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Contemporary Architecture

The course analyzes contemporary architecture in the context of globalization. We will discuss some of the most significant projects and influential architects of our time.

  1. Course Number

  2. Classes Start

    Apr 01, 2020
  3. Classes End

    Jun 15, 2020


1. Globalization and Critical Regionalism

Welcome and Introduction

Globalization and Critical Regionalism

Rafael Moneo and the Architecture of Time

Harvard University LISE by Rafael Moneo

Columbia University Labs by Rafael Moneo

Steven Holl AIA Gold Medal Award

MIT Simmons Hall by Steven Holl

Sliced Porosity Block by Steven Holl

Summary, Conclusions and Assignment

2. Tectonic, Technology and Structure

Tectonic Culture

Morgan Library in NYC by Charles McKim and Renzo Piano

Barajas Airport in Madrid by Richard Rogers

Hearst Tower in NYC by Foster and Partners

Summary, Conclusions and Assignment

3. Critical Discourse and Architecture

Critical Discourse

OMA New York Office and Interviews

Halocaust Memorial in Berlin by Peter Eisenman

Lerner Hall at Columbia University by Bernard Tschumi

Summary, Conclusions and Assignment

4. Surface, Materiality, and Ornament

Surface. Materiality and Ornament

New Museum for Contemporary Art in NYC by SANAA

Agbar Tower in Barcelona and 100 11th Ave in NYC by Atelier Jean Nouvel

De Young Museum in San Francisco and Beijing Stadium by Herzog and De Meuron

Summary, Conclusions and Assignment

5. Form, Sign and Sculpture

Form Sign and Sculpture

Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao by Frank Gehry

Ground Zero and WTC Visit in NYC

Ground Zero Masterplan by Daniel Libeskind

Santiago Calatrava Architect, Artist, Engineer

Summary, Conclusions and Assignment

6. Digital Design and Computation

Digital Design and Computation

New Amsterdam Pavilion in NYC by UN Studio

MAXXI Museum in Rome by Zaha Hadid

Yokohama Terminal by FOA

Summary, Conclusions and Assignment

7. Sustainability and Social Design

Social Design and Activism

Sustainability and Resilience

China's Ecological Civilization by Kongjian Yu

Urban Interventions in Medellin

The Architecture of Giancalro Mazzanti

Summary, Conclusions and Assignment

Final Exam

Final Exam Guidelines and Questions

About This Course

The course will analyze 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.

Course Structure

Week 1: Globalization and Critical Regionalism: Rafael Moneo, Steven Holl.

Week 2: Tectonic, Technology and Structure: Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, Norman Foster.

Week 3: Critical Discourse and Architecture: Rem Koolhaas, Peter Eisenmann, Bernard Tschumi.

Week 4: Surface, Materiality, and Ornament: Herzog and De Meuron, Jean Nouvel, SANAA.

Week 5: Midterm Exam and peer-to-peer evaluations.

Week 6: Form, Sign and Sculpture: Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Santiago Calatrava.

Week 7: Digital Design and Computation: UN Studio, FOA, Zaha Hadid.

Week 8: Sustainability and Resilience: Wiliam McDonough, Kongjian Yu, Norman Foster, Worldchanging.

Week 9: Social Design and Activism: Medellin, Bogota, Giancarlo Mazzanti, Exhibitions.

Week 10: Final Exam and Final Video Assignment.

Week 12: Peer-to-peer evaluations

Learning Outcomes

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.


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.


You be offered a certificate by Open Online Academy after you complete all the course assignments and exams. If you include it in your CV, remember that the course is offered by "Open Online Academy, New York."


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.

Course Staff

Course Staff Image #1

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.