Course Description and Objectives

This course stems from a research project called Paris Past and Present, which aims to reconstruct, one by one, the lost monuments of Paris while forming a more complete picture of the medieval city. The project as a whole promises to significantly expand what we know about Gothic architecture, which is currently limited to the handful of monuments that remain standing by historical chance. Our work on the project to date has expanded our understanding of medieval building practices and the architectural history of specific monuments, as well as shaped new methods of architectural reconstruction.

As an offshoot of this research project, this course will teach you a new way of learning about Gothic architecture: rather than a traditional lecture class or seminar, you will learn about Gothic architecture and its history by engaging in it directly through digital reconstruction. The challenge of any course in this subject is to learn how to envision this architecture in its original form and context, since most of it, extant or lost, is fragmentary, having been transformed over time. Rather than have me explain Gothic architecture to you in detail in a lecture, your work will be to put the fragments together to produce a reconstruction. Learning in this way will require you to ask new questions and think in new ways about Gothic architecture, ways that you would not think about it if you were not actually building it. For example, when you are given a simple plan and elevation, how do you determine the building’s height? What are the structures of support? How was the building covered and how do you determine details of the design? In order to answer these questions, on Tuesdays you will learn about Gothic building practices and architectural history in the classroom, and on Thursdays, you will learn how to make 3D digital reconstructions in Vectorworks, a CAD-based architectural program. Each day will be supplemented with related reading and tutorials so you can refine your skills and understanding at home before coming to the next meeting. By looking at Gothic architecture in this way, you will begin to think like a builder and an architectural historian, and perhaps to some extent like a medieval mason, all while learning valuable transferrable skills in digital humanities.

Student Objectives

  1. Regular attendance (no unexcused absences)
  2. Completion of assigned readings, to be discussed
  3. Completion of weekly tutorials, to be turned in
  4. Attendance at the special lectures
  5. A midterm presentation
  6. A final presentation: complete projects will be placed with our name on the research website!