Failed Architecture

We herald architectural achievements from every era and culture, but what of the failures? What can we learn from poorly planned cities, leaning towers, fallen bridges, and monster homes? We’ll critically examine Albert Speer’s failed designs for Nazi Germany to better understand Mies van der Rohe’s monoliths, and we’ll link problems with Montreal’s Habitat 67 to the rough treatment of Arthur Erickson’s Vancouver Law Courts. We’ll also consider the unchecked ego of Le Corbusier, the wild vision of unsteady gothic towers, and misguided attempts to build medieval castles in Canada.

A $50 discount will be applied automatically for adults 55+.

This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Online - Barry Magrill $170.00 0 Join Waitlist
Online - Barry Magrill $170.00 5 Register

Schedule clarification: This is a four-week online course. It runs from Monday, February 8 to Friday, March 5. Each week, all week, you can study that week’s material, post and respond to messages, and engage in course activities. Students enrolled in Section 1 will participate in live videoconferencing sessions each Tuesday from 7–8:30 p.m. PT; students enrolled in Section 2 will participate in live videoconferencing sessions each Thursday from 7–8:30 p.m. PT.

Learning objectives

By the end of the course, you should be able to do the following:

  • Identify the aesthetic and structural problems with failed buildings
  • Appreciate architecture through a set of critical judgments
  • Analyze architectural innovations against hidden failures   

Learning methods

Your online learning will include the following methods:

  • Recorded lectures and podcasts
  • Academic and non-academic articles
  • Participation in written discussions with other students
  • Participation in videoconference seminars

For Liberal Arts for 55+ Certificate students: you will write a reflective essay.


Week 1 Leaning towers to infamous collapses

Week 2 ‘Crap towns’ and grand plans gone wrong—Hitler to Corbusier

Week 3 Monster homes—Casa Loma to Casa Mia

Week 4 Success, finally. Introducing the e-1027 house by the incomparable Eileen Gray

Books, materials and resources

You will access reading material using SFU's online course management system, Canvas.

Technical requirements

This course is delivered using SFU's online learning system, Canvas. You can check if your browser is compatible with Canvas here.  

To get the most out of this online course, you should be comfortable doing the following:

  • Using everyday software such as browsers, email and social media
  • Navigating a website by clicking on links and finding pages in a menu
  • Downloading and opening PDF documents
  • Posting, replying and uploading images to a discussion board
  • Participating in videoconferencing sessions

You will be participating in videoconferencing using Zoom Meetings. For this, your computer needs to have a camera, microphone and speakers or headphones. Your computer software should be up to date with the latest available operating system and browser versions.

Accessing your course

  • A few days before the course starts, we will email you more information about the course and how you'll access it. You will also receive an email inviting you to access the Canvas learning platform (click on the link in the invitation to join the course). Once you’ve accessed Canvas, you can begin exploring the platform on your own. The full course will be accessible on its start date.
  • We’ll also host a virtual drop-in time on Zoom Meetings a few days before the course starts. This will give you a chance to check that you can access Zoom Meetings, and that your computer’s camera and microphone and speakers are working properly.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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