Rethinking Teaching in the Link, II: Guest blog by Caroline Bruzelius

This semester, Duke opened a new flexible teaching and learning space in Perkins Library, called the Link. The Link supports student and faculty learning, teaching, and collaboration by offering several flexible, multimedia capable classrooms in addition to many informal meeting rooms and break-out spaces that encourage group and student engagement.

As part of what will hopefully become a continuing trend, CIT will begin posting faculty-written reflections of their experiences teaching in the Link. Following, is the second in a series of posts from Caroline Bruzelius, Anne M. Cogan Professor of Art and Art History. You can also read the first post by clicking here.

The imaginary cathedrals are fully underway. There are 12 groups of 3 students each, designing buildings that range in date from about 1200 to 1350. Our churches are “going up” all over Europe and even the Crusader Kingdoms of the Near East: France, England, Wales, Northern Germany, Spain, Turkey, Cyprus, and Italy. Each group has to come up with a fictional history, a design (ground-plan, elevation, section, and façade) of the cathedral, and the decorative program: stained glass windows and portal sculpture. They also have to produce a budget: sources of income as well as the expenses for labor and materials. Each group has to invent a story about the Christianization of the site (usually a Late Antique city), including the acquisition of relics, and they have to provide a schematic description of the relationship of their cathedral to the earlier churches at the site, as well as to the topography of the town they’re in. The students can either “recreate” the history of a real place (one group is doing Milan, another Compiègne), or invent an entirely new place. In every case, though, students have to use geological maps to identify accessible supplies of stone and wood, as well as the agricultural or commercial resources that are going to support the building of the cathedral. In order to participate in trade, the cathedrals have to be located on trade routes of major rivers.

(NOTE: The following is a 4 image slideshow which will work automatically – though you can click the image to cycle through the slides faster as well)

We’re now in the last critical weeks, because each project will be “performed” the week after Thanksgiving (Dec. 1-Dec 5: 10 minutes per project). We will award prizes in a “grand closing ceremony” on the last day of class, December 5.

What’s fun about this is that we’re inventing a fake Middle Ages, with stories of miracles, relic thefts, fires and earthquakes that destroyed earlier churches, popular uprisings against the clergy by townspeople, excessive taxation and other forms oppression of the lower classes by the extravagant bishops, all of which is going to end up, however, in wonderful and beautiful buildings. Just like the real Middle Ages.