Member News

Ken Oshima and Dianne Harris Discuss Building the Future and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at SAH

by Carin Moonin | Sep 06, 2022

When Ken Tadashi Oshima, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Architecture in the College of Built Environments (CBE) at the University of Washington (UW), was 10 years old, he helped his mother design their family home in Colorado. As the two worked to bring together traditions of Japan with the United States, it gave him the first inkling of how people could shape their surroundings.

And Dianne Harris, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and Professor of History at the UW, had always been interested in landscapes, cities, and buildings—even before she realized she could build a profession out of their study. Built environments inspired questions about the past: Why did they look the way they did? Who were they built for? Who felt welcome in those spaces and who were they designed to exclude?

“Designed spaces matter far more than we think they do. They are highly consequential in everyday life now and in the past, even if we haven’t always understood them to be so,” she said.

This spring, Harris and Oshima were named Fellows of the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH). This honor is given to those who have distinguished themselves by a lifetime of significant contributions to the field. Their contributions may include scholarship, service, teaching, and stewardship of the built environment.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be named an SAH Fellow,” said Harris. “I’ve learned more than I can say from my colleagues who are SAH members and from my involvement in the society. I’m truly grateful for their recognition of my work and contributions to the field.”

Oshima concurred. “It’s a great honor to join this esteemed group. I think they have done a lot over the past several decades to expand the field of architectural history beyond a Euro-centric purview and be more inclusive to feature different histories of built environments. It’s not just one book or one project: It’s broader,” he said.

SAH efforts focusing on inclusivity include “Race &”, a podcast exploring the influence of race and race-thinking on the built environment; an affiliate group, the Race + Architectural History Group, promoting research activities that analyze the racial discourses of architectural history; and the SAH IDEAS initiative, which shapes, supports, and informs the Society’s interrogation of structures of power and helps maintain a strong commitment to sociopolitical equity and environmental justice.

Oshima and Harris have both organized annual SAH conferences bringing together participants from around the world, helping build a knowledge of history of cultures that may have been previously overlooked. More recently, the COVID pandemic has offered a silver lining in terms of people’s ability to share in the learning through online conferences. Those who may not been able to afford travel could attend conferences that previously weren’t financially feasible through virtual means. This has resulted in a more diverse and globally inclusive audience.

Although the SAH offers many different initiatives, such as conference sessions and roundtable panels on race and architecture, it also facilitates research collaboration among groups and on committees, Oshima added.

This inspiration comes through at the UW as well, he said. “Within our College [CBE], EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) has become foremost in how we gather and structure our research and teaching. The world can be so polarized. Fostering support and connections between all communities is crucial in how we can understand, treat each other, and learn.”

The campus itself also inspires Harris. Although one of the most beautiful she’s ever seen, she says, with a stunning setting that’s unparalleled, she remains conscious of being an uninvited guest on this land and cites the UW’s official acknowledgement that the land where the UW sits is the homeland of Coast Salish peoples, land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip, and Muckleshoot nations.

Read the full article here

Ken Tadashi Oshima joined SAH in 2000 and became a life member in 2014. He was awarded an Opler Grant for Emerging Professionals in 2005. He has served on numerous committees, including Nominating, Development, International Travel Grant, the 75th Anniversary Task Force, and the Executive Committee. As SAH 1st Vice President, he chaired the 2015 and 2016 Annual International Conferences and served as SAH President from 2016 to 2018. He was named a Fellow of SAH in 2022.

Dianne Harris joined SAH in 1989 and became a Life Member in 2012. She received the Elisabeth Blair MacDougall Book Award in 2006. She has served on the Digital Advisory Committee and the Nominating Committee. As SAH 1st Vice President, she chaired the 2009 and 2010 Annual International Conferences and served as SAH President from 2010 to 2012. She was named a Fellow of SAH in 2022.

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