Paper Session Descriptions
American Government Architecture: Representation to Rebellion
In the waning weeks of his presidency, Donald J. Trump promulgated a populist executive order mandating “traditional and classical architecture” for new Federal buildings. On cue, the American Institute of Architects protested the perceived violation of national values of diversity and progress. Beyond the predictable drama, the order (since rescinded) exposed how deeply American architecture and government have mattered to each other at levels of politics, identity, expertise, and representation. Trump’s presidency ended with the architecture of the Capitol as setting and symbol for electoral legitimation, in addition to whiteness, sectionalism, and rebellion. This session will examine all of these aspects of American government architecture, from representation to rebellion. Submissions may address executive, legislative, judicial architecture, or other ceremonial, commemorative, administrative, quotidian, and security installations. We solicit papers across national, state, and local scales, from urban to rural settings, and to sites beyond sovereign boundaries in imperial possessions and diplomatic and military outposts. Papers may concern infrastructure, transportation, open space, city planning, and landscape; as well as aspects of regulation, land purchases and policies, and relations between professional practice and government work. We welcome discussions spanning all eras from the colonial and revolutionary periods to today. How has American government architecture activated authority, identity, power, and resistance? Who does and does not belong, and who has the right to govern? Particular themes to be explored include race, indigeneity, and gender, boundaries and marginality, bureaucracy and surveillance, land use and urban planning, democracy and privatization, protest and appropriation, and historiography of American government architecture. Ultimately, this session will be a forum for investigating architecture's manifold roles establishing, sustaining, and reforming American democracy over time and into the future.
Session Chairs: Jonah Rowen, The New School – Parsons School of Design; and Daniel M. Abramson, Boston University
Architectural (Hi)stories of Climate Change and Mobilities
Climate change is a global phenomenon that affects life, livelihoods, and built environments worldwide. About 25 million people are displaced annually due to climate-related hazards such as floods and droughts, and more than 140 million people might become climate migrants within the borders of their countries by 2050.
Climate change and disasters also make part of the histories of population movements, displacement and emplacement, and of the creation of alternative spaces of refuge, care, control, and habitation. The late 18th century British-India colonial famine-relief camps, for example, were formed following the distress caused by intense drought affecting approximately fifty million people in the sub-continent. In Palestine, the climatic fluctuations in the southern Negev district at the early 20th century have harmed agriculture and almost eliminated business investments. The 1927 Mississippi River flood in the US and the 1931 China floods have displaced millions while transforming the built environment. These changes indicate that it is possible to learn from the architectural histories of climatic changes and disasters and their related mobilities to assist in articulating better architectural approaches to future climatic events.
We seek papers that contribute to a better understanding of the historical relationship between climate change and the built environment including climate mobilities and architectural adjustments that influence forms of prevention, resilience, repair and the emergence of new social and built formations. Papers may relate to the contested geopolitical, cultural and historical constructs of built environments that faced gradual or abrupt climate changes or disasters, including related human mobility, in a variety of contexts scales and forms including buildings, neighborhoods, camps, cities and other modes of human settlements. Contributors are invited to discuss aspects of architecture- oriented and urban climatic discourses, such as those examining relations between crisis, politics and spatial formations.
Session Chairs: Fatina Abreek-Zubiedat, ETH Zurich; and Irit Katz, University of Cambridge
Architecture and Iconoclasm
This session explores the architectural repercussions of iconoclastic movements across historical and geographic boundaries. While the term originated in Byzantium, iconoclasm can be defined generally as the intentional destruction or removal of figurative images deemed dangerous. Such struggles have often been concerned not only with iconographic content but also with ideological and theological convictions about the relations between matter, representation, and collective memory.
Conflict over “icons” is bound up with architecture, too—sometimes literally so, as the most hotly contested images are frequently those integrated in public buildings and urban spaces. Some scholars of Byzantium associate the era of iconoclasm with the evolution of church building, including the increased incorporation of floral and abstract ornamentation and the embellishment of interior ambience through the play of light and shadow, the glitter of metallic surfaces, and acoustic effects. The relationship between these architectural shifts and the prohibition of figurative images is still hard to pinpoint, a historiographic dilemma that underscores how iconoclasm is, in large part, a struggle over the representation of the past.
This session widens the focus beyond Byzantium to consider architectural transformations wrought by iconoclasm in any period or region. Cross-cultural exploration has the potential to unblock scholarly impasses and reveal historical throughlines. How have campaigns to remove images been connected with changes in architecture, broadly construed? How have new building approaches sought to compensate for proscribed forms of representation? How have debates over figural representation altered the ways architecture’s own symbolic or representational status is understood? Finally, how does iconoclasm relate to scholarly issues of evidence and method? Submissions should be anchored in a particular historical context but the session’s goal is to shed light on the architectural consequences of iconoclasm broadly.
Session Chairs: Joseph L. Clarke, University of Toronto; and Vasileios Marinis, Yale University
Architecture and Whiteness in the Early Modern World, 1300–1700
Framing whiteness as a moral category connate with sensuous qualities, this session seeks to probe our historical understanding of the relationship between whiteness, bodies, objects, and architecture in the early modern world. In the seventeenth century, French theologian and writer Isaac de La Peyrère claimed that once Jews converted to Christianity, they would no longer be of dark complexion, and their faces would become bright things of whiteness (Du Rappel des Juifs, 1643). Peyrère’s assertion demonstrates how early modern tropes of whiteness were articulated along European ethical and aesthetic hierarchies. Early modern architectural discourses and practices participated in such ordering pursuits. In sixteenth century Italy, for instance, architects theorized and practiced whiteness as analogous to fairness, beauty, purity, health, and morality. In seventeenth century Japan, women’s powdered white faces symbolized a moral and aesthetic value in the Edo Period (c.1603). By invoking the white heron, the Himeji Castle (c.1617), also known as Hakuro-jō or Shirasagi-jō, architecturally emblematized grace and nobility.
This session will examine how whiteness as a category of exceptionality shaped early modern architectural theories and practices, expressed through writing, mapping, classifying, collecting, drawing, modeling, planning, building, and demolishing. How was whiteness architecturally questioned, conceptualized, practiced, and materialized across the early modern world? How did whiteness intersect with other ordering categories such as class, nation, gender, beauty, hygiene, and health?
