259.671 Wahlseminar Architekturtheorie
This course is in all assigned curricula part of the STEOP.
This course is in at least 1 assigned curriculum part of the STEOP.

2023S, SE, 3.5h, 5.0EC


  • Semester hours: 3.5
  • Credits: 5.0
  • Type: SE Seminar
  • Format: Hybrid

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of the course, students are able to work with texts, develop independent concept ideas and take a stand on an abstract topic in the form of structured discussions and a self-authored academic paper.
Students become familiar with the practice of close reading and learn the correct use of citations and bibliographies, the basic principles of library and internet research as well as primary forms of argumentation. The participants are able to perceive, structure and organise a topic in such a way that it can be discussed scientifically and to appreciate diverse stylistic modes of rigorous academic writing.
Furthermore, students will attain a broader understanding of architecture, not only as a discipline aimed at the realisation of buildings, but also as a device of architectonic thinking that concerns and connects both material and immaterial domains of production and theory.

Subject of course

L’Idea dell’Architettura Universale


"280. Architecture for those who wish to pursue knowledge. - One day, and probably soon, we will need some recognition of what is missing primarily in our high cities: quiet and wide, expansive places for reflection - places with long, high-ceilinged arcades for bad or all-too-sunny weather, where no shouts or noise from carriages can penetrate and where refined manners would prohibit even priests from praying aloud: a whole complex of buildings and sites that would give expression to the sublimity of contemplation and of stepping aside. (…) We want to have us translated into stone and plants; we want to take walks in us when we stroll through these hallways and gardens". 

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science 

"Like the goalkeeper who dives in all directions to stop a penalty kick, like the child who launches into the world of language or begins to write, learning consists less in accumulating knowledge than in placing oneself in a position of imbalance and instability: the skill I am trying to acquire is not yet there, but I anticipate it in the mode of a possibility. In order to invent, one must pass through a third place, between knowledge and non-knowledge, between being and nothingness. The Third-Instructed invites us not to separate humanist culture and the learning of science."

Michel Serres, The Troubadour of Knowledge

Vincenzo Scamozzi published his treatise L’Idea dell’Architettura Universale (The Idea of Universal Architecture) in 1615 in Venice with the general scope to understand architecture as a scientific art that participates in the convivium of knowledge. Because it is of knowledge, architecture for Scamozzi is science and art at once (“duo artes”) as, in his terms, it is inventive and speculative, of the senses (“experentia”) and of abstraction (“theorica”). From the very beginning of the proem, Scamozzi sketches the integrity of the scope: quoting Vitruvius, he writes that architecture is a scientific habits that inhabits the architect’s intellect (“un habito scientifico nella mente dell’architetto”) and calls for an order of generality which is not a logical one, rather a logic of accommodation, of proportioning between abstract thinking, method and exercise. In this sense, architecture is scientific not as a science in the modern sense, but as “scientia”, as it pertains to reasoning on the causes of things within an impersonal memory of forms: abstraction and experience, light and shadows. Within many etymological implications, “habito” also recalls the nuance of inhabiting as well as the notion of suit, dress.  Being architecture also a dress, it is of a cosmetic nature -of a certain decorum- and to this regards Scamozzi writes: “perche` lei sola abbellisse il mondo” (in order for it -architecture- to decorate the world). 

Which kind of dress can we imagine when we think about the “habito scientifico” architecture embodies today? The way we are going to look at such a dress is through Harlequins, a composite figure that always has another costume underneath the one removed; a hybrid, mongrel figure, a mixture of diverse elements, a challenge to homogeneity, a conflation of potentialities. Which kind of universality can we think about today? Just as chance opens up the energy system and prevents it from imploding, the Idea -the objective transcendental- makes between in science for experience and in experience for science -physics and poetry- so that architecture accommodates the place of communication: words influencing space as well as space influencing words. 

Scamozzi is an architect who, through writing, seeks to open up a philosophical space for architecture. In the same manner, his treatise does not comment, rather rewrites “his own Vitruvius” from scratch: architecture is taken out from the imitative arts (painting and sculpture) as, for Scamozzi, it does not imitate, rather it mimetically proceeds for abstractions with a double spin. From the experience to the abstract thinking as well as from the abstract thinking to the experience: mathematically and “sub specie architecturae” (in the guise of the architectural form). This is the intellectual habit that sits in the architect’s mind: an inventive intellect that is never of one’s own. For Scamozzi architecture is giving birth here to an objective thought that speaks many tongues -like Nature does-.

The course will be structured around Scamozzi’s treatise and in a constant dialogue to its main themes; nevertheless, it will not be an historical evaluation of the treatise with a retrospective gaze. On the contrary, we will bring the book “out of time” to learn from its gestuality and to look at it through lens that are adequate for today. Specularly, we will see in which way Scamozzi’s Idea inform our contemporary thinking about a notion of universality and about the general intellect that thinks it. 

Is it still possible to think a treatise with the same title today? And why should we? 

Scamozzi’s treatise will be for us a scaffolding within which we are going to question mega-categories of the project (Type, Scale, Language, …) through a specific way of writing that is the one of the thesis and the commentary that we will learn and mimic from, among others, the reading of Werner Hamacher’s 95 thesis on Philology. 


Teaching methods

The course will have a hybrid seminar approach and it will be structured around two main axes: the first one grounded in abstract thinking and the second one in practical exercises. 

  • In presence: weekly lectures will depict the gaze of the course and they will  articulate the main theoretical path of the course. They will also depict a spectrum of figures through which to install a convivial discussion in class and compile a compendium. Furthermore, we will close read and comment students’ weekly exercises through singular weekly small presentations and convivial critiques. Each student will chose and study one/two buildings that will serve as a base to investigate through drawings and texts the spectrum of figures that will be depicted. Each student is supposed to actively participate as everyone will read, speak, present and draw throughout the entire semester.
  • From week to week, there will be texts to be read and exercises to be done before each weekly meeting. 

Mode of examination


Additional information


Please consider the plagiarism guidelines of TU Wien when writing your seminar paper: Directive concerning the handling of plagiarism (PDF)



Examination modalities

At the end of the seminar, participants will be asked to produce an academic paper on a topic related to the themes discussed in class. The paper will have to be written in English.
Only participants attending the course, actively engaging in the discussions and delivering the scheduled exercises will be admitted to final evaluation. Attendance and participation are therefore mandatory.


TitleApplication beginApplication end
Wahlseminare13.02.2023 09:0016.02.2023 23:59


Study CodeObligationSemesterPrecon.Info
033 243 Architecture Not specified6. SemesterSTEOP
Course requires the completion of the introductory and orientation phase


No lecture notes are available.