Recap of SAH 66th Annual Conference in Buffalo, NY

From April 10 through 14, more than 600 SAH members participated in the Society’s 66th Annual Conference in Buffalo, New York.
May 16, 2013 by Pauline Saliga, SAH Executive Director

A brief recap of the week’s activities follows:

Wednesday, April 10 

On the first day of the conference, SAH presented the SAH Buffalo Seminar, The Sustainable Post-Industrial City: Using Our Architectural Legacy for New Growth and New Vitality. This seminar brought together local preservation experts, architects, local organizers, and city and not-for-profit organizations to discuss three themes: historic preservation and urban, economic, and cultural sustainability.

On Wednesday evening SAH held an opening reception and hosted a book signing for the release of the latest Buildings of the United States volume, Buildings of Texas: Central, South and Gulf Coast with author Gerald Moorhead. Following the reception and the Annual Business Meeting (see Secretary’s and Treasurer’s reports), SAH President Abigail Van Slyck gave an update on the sound state of SAH. The Introductory Address by Jack Quinan, Professor Emeritus at the University of Buffalo was titled “Shaping Buffalo’s Architectural History” and gave conference attendees a history of the architectural historians who have, since the 1910s, defined the city’s architecture. Jack Quinan has written numerous books and articles on Frank Lloyd Wright, initiated the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, and served as curator and member of the board of directors of the Darwin Martin House Restoration Corporation during its long campaign to restore the Darwin Martin House Complex. Quinan was named an SAH Fellow the following evening for these contributions to the field.

Thursday, April 11 

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, nearly 175 scholarly papers were delivered in 35 sessions, the highest number to date. The paper sessions covered a wide range of periods and interests and were chaired and delivered by scholars and advanced graduate students from 26 countries. The diversity of approaches and methodologies to presenting the history of the built environment is but one indication of the vitality of the fields of architectural history, landscape history and urbanism. Thursday morning SAH President Abigail Van Slyck hosted a President’s Breakfast to thank both local sponsors of the conference and those who have been of service to SAH through long-standing support.  During the midday sessions, we offered a wide variety of discussions and presentations that included an update on SAH Archipedia and the Buildings of the United States, conferences for SAH Chapters and the Landscape History Chapter, a Graduate Student Roundtable, and receptions for CASVA and EAHN.

On Thursday evening SAH hosted the annual Awards Reception in the lobby of Buffalo City Hall, an Art Deco landmark.  Following the reception, the Awards Ceremony took place on the 13th floor of Buffalo City Hall in the council chambers. SAH President Abigail van Slyck announced more than thirty annual conference, travel and research fellowships, six publication awards and new 25 and 50 year members. In addition, this year SAH announced four new Fellows of the Society who have distinguished themselves by a lifetime of significant contributions to the field. These contributions may include scholarship, service to SAH, or stewardship of the built environment. The distinguished Fellows for 2013 are Francis Kowsky, SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus; Barbara Miller Lane, Andrew W. Mellon Professor Emeritus of Humanities and Professor Emeritus of History at Bryn Mawr; Jack Quinan, Professor Emeritus at the University of Buffalo; and Nancy Stieber, Associate Professor of Art and Associate Director at the Research Center for Urban Cultural History at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Read the full citations for these SAH Fellows.

Following the announcement of SAH Fellows, Paul Goldberger, Contributing Editor at Vanity Fair, gave the Plenary Talk, “The Public Responsibility of Architectural History.” This talk explored the public role of architectural history and role architectural historians have played in the past: urging advocacy or expressing concern that advocacy could compromise an academic’s position. Paul Goldberger served as the architecture critic for The New Yorker and also holds the Joseph Urban Chair in Design and Architecture at the New School in New York City, giving him a unique perspective on architecture-related issues and histories in Buffalo and New York. View a clip from Goldberger's talk:

Friday, April 12

In addition to papers delivered on Friday and mid-day tours, the noon hour featured a special locally-focused roundtable, “Future Design Solutions for Buffalo” facilitated by Robert Shibley, Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at the University at Buffalo. The roundtable included a presentation by Shibley and Catherine Schweitzer, Executive Director of the Baird Foundation, titled “Preservation Planning as a Performing Art: An Outline for a Buffalo Preservation Plan.” Click here to download the PowerPoint from this presentation. Following the presentation, Paul Goldberger joined a panel with Shibley and Schweitzer to discuss issues specific to Buffalo and what the next most important steps might be to leverage city assets in service of quality of life, cultural and heritage preservation, and tourism. The roundtable ended with a lively discussion between panelists and the audience.

In the evening, SAH co-hosted a PechaKucha with PechaKucha Buffalo at Asbury Hall, a renovated church constructed in 1876. Drawing its name from the Japanese term for the sound of “chitchat,” PechaKuchas rest on a presentation format that is based on a simple idea: 20 images x 20 seconds. This fast-paced format allows participants to creatively and quickly share their projects, ideas, or research. The PechaKucha Night Buffalo was well attended and a refreshing exchange of ideas. Jennifer Reut, Associate Editor of Perspectives on History at the American Historical Association, wrote a blog post on the AHA website about the PechaKucha and its success as a new kind of event at the SAH conference – click here to read the blog post.

Saturday, April 13 

After the last papers were delivered on Saturday morning, conference participants had the choice of taking numerous tours in and around Buffalo and Niagara to explore the variety of architecture and landscapes in the city and region. On Saturday evening, SAH co-sponsored a closing evening event with the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture to mark the recent joint acquisition of the Frank Lloyd Wright Archive by Columbia University’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Titled “Housing Wright – The Joint Acquisition of the Frank Lloyd Wright Archive,” this event featured presentations by Carole Ann Fabian, Director of Avery Library, and Barry Bergdoll, the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at MoMA, discussing the institutional opportunities provided by this unique acquisition. The event took place in the Darwin Martin House Complex’s Greatbatch Pavilion, designed by Toshiko Mori, which provided a modern context for viewing the Darwin Martin House and discussing the Frank Lloyd Wright archives.

Sunday, April 14

On Saturday and Sunday, SAH conference attendees participated in half-day and full-day tours that underscored some of the themes discussed during the week such as Reyner Banham and Buffalo’s grain elevators, Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy in Buffalo, the Olmsted park system, and Buffalo’s history of hydroelectricity at Niagara.

On behalf of the SAH’s Board and membership, I extend our gratitude to all who worked for nearly two years to bring this conference to fruition, including speakers, session chairs, participants in symposia and roundtables, tour leaders, volunteers, conference partners, and conference sponsors. Special thanks goes to Ken Breisch who acted as General Chair for the conference and the Local Committee: Despina Stratigakos and Tom Yots, Local Co-Chairs; Louise Yots, Volunteer Coordinator; Denise Prince and Fred Schrock, Tour Coordinators; Jennifer Walkowski and Caitlyn Boyle, organizers for the SAH Buffalo Seminar (formerly the Historic Preservation Seminar); and Cynthia Van Ness, Venue Coordinator. In addition, I thank the SAH staff members who managed the conference so well, namely Kathryn Sturm, Director of Programs, who oversaw every aspect of the conference; Beth Eifrig, Assistant Director of Programs; Anne Bird, Director of Membership Services; Jane Reilly, Membership Services Coordinator; Kara Elliott-Ortega, Media and Communications Editor; Alexandra Markiewicz, SAHARA Editorial Assistant; and Robert Drum, Comptroller and Director of Operations.

We are equally appreciative of those individuals and companies who provided support for the conference. We are greatly indebted to all who supported the conference – thank you all for making this year’s 66th Annual Conference a success.

Pauline Saliga
SAH Executive Director

Click here to view more photos from the conference on the SAH Facebook page.
Do you have photos of buildings and landscapes in Buffalo? Share them through SAHARA.

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