The session especially looks forward to papers that address whiteness outside of Europe and European colonialism. Examples from early modern Europe and its expanded geographic spheres of influence are welcome, as well as counter-narratives that complicate well-established architectural histories and early modern historiography. Topics may include but are not limited to architectural treatises, map-making, surveying reports and travel narratives, early modern institutions, early settler colonialisms, slave dwellings, building materials and techniques, interiors, and early modern architectural controversies.
Session Chairs: Dijana O. Apostolski, McGill University; and David Theodore, McGill University
Architecture as an Expanded Practice
While architectural history is anchored in built form, it also reveals that architects turn their expertise to other kinds of projects, raising questions about the nature of architecture as a discipline or practice. This session will address these questions with papers that examine the transfer of architectural methods, strategies, standards and conceptualizations to projects that do not produce built forms and are typically identified with other disciplines or practices. The goal is to discuss architecture's engagement with and impact on other disciplines as well as the expansion of architectural practice itself.
Histories demonstrate that architecture has rarely fit comfortably within disciplinary and professional boundaries because it is often involved in their transgression. Rather than try to dissolve the boundaries, the session proposes to trace their evolution in order to understand the expansion of architecture as the result of its infiltration of other disciplines and practices. As much as it has asserted its own approach, architecture has also changed to work within the approach of another discipline or practice. Furniture and product designs are the most common examples; others include providing solutions for forensics by modeling crimes or for agriculture and commerce by organizing food distribution supply chains. The session will compare the incarnations of expanded practice over time through papers that discuss examples in the period between the late nineteenth century and the present. Examples from anywhere in the world are welcome.
In 1968 Hans Hollein claimed that "Everything is Architecture." Earlier, Le Corbusier wrote that "[a]rchitecture is in the telephone and in the Parthenon." Both pointed to a definition of architecture that included more than buildings. But rather than cast the world in architecture's image, as they did, the session will explore examples that reveal the productive differences between architecture and the other disciplines or practices it has served.
Session Chair: Wallis Miller, University of Kentucky
Architecture, Capital and the Financial Turn: 1970–2020
Currently, one of the most challenging issues for the history of architecture is the development of methods with which to examine architecture as capital. The discipline needs ways to analyze architecture as part of a complex process that includes the creation of capital in its many forms, not only financial, but also cultural, social and symbolic.
In the period between 1970 and 2020, new housing policies and financial instruments were developed which created a financial turn, when new types of extractive logics in the economy appeared through the exploitation of material properties and the creation of abstract financial instruments. The analysis of architectural production during this period, in parallel with the overlapping fields of economic and social policy, may shed light on other events that occurred in the expanded socioeconomic context, such as the global financial crisis of 2008, and moreover will illuminate the current context of growing social inequality and the emergence of a global housing crisis.
This panel welcomes papers that focus on the production of architecture as capital in its expanded forms (financial, social, cultural and symbolic); that map the relationships between architectural production and financialization; and that address different social and geographical contexts with global resonance. The aim of the session is to develop a critical perspective about capital and architectural practices within the social and political contexts of the recent past.
Session Chair: Eliana Sousa Santos, University of Coimbra
Architectures of the South: Lands, Bodies and Violence
This panel explores the ways in which spatial thinkers engage with the contested grounds of architectures of the global south. Drawing on Ananya Roy, we understand the south as not only a physical location, but also as an embodied relationship between knowledge and power. We argue that it is therefore not enough to simply include southern geographies in architectural history, but instead we need to engage with the epistemic and methodological foundations of how we understand architectural histories of the south in the first place, as viewed through a racialized, classed and gendered body. We recognize that this often involves looking beyond disciplinary boundaries. In this panel we are interested in engaging with the built environment through drawing out the entangled relationships between bruising and scarring of land, buildings, and bodies caused by displacement, violent dispossession and extractive practices both colonial and neo-colonial. We ask: How can we draw on the ‘concept-metaphor’ of the south to think specifically about architecture and its relationship to land, bodies and violence in southern territories? How might architecture register the intersection of entangled political geographies of dispossession and repossession that defines a global south that is “everywhere but also somewhere: accountable, embodied, and highly heterogeneous?” (Sparke, 2007) And how we might begin to unsettle the coloniality of race, violence and place by paying attention to the creative practices of resistance in architectural terms?
We particularly welcome papers that explore practices of care and freedom in spatial and architectural thinking, papers which explore creative methodologies, and papers that contribute towards developing a decolonial ethics of practice as a critical and responsive tool. Papers might include comparative case studies of sites, practices of architects, urbanists and spatial practitioners understood broadly, focusing on questions of land, bodies and violence in the global south in any time period.
Session Chairs: Huda Tayob, University of Cape Town; and Catalina Mejía Moreno, University of Sheffield
Beyond Critical Regionalism: Coloniality and the Region
Theorizations of place have long pointed to the disjunctions between political and physical boundaries, complicating the task of understanding multi-scalar phenomena, from suburban sprawl to climate change. Somewhere between the scale of the site and the scale of the territory lies the “region”: a productively ambiguous term that subsumes notions of geography, ecology, economy, planning, and jurisdiction. But how did the region obtain such a diverse following? Where does its legitimacy as an epistemic category come from? And what are we to make of it as a tool of expertise—a lingua franca of global territorialization?
From projects for colonial “improvement,” to technocratic state planning, through bioregionalist ambitions of ecosystemic balance, to decolonial projects of self-governance and autonomy, regionalism often appears as the one constant—and often unexplained—variable. This panel calls for papers that revisit regionalism as a heterogeneous and contested discourse encompassing geopolitical relations, economic frameworks, social formations such as race and ethnicity, ecological processes, and myriad articulations of technical expertise.
We invite papers that address regionalism’s discursive and material histories of power, as they were conceived in conjunction with the professionalization of architecture and urban planning from the late 19th century to postcolonial “development” planning in the 1960s-1970s. We are particularly interested in papers that situate the discourse on regionalism in the colonial and settler-colonial histories of these disciplines’ formation. How has regionalism reinforced or transgressed political and administrative boundaries, and to what ends? What visualization and mapping techniques did it give rise to? What other spatial epistemologies were enabled or obscured by it? Finally, this panel asks how regionalism has been used to reconcile or challenge binaries such as center and periphery, metropole and colony, civilization and nature, and technology and tradition. How would decolonial frameworks inflect the dialectical syntheses offered by critical regionalism?
