Option JMA-GE (MAIA)

Natural history of architecture : An environmental approach to urban, landscape, and architecture design history

Natural History of Architecture by Philippe Rahm, book, 2020 (credit: drawing by Didier Rittener)


The last history of architecture written was strongly influenced by postmodern theories when political, social, economic, and cultural reasons dominated the system of explaining the causes and consequences of the emergence of a form or a style. Induced by a context of massive and easy access to energy and by the progress of medicine, this cultural history has largely ignored the physical, geographical, climatic, or bacteriological reasons that have, in reality, shaped, in a decisive way, over centuries, the architectural form, that of buildings, from cities to interior decoration. Our environmental and ecological history of architecture courses will highlight the natural, physical, biological, and climatic causes that have influenced the development of architectural history and its figures, from prehistory until today, in order to understand how to face the major environmental challenges of our century and build in a better way in response to climate urgency.

Teaching aims

Study the historical causes that have been at the origin of architectural forms, urban planning and interior design. Knowing how to measure and evaluate your own aesthetic, material and formal choices with regard to immediate energy, ecological and climatic realities.

teaching FORMS

In a series of classes, the following topics will be discussed, such:

– How our homeothermic nature gave birth to architecture (Prehistory)
– How beer invented cities (Neolithic)
– How beans gave birth to Gothic architecture (Middle Ages)
– How the eruption of a volcano invented the modern city (19th century I)
– How the dried meat of Graubünden gave birth to modern architecture (Modernity)
– How antibiotics have initiated a return to the city (Post-Modernity)
– How central heating killed decorative art (Post-Industrial)
– How global warming is revolutionizing everything today (Post-Carbon)

2023-2024 Automne
Valentina de Luigi


ECTS Credits


First contact

29.09.2023, 08.30-12.00


13.10.23 / 03.11.23 / 17.11.23 / 01.12.23 / 15.12.23