Photograph of a modern city at sunset

Discover the extraordinary story of modern architecture.

Information at a Glance

  • Daytime Class
  • Thursdays 11:00 - 13:00
  • 10 weeks: late July to September
  • 2 hours weekly online taught time
  • Tutor: Michael Paraskos
  • Fees from £67 to £117
  • Official course title: 'History of Architecture'
Booking link

This course will look at the story of modern architecture from the late nineteenth century until now. In the weekly online sessions you will be guided around some of the most iconic architectural works of the modern period, but also be shown some lesser known buildings by lesswer known architects. In this way you will gain a knowledge of the key designers of key buildings, such as Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, and the ideas behind their buildings, but we will also explore architectural ideas outside of the mainstream, by figures such as Ruth Maxon Adams, Mary McLaughlin Craig and David Adjayeand.

On this 10-week course we will visit (virtually!) different places around the world, looking at the architectural history and styles of different buildings, how they relate to each other and to wider historical architectural, social and cultural movements.

These virtual visits will also allow us to learn the language of architectural history and practice, but the overall approach is to be informative, educational and entertaining. It is an opportunity to discover something of the astonishing developments in world architecture, with many (but not all!) of our examples drawn from Britain.

No previous knowledge of art history, architecture or history is necessary.

This 10-week course offers one 2-hour online session each week (20 contact hours).

Class Format

For each class we will look at a particular architectural style and discuss online (using Microsoft Teams) some of the features of the style and how it shows itself in different buildings. We will then focus on a particular building or location and your tutor will show images to give an understanding of the history of the building. You do not need to have any previous experience of art history, architecture or history to enjoy and learn a great deal from this course, which is aimed at complete beginners and novices.

Equipment Required

To take part in this class you will need an internet connected computer or tablet. We will be using the program Zoom to deliver this class. You do not need a Zoom account to take part.

It is possible to take this course "passively" without a microphone and/or web camera attached to your computer, but if you want to take part in class discussions you will need at least a micorphone connected to your computer or tablet. Many computers, laptops and tablets already have these built in, but you might want to check on that first.

Course Information

Course Programme

PROVISIONAL PROGRAMME (SUBJECT TO ALTERATION)

1. Introduction - The Gothic Revival: The Root of Modernism?

In this session we will begin by looking at how the gothic revival in architecture and design started a revolution in how people thought about architectural style. We will look at the work of the early gothic revivalists, such as James Essex and AWN Pugin, moving onto the picturesque gothic functionalism of Philip Webb and the Arts and Crafts Movement.

2. From Arts and Crafts to Werkbund

In this session we will begin by looking at the impact of the Arts and Crafts movement on architecture and interior design, with designers such as William Morris, Arthur Mackmurdo and Charles Voysey. We will look at the evolution of Arts and Crafts ideas in the Garden City Movement and in the work of key figures in early modernist architecture such as Norman Shaw, William Lethaby and Frank Lloyd Wright. Finally we will conside the impact of the Arts and Crafts movement on Werkbund architecture in Germany and Middle Europe.

3. Jugenstil, Art Nouveau and Secessionism

In this session we will begin by looking at some key elements of the Art Nouveau and Jugendstil design. Moving on to architects such as Victor Horta, Joseph Maria Olbrich and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, we will look at the sheer varity of Art Nouveau and Jugendstil architecture and attempt to identify its unifying themes, concluding with the point at which Art Nouveau and Secessionism seem to give way to recognisibly modernist architecture in transitional figures such as Joseph Hoffman and the profoundly controversial architect Adolf Loos.

4. Popular Modernism: Art Deco in the 1920s and 30s

In this session we will look at the crossover of modernist architecture into popular culture. With its origins in the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in Paris in 1925, we will discover how the growing popularity of cinema and other mass culture was central to the development of Art Deco, Moderne and Streamline in architecture between the two world wars. We will see how this led to a form of decorative modernism, described by the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner as 'popular modernism', not only in the United States and Europe, but non-Western countries such as India, Nigeria and South Africa. 