Session Chairs: Manuel Shvartzberg Carrió, University of California, San Diego; and Ayala Levin, University of California, Los Angeles
Beyond Ruin Porn: Digital Mediation and Industrial Heritage
The question of what constitutes industrial heritage has shifted significantly since the 1990s. With the 1992 recognition of cultural landscapes as a distinct World Heritage category and the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage, heritage started to embrace the dynamic cultural practices and varied spatial settings of diverse communities. While industrial heritage has been included on the World Heritage List since the first inscription in 1978, by exhibiting an inter-dependence between cultural practices, ecological systems and social structures over space and time, many industrial sites also fall under the definition of a cultural landscape. With the adoption of the 2003 Charter on the Preservation of Digital Heritage, heritage moved into another new frontier, that of cultural works and informational products ‘created digitally, or converted into digital form’. Digital heritage has since evolved to include the digital recording of historic places and practices. This includes ‘ruin porn’, a genre of photographic imagery associated with post-industrial decay, and scanned 3-dimensional digital models of extensive industrial landscapes. Both the cultural landscape and digital heritage concepts have been criticized, yet both also challenge notions of ‘living heritage’ and the sustainability of ‘heritage value’, and provoke questions about authenticity, cultural ownership and, ultimately, what purpose is served by digital recordings in isolation from intangible histories. This session welcomes papers that critically explore the practical implications and theoretical challenges of digital technologies for industrial landscapes. The session will focus less on descriptive projects and more on how digital technologies can contribute to historiographical debates about industrial landscapes and industrial culture as a representation of tangible places and intangible practices across space, time and society. The session aims to examine the relationship between tangible digital data and intangible historical research, and to theorize the mediating role of digital technologies beyond ruin porn.
Session Chairs: Chris Landorf and Kelly Greenop, The University of Queensland
Bodies, Buildings and Health in the Age of Empire
This session considers anew the historical relationships between bodies and buildings. It seeks to add another perspective from which to assess the ongoing debate regarding the role of architecture in the social and biological production of human “wellness.” On one side, promoters of “healthy buildings” insist on the technical improvement of buildings for curative health promotion. On the other, recent exhibitions organized by architectural historians critique this rationalized approach and call for a less interventionist fit, shifting design matters of health to the social realm or inviting a more engaged friction between bodies and designed objects.
Embedded within these debates are fundamental questions of bodily continuity or autonomy within enclosed environments. John Harwood in his study of mid-century ergonomics introduced the concept of the interface to describe realms of body-machine interaction. This session aims to extend this discourse, focusing on the constructed nature of bodies, health, and interior atmospheres within sociotechnical and sociopolitical frameworks of labor/leisure, control/resistance, and inclusion/exclusion.
Scholarship on the long nineteeth century focuses primarily at the urban scale, with lesser attention paid to what British public health promoter Edwin Chadwick called the “internal economy,” the exchange between a human body and its immediate delimited surroundings. This session seeks especially papers considering relationships between bodies, buildings, and health in this period, but papers following these matters into the twenty-first century are also welcome. We encourage studies that address alternate bodily and environmental ontologies in contexts concerning colonial endeavors of racial difference-making; biopolitical projects of human “conservation” and labor development; political economies of competitive self-improvement; and other related topics. We ask respondents to examine not only how institutional actors instrumentally shaped the interior atmosphere, but also how individuals and groups transgressed, reimagined, or rejected the boundaries between bodies and buildings.
Session Chair: Betsy Frederick-Rothwell, The University of Texas at Austin
Electric Interiors from the Nineteenth Century to the Present
How did the introduction of electricity and subsequent development of electronics transform the design, use and experience of interiors? Science has investigated electricity since antiquity, but its transformative potential for interiors was realized only in the late nineteenth century when the introduction of devices such as the telegraph (1844) and the lightbulb (1878) connected and illuminated interior spaces. In the twentieth century, electrically powered circuitry and transistors further transformed the interior, causing reactions which ranged from delight to alarm about the prospect of the interior becoming something like a space capsule.
More recently, the advent of the internet, smart homes and cyberspace has further transformed our dwellings, workspaces and vehicles into fully electrified interiors laced with feelings of optimism and loss whose ramifications are only just beginning to be considered.
This session seeks to foreground electricity in order to consider how it has shaped our interiors and ourselves over the last century and a half through appliances, devices and networks integrating spaces with media and communications, while also delivering and limiting agency to the makers and users of interiors. Although electrification’s impact upon cities and countryside, infrastructure and world’s fairs has been discussed, its effect upon interiors of all sorts merits investigation as the overlooked but critical meeting point for the intersection of the design fields and electricity. Proposals are welcome that complicate subject matter by considering the roles of capital, colonialism, political power, consumerism, media, gender, sexuality, race, climate and more.
Organized by the SAH Historic Interiors Affiliate Group.
Session Chair: Timothy M. Rohan, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Environment: The Career of a Concept
This session examines the career of the concept “environment” in architecture over the long 20th century. Much work in the emerging discipline of environmental history has focused on materials, technologies, and infrastructures, and on how they impact and (de)stabilize climates ranging from planetary to interior. This session explores, by contrast, the genealogy in the architectural field of the environmental question. Its main premise is that what constitutes this question—and the very term “environment”—is anything but clear. Our aim is to consider many ways in which architects understood the term, and to situate these understandings in geographies spanning from the Global South to the Global North, from the capitalist West to the socialist East. The current climate emergency provides a cue for architectural historians to engage not only with “environment” but with the historical conditions of possibility for architecture becoming environmental. This session therefore explores how various themes (ecosystems, media, housing), sciences (ecology, cybernetics, psychology), and scales (the planet, the neighborhood, the human sensorium) provided architects with the lens through which to make sense of the environment.
We invite abstracts that address, but are not limited to, the following questions:
What “environment” meant to particular architects in particular contexts (an object of technological intervention, a cultural leitmotif, a contested political arena, etc.)? How was the category of the environment linked, in various architectural debates and interventions, with other categories such as nature and cities, landscapes and nationalism, technology and brains, humans and non-humans? What types of urbanism (modern, postmodern, sustainable) and political agenda (socialist, neoliberal, neocolonial) were justified by particular environmental paradigms?
In this session, we welcome contributions that combine a (comparative) case study approach with conceptual rigor and theoretical experimentation.
