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Three Rogue Architects: Michelangelo, Borromini, Hawksmoor - HOA00076H

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  • Department: History of Art
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Anthony Geraghty
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

This module looks at three outsider architects: Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), Francesco Borromini (1599-1667), and Nicholas Hawksmoor (c.1661-1736). What did it mean to be an architectural outsider in Renaissance and Early Modern Europe, and what alternative theories, methods and values were at play?

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

This course looks at three roguishly individualistic architects: Michelangelo, Borromini, and Hawksmoor. According to Vasari, Michelangelo ‘proceeded quite differently in proportion, composition, and rules from what others had done following common practice, Vitruvius and antiquity’. According to Bellori, writing about Borromini, ‘everyone imagines in his head a new idea or phantom of architecture in his own manner … so that they deprave buildings’. And according to James Ralph, Hawksmoor’s London churches were ‘mere Gothique heaps of stone, without form or order’. In short, all three architects were from the outset associated with the corruption of antiquity, the destruction of order, and the extirpation of good taste and humane reason.

But this is not how they understood themselves, and all three architects have had their champions, especially in the last century or so.

This module will explore what it meant to be a rogue architect in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It will explore a series of key works by each of the three architects, set these analyses against cannonic concepts of classicism, and then go in search of the alternative theories, methods and values that were espoused by the rogues themselves.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should have acquired:

  • A detailed knowledge of the three architects
  • An ability to describe, analyse and interpret complex buildings
  • Some understanding of tradition and anti-tradition in western architecture
  • An ability to identify and critically evaluate new source material through independent research


Task Length % of module mark
Advanced Assignment
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Advanced Assignment
N/A 100

Module feedback

You will receive feedback on assessed work within the timeframes set out by the University - please check the Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback for more information.

The purpose of feedback is to help you to improve your future work. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further, you are warmly encouraged to meet your Supervisor during their Office Hours.

Indicative reading

  • Ackerman, James S. The Architecture of Michelangelo. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.
  • Blunt, Anthony. Borromini. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990.
  • Brothers, Cammy. Michelangelo, Drawing, and the Invention of Architecture New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.
  • Connors, Joseph. "S. Ivo alla Sapienza: The First Three Minutes." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 55 (1996): 38-57.
  • Connors, Joseph. "Borromoni’s S. Ivo alla Sapienza: the Spiral." The Burlington Magazine 138 (1996), 668-82.
  • Kerry Downes. Hawksmoor. London: Zwemmer, 1959.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.