Retrospective on Teaching 1974-2016 and Prospective 2017-2019

Joseph Connors

April 2018

My first course, on Italian Renaissance architecture, was given as a graduate student instructor at Harvard during the 1974-75 sabbatical of my Doktorvater, James Ackerman. I made every slide and wrote out every word longhand, something that that the Bok Center, had it been in existence at the time, would have told me never to do. At Chicago (1975-80) and then at Columbia (1980-2001) I developed a pair of core courses, Italian Renaissance Architecture, which went from the medieval communes up to Michelangelo, and Italian Baroque Architecture, which went from Michelangelo through the Roman greats to the work of Guarini, Juvarra and Vittone in Piedmont and the new towns of the Val di Noto in Sicily. The Chicago influence was strong in my course on American Architecture from Richardson to Wright and important for my small book on Wright’s Robie House. As was expected I taught in, and eventually ran, the Columbia core course called Art Humanities. Other courses there included The Early Modern European City, the Renaissance Garden, Reading and Architecture in the Early Modern Library, Paris and Rome in the 17th Century, the Classical Tradition in Architecture, and Palace Culture in Early Modern Europe. An undergraduate methods course read all of the work of Erwin Panofsky available in English. Avery Library was an especially propitious place to give a seminar on Piranesi, which many years later left its mark on my book on the Ichnographia of the Campus Martius. It was probably the large numbers of students in my Introduction to Architecture, and I like to think the enthusiasm, that led to the President’s Award for Outstanding Teaching in 2001.

Two administrative positions represented long breaks in teaching. The first, as director of the American Academy in Rome from 1988 to 1992, allowed some compressed teaching at Columbia and in Rome. However, the directorship of Villa I Tatti in Florence from 2002 to 2010, though fascinating in many ways, left little time for teaching. Thus I am grateful that it has been possible to make up for lost time in the classroom in these past few years (2011 to the present) at Harvard.

Here I have concentrated on undergraduate teaching. Rome Eternal City is a  monument-oriented history of Rome from the beginning to the edge of the present millennium. I have taught Bernini and Borromini in Harvard College but also a graduate lecture course on Baroque Architecture in the GSD, where I attempted to cover Europe and stretch as far as Russia and Goa. It was demanding but I have seldom crammed so much new learning and so much geography into one semester. I have taught Baroque Art several times to mid-size undergraduate audiences; it covers painting from Caravaggio and the Carracci to Rembrandt and Vermeer with Paris, Versailles, London and Madrid on the way. My Freshman seminar was on the Harvard campus as a microcosm of American Architecture. In 2014 I offered an undergraduate seminar on the Vatican, including St. Peter’s, the Renaissance palace, the Counter-Reformation library and the museum from the 18th to the 20th centuries. My undergraduate tutorials have been on Vitruvius, the literature of cartography, and the history and workings of the Fogg Museum. I have run HAA 11, Landmarks of World Architecture, since 2016, coordinating guest professors from around the university and giving between half and a third of the lectures myself.* There have been two occasions to travel with Harvard students. The Sophomore Seminar of 2012 went to Rome for two weeks in May. A small seminar on Venice, which began with hydrology and urban history and moved to Renaissance architecture and (all too briefly) Venetian painting, went to the Serenissima over spring break in 2016.**

Bibliographies for some of these courses are posted on this site.


*Lectures in HAA 11 Landmarks:
Stone: types, construction, meaning
The Forum of Augustus in Rome
The Pantheon in Rome
Old St. Peter’s and the Basilica Tradition
Hagia Sophia
Chartres Cathedral
Michelangelo and St. Peter’s
The Dome from Wren to Washington D.C.
The Taj Mahal
Copley Square: Trinity Church, Boston Public Library, Hancock Tower
Frank Lloyd Wright: Robie House and Fallingwater

**Venice course trip itinerary March 2016