Session Chairs: Maros Krivy, Estonian Academy of Arts; and Helena Mattsson, KTH School of Architecture
Framing the Past: Ruins, Imagination and Architecture
Often considered the substance of poetry, fiction and imagination, ruins are significant in framing the past in architectural history. As repositories of remembrance and abodes of lost or former meanings, the material presence of ruins makes them serve as bridges between the past and the present. By collating space and time, they enable the transference of the physical into the conceptual which involves navigation between reason and imagination through memory. In reifying the past, they may dictate what to remember and how, or what to forget. Despite their manifested materiality, however, ruins may also be paradoxically invisible, existing as passive remnants, sometimes seen but not looked at or looked at but not seen.
Yet ruins may also possess the formative and highly utilitarian capacity to galvanize passions or escalate the desired spatial and ideological rhetoric emanating from charged sites while selectively submerging less desired narratives. What happens when fragments of ruins travel and the use of architectural spolia as well as multiple pasts with overlapping narratives are among relevant concerns. The session aims to explore and expand questions and topics such as these further. Although states of rupture, obliteration, oblivion, continuity, or acts of transportation, transmission, relocation, dislocation and the like are promising paths of investigation in understanding ruins, the session is open to other verbal, visual, mental and mechanical trajectories too, including navigation between poetic impulse and the status of ruins as archival fixity.
Papers are expected on ruins from antiquity and their preservation for this session but submissions from any period and different geographies are also invited. Depending on received proposals, the session aims to explore and demonstrate diversity in the performance of ruins and bring a critical reflection for further discussion promoting the role of ruins in narratives of architectural history.
Session Chair: Suna Güven, Middle East Technical University
Graduate Student Lightning Talks
The Graduate Student Lightning Talks provide graduate students with the opportunity to test ideas, refine thoughts, and enhance presentation skills among a circle of empathetic and supportive peers. This session is composed of up to 16 five-minute talks of approximately 650–700 words each that allow graduate students to introduce new and original research in various stages of progress. In their presentations, students are encouraged to raise questions over the direction of their investigations, explore methodology, or present challenges they have encountered in the development of their ideas. Papers should be clearly and concisely presented, with focused and well-chosen images, in order to encourage thoughtful feedback from the audience during the question and answer period. Students at both the master’s and PhD levels are invited to apply by submitting a succinct abstract of no more than 300 words. Authors/co-authors must be graduate students at the time of the conference and must present in person at the session. The SAH Board of Directors’ Graduate Student Representative serves as chair of these popular five-minute presentations.
Session Chair: Vyta Pivo, George Washington University
Hadrianic Architecture and Classicism: Affirmations/Oppositions
With the exceptions of Augustus and Nero, perhaps no person or period in Roman history captures the imagination more than Hadrian and his architecture. Captivated by the famous reputation of his complex, ambiguous, unpredictable personality and the contrasting qualities of his built works, over 2,000 articles explored Hadrianic architecture and urbanism over the last year alone. But are we asking the right questions and considering all the evidence?
Hadrian’s monumental legacy of architectural inspiration far outpaced that of any other patron. Most studies emphasize his architectural productions in Rome and Italy, neglecting examples widely spread across three continents and the unsettled vibrancy of his classicism. Broadening our inquiry to Hadrianic scale and expanse sparks equally wide-ranging questions. What makes Hadrianic architecture ‘Hadrianic’? Was there a definable and recognizable ‘Hadrianic architecture’ in form, context and spirit throughout the Roman world? Did it incorporate regional influences? Hadrian’s name is often associated with ‘cool classicism’ in art and with clear logic, refined geometry and finesse in architecture. Yet he is also linked specifically with creative experiments that question and reinterpret the roots, principles and precepts of classicism in underlying design, structure, and impact. If his built works reveal a form of classicism, is it a cerebral and polite classicism distilling centuries of tradition, or a classicism of poetic and calm familiarity and syncretism that unifies opposites, or one that stretches across place and time, breaks the tablets and creates a sense of dynamic deviation and disorderly harmony?
To explore possible answers, this session invites papers of inquiry rather than confident ‘proofs.’ The goal is to push beyond familiar examples of the emperor’s work to explore the form and spirit of Hadrianic architecture, and interrogate an evolving and adaptable vision of classicism, its affirmations and oppositions in projects from throughout the Roman empire.
Session Chair: Diane Favro, UCLA
Interconnecting West and East Asia: A Transcultural Study of the Architecture of the Dead
In the wake of a growing interest in the global approach to architectural history, this session seeks to widen the scope of current research by conducting a transcultural and comparative analysis of the funerary construction practices in West and East Asia from the turn of the Common Era to the Early Modern Period. With the aim to open up a dialogue between scholars of the ancient and early modern period, and the area studies of West Asia (Islamic, Middle East, Mediterranean) and East Asia (China, Korea, Japan), we propose to investigate the connectivity between West and East Asian architecture through the lens of the “architecture of the dead,” including burial structures, tomb decorations, construction techniques, and the role funerary architecture played in negotiating the social relations.
Works that explore interactional, contrasting, and shared strategies between West and East Asian funerary architecture in the process of their construction, reception, and appropriation are welcomed. We are particularly interested in research that concerns women's visibility and that raises questions of how funerary architecture shaped or challenged the existing gender norms. We ask how the mortuary structure and tomb furnishing shed light on the ethnic and religious identity of the deceased, as well as the communities involved in the construction of the burials. We are also looking for studies that address the social dimension of the tombs, situating burials at the center of the social network among different walks of life and between the living and the dead. Lastly, we welcome research probing into the engagement between manmade funerary architecture and the natural landscape, in the hope of highlighting the co-dependency between humans and nature.
Session Chairs: Deniz Karakas, Tulane University; and Fan Zhang, Tulane University
Landscape History Open Session
In light of the deepening environmental crisis, our critical engagement with the landscapes and built environments of the past has become ever more important. Papers are invited that consider the analytical frameworks that we use for the study of landscape history and that specifically illuminate those perspectives as purposeful ways of seeing and understanding. The perspectives may address labor, craft, environmental management, botanical exchanges, economics, knowledge systems, symbolic meaning, allegory, New Materialism, post-humanism, and other aspects of the historic environment.
