Western Architecture: The Modern Era (Online)


Explore the architectural genesis of the modern world, beginning with the vital structural innovations of the late Victorian era, continuing on to the rise and spread of Modernism in European and American architecture - and concluding in the examination of contemporary architecture and future possibilities.

Listen to Dr David Morgan talking about the course:

Trace the rise and spread of Modernism in European and American architecture. We will focus upon the earliest stirrings of Modernism per se in the Europe of the early 20th century (as in the work of Le Corbusier & the Bauhaus), before following the inter-war flight of the European intelligentsia to Britain and the USA. Our subsequent focus will then be principally upon the collision between the existing architectural culture of the USA (such as the work of architects such as Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright) and the incoming flood of European Modernist ideas.

We'll conclude by concentrating upon such relevant contemporary topics as the influence of Le Corbusier, and of US Brutalism, upon British post-WW2 mass density housing; the advent of Post-Modernism - with particular attention being devoted to the works of architects such as Robert Venturi and Daniel Liebeskind and the use of CAD and the contemporary architecture of Richard Rogers, Norman Foster and Frank Gehry.

For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.

Programme details

Unit 1: ‘Structure and Ornament’: Debates in late nineteenth-century architecture

Unit 2: Modern architecture before Modernism: Beaux Arts and Art Nouveau

Unit 3: Early Modernism: Le Corbusier, Purism and the Villa Savoye

Unit 4: Pre-Modernist American Architecture (i): The aesthetics of the skyscraper

Unit 5: Pre-Modernist American Architecture (ii): Frank Lloyd Wright

Unit 6: Mies van der Rohe in America

Unit 7: Modernism beyond America: Alvar Aalto and Oscar Niemeyer

Unit 8: Brutalism and utopia: Modernism and mass housing in post-war Britain

Unit 9: Post Modernism: Philip Johnson and Robert Venturi

Unit 10: Today and tomorrow: CAD and contemporary architecture

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.

For more information on CATS point please click on the link below: http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/studentsupport/faq/cats.php

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting both course assignments and actively participating in the course forums. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.


Description Costs
EU Fee £270.00
Non-EU Fee £295.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr David Morgan

David Morgan has taught Art & Architectural History for OUDCE since 2004. He has also taught courses for Birkbeck College, University of London, and for the WEA. His recent publications have centred upon the history of British visual satire.

Course aims

This course aims to introduce students to the history of western architecture during the period from the later 19th century to the present day.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to understand:

  • The overall historical trajectory of western European and American architecture during the period from the later 19th century to the present day.
  • The broad outlines of the aesthetic and theoretical debates which have informed that historical trajectory.
  • The principal structural innovations which have underpinned and enabled that historical development.
  • The specific contributions made by each of the principal schools within the Modernist and Post-Modernist architectural traditions.
  • The significance of the most important works by the principal architects mentioned during the course.
  • The essential stylistic and theoretical nature of Modernism, and Post-Modernism, as expressed in architectural terms.

Assessment methods

Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment of 500 words due half way through the course and one longer assignment of 1500 words due at the end of the course.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.