Studio: Walking, Poems, and Buildings

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Miami University
School of Fine Arts
Department of Architecture and Interior Design

ARC 301/401-Fall 2004
Studio: Walking, Poems, and Buildings

104 Alumni Hall
1:00-4:50 MWF

Ben Jacks
203G Alumni Hall
Office Hours: 10:00-11:00 M, 11:00-12:00 T, 11:00-12:00 TR

Studio Abstract/ Overview:

This studio will explore the common ground of walking, poetry, and architecture by, among other things, going for walks in the woods and the city, reading well-made poems, and doing a series of design exercises concerning the art and the craft of building. We will consider the history of walking, walking based poems and poetic forms, and poetic meters, and you will design buildings using poems as models and as inspiration. You will concentrate on the construction of wood models of your building designs.

This studio is a work in progress. Last year, a number of students prepared their work, including process work, wood models, student poems, and Annie’s commissioned poem, for exhibition in Hiestand Hall (the exhibition Walking, Poems, & Buildings took place in April in the East Gallery). The work from last year has been accepted to be exhibited at Poet’s House, New York, in January and February, 2005. Students from this year’s studio will be encouraged to prepare their work for inclusion in the show.

Studio Rationale/ Goal:

Walking and poetry have been strongly celebrated in the poetic imagination and discourse since the Romantic poets, although arguably the walking/ breath/ meter link is basic to English verse.

The connection between poems and buildings has been only occasionally remarked, although poems and buildings share many features in common such as structure, proportion, rhythm, harmony, image, and symbolic meaning. The etymology of the word poetics tells us that a poem, like a building, is a made thing. I believe the statement “architecture is frozen poetry” is a more useful statement than the statement “architecture is frozen music.” You will have the opportunity to learn about the durable structure of poems and compare the idea of the durable poem with your conception of the durableness of architecture. (Poems are arguably more durable cultural products than buildings, despite the aspirations architects may have to make their buildings last forever.)

What makes this studio urgent is that walking and buildings, for a number of reasons, are increasingly seen as unrelated, to the impoverishment of architecture and the everyday built environment. The main goal of the project is to introduce you to a way of thinking about the human experience of the body as it relates to architecture: standing, sitting, lying down, walking, etc. Although it seems basic to architecture, the experience of the body in architecture is increasingly ignored.

Studio Objectives/ Milestones:

In this studio you will design small buildings, but you will do so in great detail, with more attention to ideas and processes, than if you spent your time designing larger, or more complex buildings. So in order to make these small buildings really well, the studio involves a number of objectives, and some milestones. Please note that a perfect outcome for each objective is not assumed: you will try to do each of these things:

  • respond to what is
  • consider the nature of images, and image making, in architectural design
  • consider metaphors in the design process and in buildings
  • consider the made structure of poems as analogs to the made structure of buildings
  • study proportion
  • study structure
  • study function
  • study the choreography of, or possibilities for, experience
  • study joining and details
  • consider ideas
  • allow the muse, or inspiration, to enter
  • make decision


Reading List: (for your reference and interest—specific reading assignments will be given)

Alexander, Christopher. A Timeless Way of Building. New York: Oxford UP, 1979.

---. A Pattern Language. New York: Oxford UP, 1977.

---. The Linz Cafe. New York: Oxford UP, 1981.

Ann Cline, A Hut of One's Own Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 1997.

Careri, Francesco. Walkscapes: Walking as an Aesthetic Practice. Barcelona: Gustavo Gili, 2002.

Doczi, Gyorgy. The Power of Limits. Shambala, 1994.

Fussell, Paul.   Poetic Meter and Poetic Form. New York: Columbia UP, 1960.

Hacker, Marilyn. "The Sonnet." In An Exaltation of Forms. Eds. Annie Finch, Kathrine Varnes. Ann Arbor, MI: U of Michigan P, 2002. 297-307.

Hale, Jonathan. The Old Way of Seeing. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.

Jacks, Ben. “Reimagining Walking: Four Practices.” Journal of Architectural Education 57.3 (February 2004): 5-10.

Jarman, Derek. Derek Jarman’s Garden. Woodstock, NY: Overlook P, 1995.

Oppenheimer, Paul. “The Origin of the Sonnet.” In The Birth of the Modern Mind. New York: Oxford UP, 1989.

Padovan, Richard. Proportion: Science, Philosophy, Architecture. New York: E & FN Spon, 1999.

Pendleton-Jullian, Ann M. The Road That Is Not a Road and the Open City, Ritoque, Chile. Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 1996.

Powell, James. The Tao of Symbols. New York: Quill, 1982.

Schumacher, Thomas L. The Danteum. Princetonn, NJ: Princeton Architectural P, 1993.

Schulman, Grace. "Sapphics." In An Exaltation of Forms. Eds. Annie Finch, Kathrine Varnes. Ann Arbor, MI: U of Michigan P, 2002. 132-140.

Solnit, Rebecca. Wanderlust: A History of Walking. New York: Penguin, 2000.