Session Chair: D. Fairchild Ruggles, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Large Construction Companies in a Global Context
While only a small share of today’s building stock is designed by architects, architectural history is still more concerned with exceptional designs than mass industrial production. This production is, by and large, the work of construction companies, actors that by definition strive for economies of scale and eschew the costly and the episodic. Because of their interest in quantity rather than quality, construction companies have garnered little attention in architectural history, even though they have played a crucial role in shaping the built environment around the world since the end of the Second World War. As building material producers, general contractors and real estate developers, these businesses act as power brokers between state administrations, financial institutions, professional organisations, labour unions and the wider public. Precisely because of their embeddedness within larger social, political and economic systems, they appear to be fruitful objects of a new strand of architectural research. In addition, large construction companies have and continue to play a significant role in the process and discourse of international ‘development’. Building abroad, large conglomerates become political actors, shaping the built environment across geographic regions and political contexts.
This session welcomes contributions that address the role of construction companies in architectural production, either from a historical or theoretical standpoint. Potential topics might range from the close study of a construction company’s organisational structure and operational know-how; to the investigation of the production of a specific building element or system; to the analysis of the delivery of a large development or infrastructure project. Contributions should mediate between the scale of the specific single case study and that of the larger economic, political and social conditions. This panel welcomes a range of contributions across geographical contexts and is particularly interested in multinational ventures with a global reach.
Session Chairs: Maryia Rusak, The Oslo School of Architecture and Design; and Davide Spina, ETH Zurich.
Locating Museums of Medicine and Science Across Geographies
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, museums dealing with a variety of scientific subjects such as medicine, health, and anatomy became instruments for medical education and the communication of public health policies throughout the world. In Europe and North America collections of anatomical and botanical specimens, medical instruments, and objects of wonder were frequently housed in rectangular two-story galleries with a narrow mezzanine which employed exhibition strategies inherited from the early modern Wunderkammer (Adams, 2017). Medical museums in this early era were often purpose-built appendages to medical schools and valued for the pedagogical value they added to classes in anatomy and pathology. Scholarly efforts to locate museums of medicine and other sciences often look to the early modern practices of collecting specimens of anatomy and nature, and the spaces of the Wunderkammer which privilege a rational order and visuality. This perspective, however, restricts the rationale, origins, design, and definition of most museums related to science, nature, and the human body, in terms of their architectural properties and raison d’être, and do not always apply to museums within wider geographies.
This session invites papers that explore museums which deal with scientific topics such as medicine, health, anatomy, anthropology, pharmacology, botany, and nature from a global perspective. Papers which examine the role of architecture and exhibition design are welcome as are case studies of individual museums which address larger issues such as the use of diverse sensory modalities at museum exhibitions or how the challenges of decolonization in museological practices are impacting architectural design and display strategies. This session aims to expand the historiography of a wide range of medical and science-oriented museums by bringing a global perspective to understand the architecture, collections, and exhibition strategies of these institutions in various parts of the world.
Session Chairs: Uğurgül Tunç, Koç University; and Lucienne Thys-Şenocak, Koç University
Mobility and Access in Modern Urban Landscapes
Reyner Banham in an automobile driving along the freeways of Los Angeles, barriers made of snow in the middle of a street to cut off access between Detroit and the wealthy suburb of Grosse Pointe Park, and conflicts between environmental activists and government officials over the construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport in London are only three evocative examples of transportation and movement’s significance in the urban landscape. Transportation infrastructures can make a lifestyle marked by freedom of movement possible, but also elicits questions about who has the privileges of mobility. Urban and economic historians have closely examined the role of transportation infrastructures in shaping societies, instigating cultural transformations, fueling suburbanization, and revolutionizing global commerce. But many issues regarding how railroads, canals, airports, entryways, and streets transformed urban communities and landscapes around the world seem uniquely suited to architectural historians and their tools for analyzing the relationships between form, content, politics, and actions.
In approaching transportation infrastructures as a crucial aspect of the built environment, this panel seeks papers that aim to develop this inquiry examining how these infrastructures at various scales not only shaped urban form, but impacted societies from the early twentieth-century onward across geographic boundaries. At the conceptual center of the panel are questions about who has the ability to move—or remain in place—and how are they able to do so. Scrutinizing the social, environmental, political, and cultural reverberations of shaping urban landscapes to ease or hinder movement raises further questions about how those shifts changed ideas about time and distance, how climate change has instigated migrations, and what types of geographic changes or spatial patterns characterized new transportation technologies, among many others. This panel especially welcomes abstracts that show methodologically and conceptually diverse approaches to approach this set of questions.
Session Chair: Pollyanna Rhee, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
On the Reception of Chinese Architectural Culture
The borders of Chinese architectural culture have never been limited to the country’s administrative periphery. In the long history of cultural interactions between China and other countries, Chinese architecture was transported through many media, which played a significant role in shaping architectural representation in the destination culture and influenced the identification and labeling of certain “Chinese elements” in architecture across borders. Drawings, paintings, models, craft, memories, photos, exhibitions, rituals, and literary descriptions exerted their distinct power in constructing the physical results of what is labeled the “Chinese impact” and relocating Chinese architecture to another culture. Simultaneously, the receiving culture’s pre-existing economic, political, geographical, traditional, and religious conditions, as well as its local history, generated varied attitudes in response to the newly-arrived architectural culture. How specific media and a culture’s own traditions and conditions cooperatively interpreted, adapted, reshaped, filtered, blurred, or even partly rejected Chinese architectural culture becomes the question.
This panel seeks to explore the reception of Chinese architectural culture outside the core periphery of Chinese culture throughout history, with an underlying purpose of questioning the monolithic concept of the “impact of Chinese architecture.” At the same time, by bringing more attention to the particulars of media in cultural interactions, and the receiver cultures’ characteristics and conditions, this panel aims to inaugurate critical reflections on the issue of cultural interaction as a complex process.
Session Chair: Yi Zhou, Beijing University of Architecture and Civil Engineering
Open Session (3)
Open sessions are available for those whose research does not match any of the themed sessions. Papers submitted to the open sessions are assessed in terms of perceived merit, and not in regard to geography, era, theme, etc.
