Professor of Architectural and Art History
Koehler teaches courses in modern and contemporary art, architecture, photography, and design, with an emphasis on connections between the built environment, visual culture, and critical theory. She received her B.A. in English Literature and M.S. in Library Science from the University of Illinois in Urbana, her Masters in Art History from the University of Massachusetts, and her M.F.A. and Ph.D. in Art and Archaeology from Princeton University. In addition to her edited volume The Built Surface: Architecture and the Pictorial Arts, she has published widely on dialogues between architecture and pictures, with a specialization on the Bauhaus, including recent catalogue essays for the Prada Foundation in Milan and the Gallery of New South Wales. Other recent publications include an essay on the Bauhaus and Gestalt in Joseph Albers: Intersecting Colors at the Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, and in 2008 served as guest curator and sole author of Bauhaus Modern, an exhibition at the Smith College Museum of Art. Recipient of recent grants from the NEH, Mellon, and Kress Foundations, she is currently writing an essay on the double portrait, and completing an intellectual history of the architect Walter Gropius from the 1930s to 1960s.
This course is an examination of utopian plans in architecture and art, including the works of C-N Ledoux, William Morris, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Kandinsky, Buckminster Fuller, and others. We will consider the philosophical constructs of utopia in architectural drawings, buildings, and plans in relationship to film, painting, sculpture, and the decorative arts. We will consider how different projections about life in the future are also harsh criticisms of the present, which often rely upon imagined views of social organizations in times past. We will examine the relationship of the individual to the community, and consider how spatial constructions-real and imagined-can affect this relationship. The course begins with an examination of significant literary utopias, including the books by Sir Thomas More, Bellamy, and Morris. We examine the tensions between theory and practice, by studying the successes and failures of actual attempts at utopian communities. Self-scheduled screenings of films that challenge the difference between utopia and dystopia will set up our discussions of displacement and chaos, as we consider whether utopian design is applicable to the 21st century.
This seminar is based on a close, comparative reading of the critical theorist Walter Benjamin, the artist Paul Klee and the filmmaker Wim Wenders. Linking history, tragedy, desire and hope to the figures of the angel, the ghost, the puppet, the trapeze artist, and the automaton, these three authors open up an examination of materiality, abstraction, representation, the seen and the unseen, the purposeful, the ephemeral, the accidental, the heartbreaking and the playful. Their comparative treatments of cities, arcades, towers and streets will also be used to explore both the sensations of place and the operations of memory in images, texts, artifacts, and in architecture. Students will create a series of artworks, creative texts, critical reviews and analytical essays.
This course will focus on a small, select number of photographs studied in significant depth. Making use of critical theories of reading and looking, we will examine photographs that are both canonical and non-canonical, from the earliest daguerreotypes in the 19th century to avant-garde experimentation in the 20th century to the expanding global image ecologies of the present. We will study the social, intellectual, and art histories of photography, interrogating concepts of visual representation and issues of technology, identity, and power, and employing the theoretical lenses of writers such as Benjamin, Kracauer, Malek Alloula, and Ariella Azoulay. Students will be required to assemble their own archive of photographs and texts, to develop skills in the digital humanities, and to compose close readings based on visual, theoretical and historical analyses.
This course is a focused examination of architectural theories and philosophies, ranging from the canonical writings of Vitruvius and Alberti to the ideas of contemporary architects like Koolhaas, Libeskind, and Eisenman, with an emphasis on modern and contemporary architects, historians, and critical theory (Le Corbusier, Venturi, Tschumi, Benjamin, Heidigger, Bachelard, Solas-Morales, Guattari, etc.) We will spend considerable time on the interaction of cities, buildings and landscapes with other forms of written and visual expression. Students will be responsible for serious weekly readings of treatises and essays, as well as the visual analysis of plans, pictures and structures. Each student will develop a research project that reflects an awareness of diverse methodologies and places their own interests into context. Intended for third or fourth year students.