Arch Analysis 2015: 15 New Buildings, 4 New Faculty

By Carl Lostritto | Apr 03, 2015

There are hundreds of courses that can only happen at RISD, but Architectural Analysis is particularly emblematic of RISD Architecture. The course requires that students do exactly one thing: study a built work of architecture. This might sound similar to a precedent study, where a work of architecture is read and understood so as to inform a project, but for us it’s different; The analysis is the project. We analyze through creative action. Each building studied–though canonical in its own right–is not assumed to be precious or perfect. Each is operated on, distorted, dissected, expanded, grown, and systematically mutated in what the syllabus describes as “the creative process in reverse.” Along the way, new media and methods are cultivated and explored. If it can be used to generate architecture, we assume that it can also be used to understand architecture. Some techniques, especially those that are sometimes mistakenly associated with polemical movements, actually work better in this context. What’s more interesting than a generative parametric model? A degenerative parametric process.

Another defining trait of RISD Architecture that comes through in this course: we obsess over drawing. At the same time, we remain skeptical of conventions. There’s not one way to draw an axon, which is why it takes us three weeks to do so.

Now in its third year, Architectural Analysis is part of the RISD Architecture culture. On Friday afternoons upper level students wander downstairs with what might be a feeling of nostalgia (and perhaps a hint of schadenfreude because Analysis can be arduous, and it feels good be through it) to see the mega pin ups. We predict that in ten years, when an alumnus of the class of 2017 is interviewing a student from the class of 2027, one of the first questions might be, “What building did you have for analysis?” It’s a little like asking, “What did you have for breakfast?” Except instead of setting one up for a productive day, analysis fuels a life of creative work.

Architectural Analysis was conceived by Chris Bardt (the author of that line in the syllabus about the creative process) and then-Department Head Kyna Leski. The core of the course still remains, but like everything that’s important in our curriculum, its stewardship is a matter of evolution rather than preservation. This semester, 15 “new” (as in, new to the course) buildings are analyzed under the guidance of four professors, each of which is teaching Analysis with a fresh perspective: Marie Adams, Ian Baldwin, Aaron Forrest, and Jack Ryan. Although the “x-ray” axons shown below reflect a very similar first project to years past, each subsequent project will reveal some differences and their welcome biases.

This year, the buildings studied are:
Church of the Three Crosses by Alvar Aalto
St. Johns Abbey by Marcel Breuer
Swiss Pavilion by Le Corbusier
Atlantida Church by Eladio Dieste
Hamar Bispegaard Museum by Sverre Fehn
deYoung Museum by Herzog and de Meuron
Seagram Building by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Bordeaux House by OMA
Rolex Learning Center by SANAA
Museo di Castelvecchio by Carlo Scarpa
Kurashiki City Hall by Kenzō Tange
Bagsværd church by Jørn Utzon
Larkin Building by Frank Lloyd Wright
Vals Baths by Peter Zumthor

Now, some work from the first project.


Jungyun Lee


Isabella Salvo


Hua Gao


Layna Chen


Lavender Cai

architectural analysis

Architectural Analysis Indirect Drawing

By Carl Lostritto | May 03, 2015

After the first project, the X-Ray drawing, the Architectural Analysis course shifts gears. Each student maintains a focus on one building, which will remain true for the entire semester, but our medium is now the space of the digital model. We’ve found that working with software is a craft that involves the hand and the continue reading…

Architectural Analysis Course Opens with Axons

By Carl Lostritto | Mar 25, 2013

Architectural Analysis is a new course that expands upon the concepts of Architectural Projection, which was also taught for the first time last fall. The coordinator is Chris Bardt and the instructors are Hansy Better, Peter Dorsey, Carl Lostritto, and Pari Riahi. Students explore one of a series of canonical 20th century buildings for the continue reading…

Spring 2017 Events

  • February 23, 6:30 PM Brett Schneider, Guy Nordenson and Associates & RISD Architecture
  • March 2, 6:30 PM at RISD Auditorium Petra Blaisse, Inside Outside, Hosted with INTAR, Textiles, RISD Museum
  • February 27, 6:30 PM Jeanette Kuo, Karamuk*Kuo
  • March 13, 6:30 PM Allan Wexler, Allan Wexler Studio, Hosted with ID
  • March 16, 6:30 PM Jarrett Walker, Jarrett Walker + Associates
  • April 3, 6:30 PM Kunle Adeyemi, NLÉ, Yoder Lecture
  • April 24, 6:30 PM Nader & Katie Faulkner, NADAAA, Shoemaker Lecture
  • May 11, 6:30 PM Shumi Bose, Central Saint Martins & Architectural Association

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