Contemporary Architecture (1985-Now)


This contemporary architecture course analyzes major contemporary architectural ideas, ideologies, and projects in the context of both globalization and specific local contexts. We will trace the development of architecture since the early 90s by discussing the work of some of the most influential architects of our time. The critical reflection on contemporary topics will allow students to better understand the buildings and cities which we live in. When talking about the architectural protagonists of today, we will focus on their most recent work. Some references will be made to their earlier work, but the focus will be on how they adapt their thinking to current design tendencies. We will examine the evolution of their work and at the same time try to understand how they react to current challenges and opportunities in our profession and society.
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Contemporary Architecture Course Structure

1. Globalization and Critical Regionalism: Rafael Moneo, Steven Holl.
2. Tectonic, Technology and Structure: Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, Norman Foster.
3. Critical Discourse and Architecture: Rem Koolhaas, Peter Eisenmann, Bernard Tschumi.
4. Surface, Materiality, and Ornament: Herzog and De Meuron, Jean Nouvel, SANAA.
5. Midterm Exam and peer-to-peer evaluations.
6. Form, Sign and Sculpture: Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Santiago Calatrava.
7. Digital Design and Computation: UN Studio, FOA, Zaha Hadid.
8. Sustainability and Resilience: Wiliam McDonough, Kongjian Yu, Norman Foster, Worldchanging.
9. Social Design and Activism: Medellin, Bogota, Giancarlo Mazzanti, Exhibitions.
10. Final Exam and Final Video Assignment.

Learning Objectives

The course will introduce participants to the contemporary architecture scene and allow them to position themselves into it. Students will acquire the essential skills for looking at, analyzing and understanding architecture. The final goal is to turn use architecture as a way to look at the places that we inhabit, an action for positive change, and a generator of a vision for making possible worlds.

Contemporary Architecture course workload

Living in the world of architecture is a full-time job, but you’ll have to spend 2-3 hours per week with your computer and a few more exploring your city. The final assignment will take a few days to complete if you want to qualify for the exposition.


Students will do research and critical analysis of architecture. They will analyze and comment on the projects presented in each chapter of the course. They will also explore buildings in the cities where they live and visit, according to the concepts introduced in the course, by taking pictures and making videos. The work will be posted every week on the course forum and discussed with others. A selection of the best projects and posts will be featured in an exhibit after completing the course.


The course certificate by Build Academy could be purchased separately by people who complete the course. The two certificates available for the course are: basic, CEU-CPD. You can include the certificate in your CV and LinkedIn profile. We can also provide you with reference letters for job or school applications and promotions.

Contemporary Architecture course prerequisites

The course is both for the general public and for people with experience in architecture, so any person can take it. Basic knowledge of architecture is recommended but not necessary. If you are already a student of architecture, this would be a way to expand and further your studies in a global context. If you are already an architect you can learn about the recent developments of the profession and be inspired for your work. if you have general cultural curiosity about architecture, this course will introduce you to some basic concepts that would allow you to understand better the values and importance of architecture.


Prof. Ivan R. Shumkov PhD

Dr. Ivan Shumkov is a New York based architect, professor, curator, leader in online design education, and the founder of Open Online Academy. He has taught architecture, design, history and theory at Harvard University GSD, Pratt Institute School of Architecture, Parsons the new School for Design, International University of Catalonia, and ETSA Barcelona. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Harvard Alumni Association and President of Harvard Architectural and Urban Society Alumni. He graduated with masters degrees from ETSA Barcelona, University of Florence, and Harvard University GSD, as a Fulbright scholar. He completed his PhD in Architecture at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia and Columbia University GSAPP, as fellow of the Fondation Le Corbusier. Dr. Shumkov is a licensed architect in Spain and Italy and principal of ISA – Ivan Shumkov Architects, a company working in the fields of architecture, urbanism, landscape and design with offices in New York and Barcelona. He has worked, lectured and exhibited his projects and research in Europe, Brazil, Colombia, China, and the USA.


Do I need to buy a textbook?

No, free online reading will be available, though you can purchase a printed version for the suggeted books.

Additional information


Basic Certificate, CPD-CEU Certificate