Session Chairs: Madhuri Desai, The Pennsylvania State University; Diane Shaw, Carnegie Mellon University; and TBD
Race and the Rustbelt: How Race Shaped the Industrial Heartland
This session seeks new scholarship on the role that race and related group identities played in shaping the built environment of America’s industrial heartland, including Pittsburgh and the Rustbelt. This region was the seat of innovation and expansion through the long 19th-century, and the heart of our Fordist national economy in the 20th. Booming industries drew millions of people from diverse backgrounds to the area looking for opportunities to build their family, wealth, and identity. More recently the Rustbelt has been stung by the exit of manufacturing, reductions in population, income, education and diversity, and along with it crumbling infrastructure, distressed communities and swing-state identity politics.
This panel seeks papers that explore architecture’s role in reinforcing or reflecting systemic and individual racism, segregation, exclusion, neglect, abuse, oppression, or persecution, but also architecture’s role in constructing identity, culture, family, community, and resilience that evolved out of these conditions. While some narratives about the impact of race and racism on architecture are increasingly well known (e.g., “redlining”), many spatial, material, and architectural manifestations remain to be revealed and re-examined more closely. We encourage scholarship developed out of new sources that were forgotten or omitted from the archives, sources that are fleeting or largely invisible to the public, sources that must be reread and re-evaluated to understand the systemic bias built into so many institutions and social habits, or sources that reveal the changing and non-binary constructions of race and related identities. Although papers about any era are welcome, we are especially interested in studies whose traces can still be perceived in our landscapes, evidence that implores us to rethink or reinterpret what and how we see and experience in the Rustbelt today.
Session Chair: Kai Gutschow, Carnegie Mellon University
Re-spatializing Exclusion: Transnational Narratives of Resistance
Histories of architecture and urban discourses largely define spatial boundaries as distinct territories along the borderlands, such as the refugee camp or colonia. Often those residing within these spaces are represented as displaced, disenfranchised, and oppressed, a homogenous population set apart, hollow and hopeless. We contend, however, that histories and discourses, presumed as such, are exclusionary, incomplete, limited only to established imperial and colonial realities that do not recognize potential creativity within these spatial boundaries and the agency, heterogeneity and intersectional diversity (gender, race, class, religion, nationality, etc.) of identities residing there. In contrast, we view these spaces and those residing in them as capable of producing new forms of defiance that (re)shape, (de)spatialize, and decolonize the architecture and urban forms in the public realm, private and domestic spaces as well as online/virtual territories, from the bottom up.
This session aims to contribute to a growing body of scholarship and histories that sheds light on the role of spatial boundaries in resistance, revolution, and dissent from the post-colonial to the contemporary. Our goal is to expand on this knowledge, with special focus on the ingenuity, agency, and heterogeneity of identities of those residing within these boundaries. We welcome papers that consider new methodologies and theories of writing these histories and present unheard/untold narratives, in particular those that engage with various forms of resistance, revolution, and dissent. We encourage submissions that theorize unjust systems of power relations, and engage with social justice methodologies that enable us to write histories of systemic inequalities and spatial exclusion in the built environment. We welcome case studies of different scales (micro and macro) that range from architectural and urban interventions to other forms such as political graffiti/art, public protest, grassroots movements, and forms of social advocacy, particularly from underrepresented regions and minority individuals.
Session Chairs: Eliana Abu-Hamdi, MIT; and Armaghan Ziaee, University of North Texas
Right About Now: Coming Correct to the Contemporary
In the urgency to address pressing issues of the day, architecture history has, time and again, situated its expertise in relation to the contemporary. But what is perspective without distance? Following Hegel's observation that the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk, what provides cover in the glare of the present? Master narratives? Ethical imperatives? Personal invectives? In conjoining the seemingly antithetical impulses of past and present, contemporary history creates provocative questions of how to come correct (speak rightly and with respect) to the contemporary, to be both correct and timely in our efforts, or whether it is even possible to be right about now.
As architectural historians, how do we address the state of the contemporary in our research, writing, and teaching? That is, how do we curate/exhibit/perform contemporaneity? As participants in and producers of these new histories, how do we mediate the elements that structure our subjectivity and subjecthood? How do we adapt our scholarly endeavors to address emerging topics, themes, and crises that affect, or are affected by, the discipline and profession of architecture? What role do ideology and critique play in the production of developing narratives? In pursuing the agency of current topicality, what, then, is the balance between the need to observe and correctly describe the forms and formations of architectural developments and provide value to the overlapping, yet distinctive, constituencies of public and practice?
This session welcomes papers that examine the opportunities and challenges of addressing the contemporary, of any time. Of particular interest are specific accounts that demonstrate how architectural historians exhibit expertise in the contemporary. These can include (but are not limited to) examples of research methods, forms of dissemination, pedagogical approaches, histories of now, and challenges to the possibility for legitimate definitions of contemporary architecture.
Session Chairs: Whitney Moon, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; and John McMorrough, University of Michigan
This session confronts a problem in the scholarship on modern architecture that has remained largely unarticulated, but that is growing more pertinent as well as vexed. The idea that socially engaged modernism might also be socially controlling, and that this might be an aspect of its operation that would be worth studying, is something scholars and critics seem nervous about. To talk about architecture and modernity in terms of power is to be Foucauldian; to be Foucauldian—it is assumed—is to unveil sinister technologies of control lying behind stated good intentions. Such an approach sits uncomfortably alongside a desire to find value in socially-engaged modernism and to promote it as a model for contemporary social architecture.
The session seeks to offer ways out of this bind by developing new frameworks for the study of social control in modern architecture and urbanism, and asking new questions. "Social control" refers to the processes by which the behavior of individuals or groups is regulated, and deviance both constructed and confronted. There are many gaps in our understanding of the particular ways in which architecture participates in social control, through spatial configurations, manipulation of sightlines and placement of boundaries, for instance, or through emotional and symbolic associations. "Visions of social control," to use sociologist Stanley Cohen's usefully plural formulation, vary dramatically according to particular geographical, national and political contexts, and architecture will interact with those contexts in highly varying ways. Architecture can also be used to nuance, and even soften and compensate for elements of social control, strategically incorporating elements meant to ensure—or evoke—liberty, individualism and privacy.
Proposals studying all geographical regions are welcome, within the dates 1880-1980, the period of the initial development, flourishing and incipient decline of welfare state policies and architectures.
