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Spiro Kostof Lectures: Home

26 lectures from Spiro Kostof's last course, "A Historical Survey of Architecture and Urbanism"

Spiro Kostof

Film & Media Librarian


Spiro Kostof (1936-1991) was widely recognized as one of the world's leading architectural historians. He taught this, his last course, in the spring of 1991 in the Architecture Department of UC Berkeley's College of Environmental Design. The 26 lecture course "A Historical Survey of Architecture and Urbanism" covers the period from the Florentine Renaissance to the post-modernism of the late 20th century. Prof. Kostof was known for exposing the relationships between architecture and the people and cultures that built it.and was the author of A History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals (1985), The City Shaped (1991), and The City Assembled (1992).

Program notes for the Kostof Lecture Series by David Eifler, UC Berkeley Environmental Design Library, 2008.
Videos digitized and arranged by Gisèle Tanasse.

Lectures: A Historical Survey of Architecture and Urbanism

The Renaissance in Florence. The influence of classical Rome. The cathedral of Florence from Arnolfo di Cambio to Filippo Brunelleschi. Novelty of viewing single buildings as generators of spacial responses beyond immediate periphery.
Renaissance Rome. St. Peter's Basilica, Brunelleschi and Michaelangelo in Rome.
Spain and other Renaissance Countries. Islamic architecture meets the Renaissance at the Alhambra in Granada. The Escorial in Madrid.
Clash of Cultures in the New World. Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) as the Venice of the New World is dismantled by Spaniards. New mission cities established by Franciscan, Dominican and Augustinian orders. Ornamentation as response to protestant reformation.
Istanbul under the Ottomans. Brief history of Constantinople and the Hagia Sophia. Turkish vernacular domestic architecture and development of the külliye.
From Istanbul to Isfahan. Prof. Kostof speaks fondly of his hometown, Istanbul, and the Ottoman development of Topkapi Palace and the Süleymaniye Mosque. Isfahan's history and the Shah Mosque are presented in contrast.
India in the 17th and 18th Century. Development of Delhi from polytheistic Hinduism to the Islamic mausoleum. Mughalarchitecture as represented by Quwwat-al-Islam mosque*, *Qutub Minar, and Akbar's Fatehpur Sikri and Taj Mahal.
The Baroque in Rome. Pope Sixtus V establishes a vast comprehensive plan for eastern Rome. St. Peter's, Piazza del Popolo, and Piazza Santa Maria della Pace. Professor Kostof at his most passionate talking about Baroque Italy.
Baroque Urbanism Beyond Italy. Baroque's Grand Manner in L'Enfant's Washington, DC; Paris; Versailles; and St. Petersburg. (Lecture ends after 35 minutes).
The Grand Manner and the Radial Concentric City. The Grand Manner as more than a Baroque construction; from the ancient Delphi, Pergamon, and Palestrina to Hitler's Berlin. The radial concentric city from the first city of Baghdad to the Palma Nova to the 18-20th century secular socialist experiments of the Royal Saltworks in Chaux, France, Ebenezer Howard, and Paolo Soleri's Arcosanti.
Urban Squares of the 17th and 18th Centuries. Another manifestation of the Grand Manner of Baroque explored in the plazas of Paris and find their parallel in Wren's Cescent of Bath and Spain's Plaza Mayor.
Colonial North American Cities. The colonial cities founded by Spain (St. Augustine and Santa Fe), France (New Orleans) and England (Newport, RI and Williamsburg, VA) are explored in detail.
The Grid in North American Cities. Savannah, Philadelphia, Manhattan Island, and Salt Lake City are examined. Jeffersonian utilization of grid to promote agrarian republicanism over newly acquired western territories.
Suburbs in America and Europe. Beginning with Glendale, OH (1851) and Llewellyn Park, NJ (1855) suburbanization is examined as land speculation facilitated by new modes of transportation: ferries, street cars, trolleys and, ultimately, the automobile.
19th Century Building Types. From London's Crystal Palace to Providence, RI's shopping Arcade: museums, monuments, government buildings, libraries and department stores as a reflection of the emerging bourgeoisie and liberal state.
Transportation and the City in the 19th Century. The landscape of industry necessitates transformation of production and transportation: 18th century turnpikes, early 19th century canals supplying mills and warehouses, railroads and their stations and bridges, the rise of the hotel, streetcars, trolleys, cable cars, subways and finally the automobile.
Housing the Worker in the 19th and 20th Century. Responses to industrial revolution's urban migration starting with England's cottage industry housing and including Parisian communitarian housing, mill housing in New England, private slums and reformer housing in England and the US, Bund society housing in Germany, social democratic housing in Amsterdam, and socialist housing in Vienna.
April 4, 1991 - Urban Form in Paris and Vienna from 1850 to World War I. Haussmann's transformation of Paris to support modern infrastructure, remove the poor from the city center and quell political unrest are paralleled in the Vienna of Camillo Sitte and Otto Wagner.
Garden Cities and Cities Beautiful. Burnham's City Beautiful Movement in America is contrasted with Unwin's English Garden Cities; the two movements devolving into American suburbs predicated on the strict separation of work and domestic life.
Skyscrapers. From their first appearance in Chicago and NY in the 1870's to San Francisco in the 1990's skyscrapers exemplify the tension between single monumental buildings in the service of individuals and planned urban landscapes designed by agencies ostensibly serving the collective good.
The Modernists. Art Nouveau, Mies van der Rohe, and Frank Lloyd Wright set the stage for Gropius' Bauhaus best exemplified in Frankfurt, the USSR's Vkhutemas School and New Constructivists, and Le Corbusier's many about-faces.
Fascist and Nazi Architecture and Planning. Mussolini's "linea diretta" redesign of Rome contrasted with Hitler and Speer's plan for Berlin.
New Colonial Settlement Patterns. From the imposed colonialism of the Grand Manner in New Delhi to the self-imposed colonialism of Corbusier's rationalist Chandigarh and Louis Kahn's elemental forms in Dhaka.
Post World War II Modernism. European Modernism promoted in response to massive need to rebuild initially takes different forms in East and West Berlin. In America, Mies van der Rohe becomes the most imitated and iconic modernist.
Design in the Fin de Siècle. Responses to Modernism from new modernists (Moshe Safdie, Shadrack Woods, and Archigram) to Robert Venturi's Learning from Las Vegas. Post-modernists such as Michael Graves reject a single style and steer architecture towards pure art while edge cities eviscerate central cities to support the service and information economy.
Informal Q&A; with students prior to the final exam. (Poor audio quality.)
Presents video coverage of the Spring 1987 commencement address to graduates of the College of Environmental Design by UCB Professor of Architecture, Spiro Kostof