BA Art History and English Literature

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
The Art of Architecture in Early Modern Italy, 1450¿1670

Unit code AHCP33531
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Art History and Cultural Practices
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course covers the study and design of architecture in Early Modern Italy, 1450–1670.  We look at written and graphic works from some of the most important figures of the era, such as Leon Battista Alberti, Michelangelo, and Bernini, as well as some of the lesser-known architects, such Simone del Pollaiuolo (known as Il Cronaca) and Filarete.  This course explores the development of the intellectual framework for architecture built up during the Renaissance, Mannerist, Counter-Reformation, and Baroque periods as well as how these studies helped to inform architectural design practices.  Focusing primarily on writings on architecture and architectural drawings, we investigate how architects engaged with the rich architectural heritage of the Italian Peninsula, transmitted knowledge, and conceived/developed their designs.  The lectures place emphasis on the research and development aspect of built works.


  • To provide an understanding of key architectural developments in early modern Italy through drawings and written sources;
  • To consider how Italian architects engaged with the architecture of previous generations;
  • To consider the development of architectural projects in early modern Italy.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Understand and think critically about different approaches to the study and design of architecture in early modern Italy;
  • Critically engage with important theories in early modern Italian architectural discourse;
  • Think critically about how the study of buildings and architectural writings shaped the early modern architectural practice in Italy;
  • Think critically about how architectural projects took shape via the medium of drawings;
  • Scrutinise the changes in architectural style that took place over the time period covered in this course;
  • Demonstrate skills of research, analysis and logical argument in relation to the subject of the course.


1.      Introduction: course outline and “re-discovery” of Vitruvius;

2.      Early Architectural Writings;

3.      “Anatomical” Architecture: The “Vitruvian Man” and “The Architect as ‘Mother’”;

4.      Sketchbook Culture I: The Study of Antiquity;

5.      From the Part to the Whole: Architectural Views;

6.      Form and Function;

7.      Patterns of Intention;

8.      The Venetian Milieu;

9.      Sketchbook Culture II: The Transmission and Reproduction of Images;

10.  The Geometry of Church Design in Baroque Rome;

11.  Conclusion/Revision.

Teaching and learning methods

This course is seminar based. Students will participate in class discussion based on set reading. Readings will be available via BlackBoard. 

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of the course students will be able to:

  • Discuss key developments in early modern Italian architecture and architectural discourse
  • Discuss the work of architects studied in the course;
  • Discuss the different approaches to the study of architecture;  
  • Comment knowledgeably on recent scholarship on this period;
  • Understand and present material on specific architectural conventions and projects in class;
  • Use a range of materials when researching, including primary and secondary texts, drawings, plans, city views, and photographs.

Intellectual skills

By the end of the course students will be able to:

  • Analyse examples of architectural discourse from the periods covered;
  • Dissect and analyse different types of architectural drawings and views studied in the course;
  • Consider the influence of social and cultural change on the architecture of the periods covered;
  • Read and critically analyse written sources related to early modern architecture;
  • Produce a well-reasoned argument on specific issues or debates surrounding the architecture of the periods covered.

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Produce detailed visual analyses;
  • Carry out supervised research;
  • Produce a professionally presented and coherently argued essay;
  • Give a presentation using PowerPoint on a set topic in class.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Critically evaluate written and visual sources;
  • Present coherent arguments in written work;
  • Manage time effectively in order to complete assignments;
  • Present material to the class and respond to questions arising from the presentation;
  • Use PowerPoint in order to present work professionally;
  • Use relevant word processing software in order to present work professionally;
  • Respond to feedback in order to improve their study skills and understanding of material discussed in class.

Employability skills

- Time management and being able to work to deadlines; - Participating in discussion; - Presenting an argument to an audience and being able to field questions; - Presenting written material in a professional format; - Working, with guidance, on research including finding suitable material for assessments and being able to assess this material; - Reflection on discussions and assignments enabling future improvement.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 40%
Written assignment (inc essay) 40%
Oral assessment/presentation 20%

Feedback methods

  • Written feedback on individual presentation;
  • Oral and written feedback on formative essay plan;
  • Written feedback on essay;
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment).

Recommended reading

  • Alberti, Leon Battista. On the Art of Building in Ten Books, trans. by Joseph Rykwert et al. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1988.
  • Cooper, Tracy E. Palladio’s Venice: architecture and society in a Renaissance Republic. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2005.
  • Heydenreich, Ludwig H. Architecture in Italy 1400-1500. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.
  • Hopkins, Andrew. Italian Architecture from Michelangelo to Borromini. London: Thames & Hudson, 2002.
  • Lotz, Wolfgang. Architecture in Italy, 1500-1600. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.
  • Millon, Henry A. and Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani. The Renaissance from Brunelleschi to Michelangelo: the Representation of Architecture. Milan: Bompiani, 1994.
  • Palladio, Andrea. The Four Books on Architecture, trans. by Robert Tavernor and Richard Schofield. Cambridge, MA; London: The MIT Press, 1997.
  • Payne, Aline. The Architectural Treatise in the Italian Renaissance: architectural invention, ornament, and literary culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  • Wittkower, Rudolf. Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism, 4th edition. New York; London: St. Martin’s Press; Academy Editions, 1988.
  • Wittkower, Rudolf. Art and Architecture in Italy, 1600-1750. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1982.

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 0

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Darin Stine Unit coordinator

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