Session Chair: Leslie Topp, Birkbeck, University of London
Syncretic Scientific Knowledge in Sacred Colonial Architecture
The intention of this thematic session is to expand current research on the role of synchretism in the development of sacred architecture and settlements. We seek papers that address the relationship between native cultural practices and scientific knowledge, in the seventeenth and eighteenth-century Spanish Colonial World and within the context of the evangelization of indigenous peoples in the New World.
Previous studies on Western architectural traditions have included important contributions to scientific knowledge, embodied in European architecture since antiquity and the Middle Ages. Other studies, like those of Anthony Aveni, focus extensively on ancient astronomical practices in the Americas, and, specifically, research into the historical astronomy of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures.
We welcome papers taking an interdisciplinary approach on the use of syncretic scientific knowledge for the construction of sacred spaces and places. Papers might highlight the syncretism between Pre-Colombian native culture and European traditions and explore how Colonial architecture was intentionally shaped by the overlapping of the two.
For example, in Californian and Texan Franciscan missions, the churches and their placement on the site were designed utilizing astronomical mathematics: sunlight illuminating and spotlighting specific areas on predetermined days and times, hence synchronizing diurnal rhythms to the principal feast days during the liturgical year, marking seasonal changes. In this way, the indigenous catechumen could experience a divinized world, coinciding with aboriginal calendrical systems, rooted in Mesoamerican traditions.
This thematic session, therefore, welcomes articles in which scientific knowledge and multifaceted indigenous cultural practices were adopted as instruments of synchretism to give shape and meaning to sacred architecture.
Session Chairs: Angela Lombardi, University of Texas at San Antonio; and Iacopo Benincampi, Sapienza University of Rome
System Boundaries: Interior Environments Before Modernism
An interior is made discernable by its boundaries, yet how are those boundaries drawn? Descriptions of controlled environments have rarely looked beyond a structure’s immediate limits. For instance, the nineteenth-century critic César Daly portrayed Charles Barry’s 1841 Reform Club as a quasi-biological entity—its walls, he wrote, were filled with “flues, conduits, wires” that served as the “arteries, veins, and nerves” of a “new organic being.” As historians of architecture and technology have shown, this depiction appeared amid rapid changes to the design of building systems in the early nineteenth century. In naturalizing systems into an “organic” whole, however, descriptions like this one left out the interior’s many exteriors, from hinterlands of production and supply, to the social costs, political implications, and ideological preconditions of environmental control.
This panel aims to reexamine systems of modern interiority before they became taken for granted. Looking beyond Modernism and its fabled “machine aesthetic,” we ask what constituted an interior environment between roughly 1700 and 1900. Today, our intersecting environmental, political, and epidemiological crises cast the “well-tempered environment” in a very different light. How do these current emergencies unsettle the historical and geographical boundaries of the interior? On what exteriors did interiors depend?
We invite studies that explore the limits of environmental systems, from early sites of isolated control, to the reevaluation of supposedly failed experiments, to the emergence of new building typologies and technics where power was applied and distributed. We are interested in papers that question the ends of these designs (comfort, risk management), that examine their material basis (infrastructure, fuel, the geography and labor of extraction), and that interrogate the beliefs and ideologies that underpin such approaches (theories of race and climate, gospels of progress and improvement).
Session Chairs: Aleksandr Bierig, Harvard University; and David Sadighian, Harvard University
Tempered by Time: How Industry Shaped Pittsburgh
Legendary photographer Eugene Smith arrived in Pittsburgh in 1955 to capture “the city as a living entity” and “the people who give it heart and pulse,” as he told the Guggenheim Foundation. Smith never completed his elegy to heavy industry and its human toll. Yet his images of midcentury Pittsburgh at work and worship, its public ambitions and private anxieties, remain an indelible portrait of American manufacturing at high noon, a gray, grim, gritty place where smoke and smokestacks defined the skyline.
Even before Smith’s arrival, industrial Pittsburgh was well into its steady decline, and civic leaders were searching for solutions. One was the celebrated postwar ‘Renaissances’ which bridged the city’s transition from an industrial to post-industrial city. Their legacy can be felt in the wave of new downtown corporate headquarters built for its industrial giants. And with Gateway Center, an instructive perspective on the politics and economics of urban planning and a symbol of the city’s prolific postwar public and private partnerships. These years also saw investment in cultural, educational, and medical institutions, many of which have considerable architectural significance. By the 1990s, the repurposing of idled industrial sites for a high-tech and service economy emerged as central to the region’s built environment and critical parts of an emerging “eds and meds” economy. Outside of downtown, many neighborhoods also confronted problems of vacancy, abandonment, and more recently gentrification.
This session welcomes proposals that address how Pittsburgh’s architecture has expressed its industrial history and its shift to a post-industrial economy, whether that story is told through individual buildings, campus planning, urban renewal, residential and commercial redevelopment, historic preservation, or one of its 446 bridges. Papers comparing Pittsburgh to other industrial cities, in the US or abroad, are also encouraged.
Session Chairs: Stuart W. Leslie, The Johns Hopkins University; and Andrew Simpson, Duquesne University
Temporality in Contemporary Architectural History
Session Description: From daily use to attenuated processes of decay, time makes demands on those who build, live in, and maintain architectural objects and systems. How do different actors manage the demands that time makes on the built environment? This panel will address this question by centering practices and processes that are often invisible because their time scale is too large or too small. The session will move away from narratives and studies of modernization that emphasize mastery over time, and will look at present day interventions into architecture that are motivated by other ways of conceiving time.
Contemporary scholarship about maintenance and care, non human worlds, and feminist theories of design draw needed attention to historically underrepresented forms of labor that attend to the mutliple temporalities of objects and environments. Close scrutiny of the entanglement of people and other beings with the built environment reveals longue durée and short term transformations that embody human, biotic, and physio-chemical time scales.
We invite studies of practices, skills, and techniques that manage the temporality of architectural objects in the present, in any geographic context. We encourage submissions that reflect on the methodological challenges of engaging with ongoing and unfinished time scales and processes. Paper topics can include, but are not limited to: everyday building maintenance and housekeeping, the chemical afterlives and toxicity of building materials, the rhythms of environmental control systems, the entanglement of trees and other biota with buildings and architectural systems, renovation and substitution in contemporary religious architecture, conceptions of architecture that maintain both the finite and the eternal, and the reification of temporality through acts of conservation.
