Critical Focus on the Visual Arts: Art and Architecture

Level: Open to students entering grades 11 or 12 or freshman year of college in fall 2016.
Session: I, June 27–July 15, 2016
Days & Time: Monday–Friday, 10:10 a.m.–12:00 p.m. and 2:10–4:00 p.m.; class sessions will occasionally spill over into the midday activities period because of travel time for field trips.
Anna Hetherington,
Lorenzo Vigotti,
Related Courses:

Students interested in this course might also be interested in Introduction to Architectural Design and Theory, Painting: The Painted Image, or Photography: The Camera Craft.

“[This course] opened my eyes to a world of education and criticism that I never knew existed. I learned so much about New York City and its art culture.” — Annie Talton, 2015

Course Description

A two-course curricular option that provides a concentrated study of aesthetic concepts for students interested in the visual arts. Both courses emphasize critical thinking and analysis, skills that will be valuable to students in whatever fields they choose to pursue in college and beyond. Numerous field trips to museums and architectural landmarks throughout the city enable students to take advantage of New York’s vast cultural resources. Both courses meet daily, one in the morning, one in the afternoon.

Architecture and Society: New York’s Built Environment
Lorenzo Vigotti

This course introduces students to the visual analysis of architecture. Instead of surveying the history of architecture, we look at specific New York landmarks to understand how great structures not only fulfill practical needs but also influence our relationship to the physical and social world around us. By studying some of New York’s notable museums, parks, houses of worship, office buildings, and transportation centers, we see how these sites reflect and inform different kinds of social experiences. As students learn to “read” these sites closely, they become familiar with the basic vocabulary of architecture (including light, space, mass, and circulation) and come to appreciate how architects of different eras and sensibilities have engaged these same basic elements to different ends.

Some of the sites we explore together include Columbia University’s campus, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Central Park, Grand Central Terminal, Lever House, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the 9/11 Memorial.

Problems in the History of Art
Anna Hetherington

This course covers selected monuments of painting and sculpture from various eras and cultures as well as basic trends and concepts in the history of art. Students learn about art from both the artist’s perspective (focusing on materials and technique) and the art historian’s perspective (focusing on issues of patronage, context, and interpretation), with both ultimately impacting how we view these objects in the modern world.

The goal of this class is to examine specific objects and encourage students to think about formal analysis—understanding the choices artists make, as well as how these objects reflect upon their specific culture and era. Rather than addressing the subject of art history in the traditional survey fashion, this course will be topic-based, with particular emphasis on how curatorial decisions impact the way we view works of art.

While the works examined are not limited to New York-based art, the course does take advantage of the city's many wide-ranging art collections. Class trips include visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters, the Frick Collection, the Guggenheim Museum, the Hispanic Society, and the Museum of Modern Art.


Anna Hetherington

Anna Hetherington holds a Ph.D. in art history from Columbia University and a B.A. in psychology and art history from the University of California, Berkeley. Her focus is the Italian Renaissance, but she has taught in a variety of fields ranging from 20th century American art to German art in the age of the Reformation. She has taught psychology in the Pre-College Academy at the University of California, Berkeley, and has worked as a consultant for a contemporary art gallery. Anna currently teaches art history at the Horace Mann School.

Lorenzo Vigotti

Lorenzo Vigotti graduated from the School of Architecture at the University of Florence, Italy, where he worked as a practicing architect before moving to the U.S. At Columbia he is currently finishing his dissertation on Italian private palaces between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. His broader research interests include issues regarding the preservation of historical buildings and exchanges between the West and the Islamic world. In addition to teaching Art Humanities: Masterpieces of the Western World for the Columbia Core Curriculum, Lorenzo has taught Italian Architecture and Propaganda and Architecture at Columbia, as well as courses on Florentine architecture for American study-abroad programs in Florence.

Specific course information, such as hours and instructors, are subject to change at the discretion of the University.