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Department of Architecture (DoArch)

South Dakota State University

Reading Architecture

Texts and Buildings as Silent Witnesses

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Reading Architecture is the second course in a new, 4-course humanities-based theory sequence at DoArch. The first goal of the seminar is learning how to *read* architecture. Two technical forms of practice are required to read architecture: reading texts and reading buildings. Both forms require a set of practical operations that enable students to understand and describe the visible and invisible language of buildings, and parse out the nuances of architectural texts. 


The second goal of the class is to help students build rhetorical confidence by connecting texts and buildings to overlooked histories. It takes confidence to listen, speak, and think about what we know, and more importantly, acknowledge what we don't know. Many of the overlapping contexts in which texts and buildings exist, highlight their role as *silent witnesses*. Being present during extraordinary, mundane, and critical societal moments alike – some texts fill the gaps left by buildings, while some buildings fill the gaps left by texts. Some stuff we know, some stuff we think we know, some stuff we don't know. In Reading Architecture, "the gaps" or silent witnessing by buildings and texts is filled with the role of prosopopoeia – a rhetorical device used to give voice to objects and absent or forgotten people. The class is designed to help students find their voice.   


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