Session Chairs: Curt Gambetta, Princeton University; and Annapurna Garimella, Art, Resources and Teaching Trust
Visualizing Evidence: Encoding and Decoding Architectural Data
In recent decades, new forms of data visualization originating from economics, sociology, statistics and political science have echoed practices in architecture. Does this suggest a disciplinary turning point in which “making architectural data understandable” has become an imperative in architectural history?
As a discipline, architecture contributes to the production of new knowledge and frequently explores aspects of the built environment that intersect with investigations in the social sciences and humanities. As these interactions increase, the presentation of data in a visually understandable format is a growing epistemological and pedagogical challenge. This session interrogates the subject of data visualization in architecture, and asks whether contemporary visualization falls within the history of modes of representation in architecture or if it represents a paradigm shift.
Can ideas of architecture—history, context, evolution or current state—be translated into didactic and accessible visualised formats? Can the visual encoding of these ideas provide new insights into architectural histories and provide alternative means to discover diversities, commonalities and possibilities found en masse in architectural data? Conversely, can visualizing data provide opportunities for others to analogically decode, compare and access complex architectural ideas? What are the possibilities and potentials for architectural historians of data mapping, force-directed graphs, histograms, linear charting or other forms of data aggregation? As we confront growing volumes of data and media-savvy researchers, what are appropriate ways in which to convey and reveal information with both accuracy and communicational appeal?
This session invites contributions from scholars in architecture, urban design and landscape architecture who are exploring the potential to utilize complex data sets to understand architecture’s many histories. We welcome investigations that address approaches to visualization beyond traditional studies in the field of architectural representation and challenge us to consider new ways to make coded data accessible and engaging.
Session Chairs: George Thomas Kapelos, Ryerson University; and Jean-Pierre Chupin, Université de Montréal
Water: Form, Substance, and Meaning in the Landscape
Water supports life and health, delights, and seduces our senses and informs how we occupy and experience landscape. Today we face global challenges around this deeply politicized natural resource as jurisdictional systems affect its spatial presence, distribution, and use. Scrutinizing the tactical and societal organization and structure of water systems and their attendant characteristics allows scholars to consider questions of agency, equity, accessibility, iconography, meaning, technical engineering, and cultural expression.
Our responsive uses of water—both designed and vernacular—often are influenced by geomorphic, environmental, and cultural patterns and the results vary across time and place. Shaping, apportioning, and managing water systems and elements reveal not only allocations of resources and applications of technical knowledge but also attitudes, ideals, and values regarding water. Numerous individual fountains and urban water systems have garnered focus in art and architectural histories, and also figure in landscape and urban histories. Less scholarship has considered “water works/workings” as reflections or agents of social patterns, or explored nuanced particulars of use, or unpacked how water operates within a hegemonic system expressed across the landscape. Further consideration is also warranted regarding water around cultural attitudes or values, for instance purity, cleanliness, scarcity, or abundance.
This session seeks papers which critically probe the spatial patterns and built works created for harnessing, moving, shaping, and orchestrating water and which interrogate their contextual and social effects as manifested in cities and landscape. We especially invite contributions that probe the cultural agency, purpose and expression evidenced through the acquisition and orchestration of water and the impact and intentions exercised in directing water for utility, power, health, and pleasure. When situated within a spatial and cultural milieu, such inquiries should offer opportunities to reflect on our pervasive relationship with water and its influence on daily life.
Session Chair: Ann Komara, University of Colorado Denver
What's in a Discipline? Architectural History as Knowledge Project
As the knowledge base of architectural history expands through long overdue anti-racist and decolonial efforts, it is crucial that we turn an introspective eye to the discipline itself. In this endeavor, we want to think carefully about whom the discipline serves, whose stories it tells, what knowledge it creates in the world.
Architectural history emerged to serve two core intellectual endeavors: teaching history in schools of architecture, and architecture in departments of art history. With the expansion of Ph.D. programs and the growth of interdisciplinary scholarship over the last fifty years, architectural history increasingly shared methods with a variety of adjacent fields, including literature, vernacular architecture studies, cultural landscape studies, American studies, urban history, and historic preservation. Through and around these varied fields, we have carved out an interrelated set of knowledge projects, including professional associations, journals, scholarly book series, degree programs, and university collaborations. Whether optimal or not, these projects and their boundaries are an intellectual inheritance, the result of a set of converging and diverging histories.
For this session, we seek papers that grapple with the intellectual boundaries of architectural history. We are particularly interested in papers that ground theoretical assertions in rich empirical contexts. Authors should present specific cases from their research that illuminate the often fugitive and grey boundaries of architectural history, that locate the margins and interstices of the field, or that reveal its strengths and limitations as a knowledge project.
Along the way, the session will raise several key questions. What is at stake in the maintenance of the discipline? What interests are served by the arguments mobilized in its support? Where is architectural history at its performative best, and where do things fall apart? And finally, what are we going to make of it for the twenty-first century?
Session Chairs: Joseph Heathcott, The New School; and Fernando Luiz Lara, University of Texas, Austin
Women in Architecture: The African Exchange
In recent years there has been an international resurgence of interest in modern architecture and urbanism in Africa. In books, articles, lectures, and conferences, much has been explored about the work of male designers in the African regions, their colonial and post-colonial endeavors. On the other hand, the African legacy of women in architecture and the overseas exchanges promoted by their work have largely been ignored or relegated to be a minor topic by mainstream historiography. While examples on Jane Drew’s housing in Ghana and Denise Scott Brown’s “African view of Las Vegas” are known, more recent scholarship, for example on Ute Baumbach’s involvement in Ethiopia and Erica Mann’s master plan for Nairobi, have only initiated the exploration of a subject that deserves consideration in its own right.
This session wishes to help filling the lacuna. By applying an intersectional lens, it proposes to investigate the role of women architects, their individual motivations within the multiple specificities of the African framework, and the embedding in original or existing networks that connected Africa to North America and Europe. Papers should cover a key period in women’s history, from the 1960s to the ‘80s–from when feminist debate emerged prominently in iconic architecture schools to the end of the second wave of feminism—but earlier examples could also be discussed. Papers are welcome that explore hidden histories of women in architecture and urbanism and their experience of migration to and from Africa. Topics might include, but are not limited to, the diaspora of women’s architectural ideas, the surging interest in women’s work in architectural publications and conferences, the role of women in architectural schools in Africa or their relations with overseas institutes.
Session Chair: Elisa Dainese, Dalhousie University