Building Utopia (MSON) (History/Social Science Elective; US)

Linda Johnson

Fall; Grades 9–12 

Prerequisite: None; background in ancient and European history recommended 

Taught by: Severn School 

Utopia, “a good place,” as defined by the Greeks, is a term coined by Sir Thomas More referring to a fictional ideal island society. The act of intentionally shaping one’s environment to be “a good place” modeled after sustainability, economy, and delight is a uniquely human endeavor. This semester long study examines the course of Western Architecture from the Ancient Egyptians to the 21st century through the lens of the primary philosophic ideas that have been the drivers of aesthetic vision of Western civilization architecture through the ages. The course will offer an introduction to design principles, the visual language of architecture, and design analysis. The necessities, desires, and spiritual beliefs which go into the shaping of a culture’s aesthetic vision of their ideal built environment will be examined in a series of seven units of the course of the semester:

1. Forming the Human Universe: Mark Making and the Necessity of Shelter

2. Creativity and Humankind: Beauty Defined and the Building of Civilizations

3. Immortality and the Gods: Building for the Greater Glory

4. Getting Perspective: Perfect Geometry in Design & Building in the Humanist and Rational World

5. Power and Production: Society and the Machine

6. Modern Utopia and the Architect’s Vision: Shaping an Individual World

7. Back to the Future: Palimpsest and Irony

  • Humanities/Language Arts

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