5. Werkbund, Bauhaus and De Stijl

In this session we will look at three movements that sit at the head of the development of modernist architecture, the Werkbund, Bauhaus and De Stijl. We will see how the ideas of these movements have their origin in Britain Arts and Crafts Movement, but also how they moved beyond the Arts and Crafts to embrace industrial aesthetics and production techniques.

6. The Rise of the Skyscraper

In this session we will look at the development of high-rish architecture, starting with nineteenth and early-twentieth century buildings, such as those of the Chicago School, and iconic New York buildings such as the Flat Iron Building, Chrysler Building and Empire State Building, and moving on to the development of Corporate Modernism in the hands of architects such as Mies van der Rohe and Norma Sklarek. 

7. Le Corbusier and the Ideal Society

In this session we will look at the development of ideal communities as imagined by architects and urban planners. We will consider the Garden City Movement and its evolution from the ideas of Ebeneezer Howard to Frederick Gibberd, the development of social housing and the idea of Le Corbusier who called the home 'a machine for living in' and developed a utoptian housing project Unité d'Habitation in Marseille.

8. A Return to Eden: the Sound of the Suburbs

In this session we will look at an alternative history of modern (and perhaps modernist) architecture that focuses not on the giant statement-piece building projects, usually located in the centre of major cities, but at the edges of cities, small towns and rural locations where smaller scale domestic architecture was in control. This includes the world of suburbia in which a different vision of the ideal society took hold, often drawing inspiration from the past and seeming to reject the industrialist culture of mainstream modernist architecture.

9. A Narrow Minded Discipline? White, Male and Bourgeois

In this session we will look at how the dominance of Western architectural theory and practice has been dominated by white, male and bourgeois figures, often lauded as genius, and more especially how that dominance has been challenged by architects who do not fit that description. This will include figures such as Ruth Maxon Adams, Mary McLaughlin Craig, David Adjayeand more recent figures such as Amale Andraos and Zaha Hadid, and groups that aim to specifically challenge the status-quo in architecture, such as Britain's Black Females In Architecture group.

10. A New Pluralism

In this session we will look at the development of new approaches to architecture that seem to go against the principles of modernism, even though they are applied to the type of structures that historically were associated with modernist design. We will start by considering post-modernist architecture, and move on to thinking about how buildings such as London's so-called 'Gherkin' and 'Shard' take on board aspects of modernism whilst also disrupting it. We will also consider whether the centre of gravity in architecture is no longer in the West, but has shifted to places such as Accra, Dubai and Shanghai.

Additional Reading and Credit Information

There is no requirement to undertake specific reading for this course, but if you would like to look in greater depth at the subject the following books are recommended:

  • Nikolaos Pevsner, Pevsner's Architectural Glossary
  • Chris Rogers, How to Read London

No academic credits are available for this course.

About Your Tutor

Photograph of Michael ParaskosDr Michael Paraskos is a very experienced adult education tutor, having taught for over twenty-five years. He holds a Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and also teaches art history to undergraduate students at the City and Guilds of London Art School.

He is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction and has published very widely on art of this period, as well as reviewing exhibitions and novels for BBC Radio 4’s Front Row and The Spectator magazine. His first novel In Search of Sixpence was published in 2016 and his second, called Rabbitman, was published in 2017.

Course Fees and Rate Categories

HoursWeeksStandard RateInternal RateAssociate Rate
20  10  £117 £67 £90
All fee rates quoted are for the whole course.
Term dates 1

Fee Categories and Discounts

Standard Rate

  • Applicable to all except those who fall under the Internal Rate or Associate Rate category, respectively.

