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Architecture: Einstein and 20th-Century Architecture


Admission requirements

See MA Arts and Culture program guide and Exam regulations


In this course students investigate the supposed influence of the theory on relativity of Albert Einstein on 20th-century architecture. In the publication of Donald Langmead and Leslie Johnson on Frank Lloyd Wright (2000) is says p. 3: “Its practical influence [of the theory of relativity] on art was fleetingly yet almost immediately measurable thereby suggesting an intellectural, cultural and intuitive pre-existence”. In the Netherlands H.T. Wijdeveld in 1930 had contacts with Einstein, whom he asked for approval of his plans – with Frank Lloyd Wright and others – to establish an International Fellowship of architects and artists. Also in the title of Giedion’s famous book Space, Time and Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition (1941) we find allusions to Einstein’s theory.
The questions we will try to answer are: when and where do notions of ‘space’ and ‘time’ invade western architectural theory and practice? In which buildings there can be found attempts to incorporate these notions? Which spatial solutions derive from these experiments with space and time?

Course objectives

  • Students will have an overview of new approaches to architecture in the Netherlands, Europe and the USA in the 19th and 20th century;

  • Students will be conversant with recent developments in architectural theory and history in relation to the subject;

  • Students will gain facility with primary and secondary source research;

  • Students will develop their skills in visual (spatial) analysis.


See the timetable on the department website

Mode of instruction

  • (Guest-) Lectures: introductory lectures to the theme

  • Research (students can select a topic from a list or suggest a topic themselves)

  • Excursion to Amsterdam (min. half day)

Attendance is compulsory. Students are allowed to miss a maximum of two seminars.

Assessment method

  • Presentation with power point (15 minutes + 10 minutes questions and discussion) (30%)

  • Participation (20%)

  • Written paper, 5000 words, excl. notes and bibliography (50%)


A Blackboard site will be available and used for information (schedules, excursion), documents (summaries, powerpoints lectures), and discussion.

Reading list



Students are requested to register through uSis, the registration system of Leiden University for this course. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Students who are not in the MA Arts and Culture programme, but who would like to take this course as an optional course, please contact the Co-ordinator of studies.


Dr. J.G. Roding


  • This course can be followed for the MA Arts and Culture specialisation: Architecture

  • It can also be followed as a specialist course for the MA Arts and Culture free component (10 EC) of any other specialisation or MA program of Leiden University.