my day. I would so go back to pre-ABD times just to take it, which is saying something indeed :)

Good luck with it, and please keep us updated on how it goes!

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States