Contemporary Architecture (1985-Now)


This contemporary architecture course analyzes major contemporary architectural ideas, ideologies, and projects in the context of both globalization and specific local contexts. We will trace the development of architecture since the early 90s by discussing the work of some of the most influential architects of our time. The critical reflection on contemporary topics will allow students to better understand the buildings and cities which we live in. When talking about the architectural protagonists of today, we will focus on their most recent work. Some references will be made to their earlier work, but the focus will be on how they adapt their thinking to current design tendencies. We will examine the evolution of their work and at the same time try to understand how they react to current challenges and opportunities in our profession and society.
Which certificate is right for you?

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8 weeks
16 Hours

Is this course for me?

Woman learning contemporary architecture

Yes. The course is both for the general public and for people with experience in architecture, so any person can take it. Basic knowledge of architecture is recommended but not necessary. If you are already a student of architecture, this would be a way to expand and further your studies in a global context. If you are already an architect you can learn about the recent developments of the profession and be inspired for your work. If you have general cultural curiosity about architecture, this course will introduce you to some basic concepts that would allow you to understand better the values and importance of architecture.

Learning Objectives

Contemporary architecture home with a view on the mountains

The course will introduce participants to the contemporary architecture scene and allow them to position themselves into it. Students will acquire the essential skills for looking at, analyzing and understanding architecture. The final goal is to turn use architecture as a way to look at the places that we inhabit, an action for positive change, and a generator of a vision for making possible worlds.

What you’ll learn with this
contemporary architecture course

1. Globalization and Critical Regionalism

Welcome and Introduction05:12
Globalization and Critical Regionalism14:13
Rafael Moneo and the Architecture of Time13:27
Harvard University LISE by Rafael Moneo06:28
Columbia University Labs by Rafael Moneo08:54
Steven Holl AIA Gold Medal Award07:16
MIT Simmons Hall by Steven Holl05:30
Sliced Porosity Block by Steven Holl09:36
Summary, Conclusions and Assignment04:40

2. Tectonic, Technology and Structure

Tectonic Culture03:55
Morgan Library in NYC by Charles McKim and Renzo Piano12:36
Barajas Airport in Madrid by Richard Rogers06:31
Hearst Tower in NYC by Foster and Partners05:57
Summary, Conclusions and Assignment03:04

3. Critical Discourse and Architecture

Critical Discourse08:30
OMA New York Office and Interviews09:39
Halocaust Memorial in Berlin by Peter Eisenman07:06
Lerner Hall at Columbia University by Bernard Tschumi10:29
Summary, Conclusions and Assignment03:52

4. Surface, Materiality, and Ornament

Surface. Materiality and Ornament09:49
New Museum for Contemporary Art in NYC by SANAA09:11
Agbar Tower in Barcelona and 100 11th Ave in NYC by Atelier Jean Nouvel12:36
De Young Museum in San Francisco and Beijing Stadium by Herzog and De Meuron09:24
Summary, Conclusions and Assignment02:44

5. Form, Sign and Sculpture

Form Sign and Sculpture05:45
Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao by Frank Gehry14:43
Ground Zero and WTC Visit in NYC08:28
Ground Zero Masterplan by Daniel Libeskind05:18
Santiago Calatrava Architect, Artist, Engineer13:01
Summary, Conclusions and Assignment02:18

6. Digital Design and Computation

Digital Design and Computation (1 Question)02:52
New Amsterdam Pavilion in NYC by UN Studio06:15
MAXXI Museum in Rome by Zaha Hadid10:58
Yokohama Terminal by FOA (1 Question)10:41
Summary, Conclusions and Assignment01:21

7. Sustainability and Social Design

Social Design and Activism09:57
Sustainability and Resilience09:11
China’s Ecological Civilization by Kongjian Yu08:54
Urban Interventions in Medellin07:32
The Architecture of Giancalro Mazzanti06:26
Summary, Conclusions and Assignment03:32

8. Final Exam

Final Exam Guidelines and Questions (4 Questions)

Assessments and certifications

Architect student in a library

Students will do research and critical analysis of architecture. They will analyze and comment on the projects presented in each chapter of the course. They will also explore buildings in the cities where they live and visit, according to the concepts introduced in the course, by taking pictures and making videos. The work will be posted every week on the course forum and discussed with others. A selection of the best projects and posts will be featured in an exhibit after completing the course.

You will receive an official certificate when you complete this course. The two certificates available for the course are: basic, CEU-CPD. You can include the certificate in your CV and LinkedIn profile! We can also provide you with reference letters for job or school applications and promotions.

Meet your Professor

Prof. Ivan R. Shumkov PhD

Dr. Ivan Shumkov is a New York based architect, professor, curator, leader in online design education, and the founder of Open Online Academy. He has taught architecture, design, history and theory at Harvard University GSD, Pratt Institute School of Architecture, Parsons the new School for Design, International University of Catalonia, and ETSA Barcelona. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Harvard Alumni Association and President of Harvard Architectural and Urban Society Alumni. He graduated with masters degrees from ETSA Barcelona, University of Florence, and Harvard University GSD, as a Fulbright scholar. He completed his PhD in Architecture at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia and Columbia University GSAPP, as fellow of the Fondation Le Corbusier. Dr. Shumkov is a licensed architect in Spain and Italy and principal of ISA – Ivan Shumkov Architects, a company working in the fields of architecture, urbanism, landscape and design with offices in New York and Barcelona. He has worked, lectured and exhibited his projects and research in Europe, Brazil, Colombia, China, and the USA.

Additional information


Basic Certificate, CPD-CEU Certificate