At a time of rapid technological change and professional specialization, we can easily forget that the most important mission of schools and universities is to offer inspiring and horizon-expanding teaching to the next generation. Survey courses play a particularly important role as they open the world to students and help give them critical purchase on their own landscapes and lives. A good survey course will thus balance breadth with depth, but in an ever-expanding world that balance can be lost, meaning that the problem is not just how to teach students, but how to prepare teachers. The GAHTC's mission is to provide cross-disciplinary, teacher-to-teacher exchanges of ideas and material, in order to energize and promote the teaching of all periods of global architectural history, especially at the survey level.
GAHTC has its origins in bar-room conversations between Mark Jarzombek and Vikramaditya Prakash, while we were working on the second edition of A Global History of Architecture (Ching, Jarzombek, Prakash; Wiley 2006, 2010). The purpose of that textbook, that was organized by time-cuts rather than, say, nation-states or regions or styles, was to offer a framework for instructors to break free of the grip of the Eurocentric canonical categories of the historiographical narrative. After the publication of the first edition, it became clear to us that the problem was not just what material to include, but also the deep-seated fear and uncertainty that teachers had in presenting this material. This was a problem particularly for the junior faculty who are just starting their teaching careers, most of whom had limited exposure to the large world of history outside of their Ph.D. preparation. And yet, these people were often tasked with preparing and presenting material that, however interesting, appeared strange and daunting to them, since it was outside the comfort of familiar 'research'. The fallback for many teachers was to simply add in a lecture or two on the 'non-western'. Another problem we encountered was the dominance of the history of modernism; if you look at research you might think that all known history is confined to the last two hundred years.
In other words, what was needed was not so much a discussion about how to teach the students, but how to teach the teachers and in particular how to give them confidence in the context of global material. To do that, we had the idea that of a special forum where teachers could self-produce, ready-to-teach, lecture materials, that they could then share with each other, and in the process, take the ghost out of the global perspective. That is how the idea of GAHTC was born; a free, online resource of global architectural history teaching materials created and curated by a collaborative of teachers.
We felt that what we needed was not the slow march of research but a rapid-response mechanism that could deal directly with the crisis of teaching in an expanded field.
We were fortunate that in 2012, the Mellon Foundation was looking for proposals that addressed the question of humanities and the arts. With the success of the GAHTC1 (2013-2016), we realized not just the viability of the project, but even more importantly, the enormous scale of the problem. For that reason, GAHTC2 (2016-2019) was designed to be even more proactive in helping teachers develop curriculum.
As the GAHTC has grown and developed, so too has the core impetus behind its inception. The third edition of A Global History of Architecture (Ching, Jarzombek, Prakash; Wiley 2017) has just been published. It is 200 pages longer than the first edition, full color, with longer narratives telling better global stories.
The Global Architectural History Teaching Collaborative lecture library now has over 200 lectures on its free, teacher-to-teacher platform and continues to grow as scholars from all over the world join the GAHTC, and contribute their research, helping the collaborative to thrive. GAHTC will continue to expand its offerings in the next years with the aim to further enhance teaching capacity and collect innovative research. The GAHTC teaching library was established with the explicit intention of fostering new knowledge, collecting innovative research, and disseminating high-level and relevant research on global architectural history.
The ambition of the GAHTC is to address the needs of educators in diverse disciplinary contexts by providing practical lecture materials for teaching global architectural history at the survey and introductory level. This effort does not preclude more advanced level education, but the main purpose of the Collaborative is to transform the discipline 'from below'—to help shape the discourse of architectural history by reshaping its teaching at the survey level. Teaching materials produced by the GAHTC will emphasize transnational and trans geographical perspectives, providing alternatives to architectural and art history courses organized by nation-based or style-based categories such as Italian', 'French', 'Chinese' and 'The Renaissance'.
Generously funded by The Andrew W. Mellon foundation, the GAHTC will dedicate its more recent award of a $1.5 million grant to promoting the development of survey course material in the history of architecture, thus strengthening its position in humanities teaching, while also sponsoring teacher-to-teacher conversations to support pedagogy with a global perspective and a deep understanding of the importance of interdisciplinary exchanges with related disciplines.
To accomplish these goals, the GAHTC has created six new funding opportunities for research and teaching. You can find more information on the various grants here.