Internal Rate

  • Applies to current Imperial College students and staff (incl. Imperial NHS Trust, Imperial Innovations, ancillary & service staff employed on long-term contracts at Imperial College by third-party contractors).
  • Current Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication (CLCC) staff, current CLCC PhD students, Science Communication (Sci Comm) postgraduate students, and students enrolled on an Imperial College 'Language for Science' degree programme should email evening eveningclass@imperial.ac.uk before completing the online enrolment form.

Associate Rate

  • Students (non-Imperial College)
  • Alumni of Imperial College and predecessor colleges and institutes
  • City & Guilds College Association members
  • Members of the Friends of Imperial College
  • Francis Crick Institute staff, researchers and students
  • NHS staff (other than Imperial NHS Trust staff)
  • Members of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
  • Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council staff
  • Harrods staff
  • Historic Royal Palaces staff
  • Natural History Museum staff
  • Science Museum staff
  • South London Botanical Institute Members
  • Victoria and Albert Museum staff
  • Royal Geographical Society staff
  • Royal College of Art and Royal College of Music tutors and other staff
  • Santander Bank staff (Imperial College Walkway branch only)
  • Austrian Cultural Forum staff
  • Staff of Exhibition Road Cultural Group (Discover South Kensington) organisations
  • Lycee Charles de Gaulle staff
  • Tutors and other staff of other universities and higher education institutions
  • Tutors and other staff of institution members of the Association of Colleges
  • Residents of postcodes SW3, SW5, SW7, SW10 and W8
  • Members of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
  • Members of the South London Botanical Institute (SLBI)

Late enrolment

It is possible to enrol on many CLCC Evening Class and Lunchtime Learning programmes after the course has started. For non-language courses this is subject entirely to agreement by the tutor. For language courses it is subject to agreement by the language Coordinator conducting level assessment. If you want to join a course late do bear in mind there might be work you will need to catch up on, particularly in language courses.

Applicable terms & conditions

Please read these before enrolling on any course.

Term Dates

HoursWeeksAutumn termSpring termSummer termSummer term
 20  10 n/a n/a n/a w/c 27 Jul - w/c 28 Sept 2020 (10 weeks)

Enrolment Process

Web enrolment starts 29 June

Enrolment and payment run through the Imperial College eStore. Please click on the blue booking link on the relevant course page noting below instructions:

  • Our rate categories are explained on the course page and your applicable rate category must be selected on the eStore
  • First-time eStore users please create an account by entering an email address and password. These credentials should also be used for future bookings. Imperial College users please note the eStore is not a single-signon College system
  • The booking process involves entering payment details after your course choice and applicant details are collected via an in-built questionnnaire
  • The following email notifications are sent:
What is sentWhen is it sentWhat does it contain
1. Payment confirmation Is sent instantaneously following submission of your online application
  • This is a receipt for your payment and includes payment date, order number and course title
  • Confirmation of your place on your chosen course will follow later
2. Enrolment confirmation Is sent within 10 working daysPlease treat your payment confirmation as confirmation that your applicant details and payment have been received
  • Re-confirms your course choice
  • Shows your course's term dates
  • Confirms the day and time of your course
3. Programme information Is usually sent on Friday late afternoon the week before term starts
  • Contains joining instructions for your course, incl. tutor contact details
If you need further help with the above information please ring 020 7594 8756

Certificate of Attendance

Our adult education evening and daytime classes do not offer academic credits, but we do offer an attendance certificate to those learners who attend at least 80% of the taught sessions. Eligible learners receive their certificate by email after the end of the course.

Any Questions?

Questions regarding the content and teaching of the above course should be sent to the course tutor, Dr Michael Paraskos, at m.paraskos@imperial.ac.uk

If you have enjoyed this course, why not look at other arts and humanities evening class courses at Imperial College. This includes courses on the history of western art from ancient Greece to the nineteenth century, Understanding Modern and Design, the history of film and cinema and Greek and Roman mythology in art. We also run practical courses in art and photography and creative writing classes, and a growing programme of science based evening classes.