Recap of the SAH 67th Annual Conference in Austin, TX

May 15, 2014 by User Not Found

Nearly 600 SAH members participated in the Society’s 67th Annual Conference that took place in Austin, Texas, from April 9-13, 2014.

A brief recap of the conference’s events follows:

Wednesday, April 9

The 2014 Annual Conference kicked off Wednesday with an opening reception at the Hyatt Regency Austin, followed by the SAH Annual Business Meeting that included the election of officers and board members. SAH President Abigail Van Slyck gave an update on the state of SAH, Secretary Gail Fenske conducted the election of SAH officers and directors, and Jan Grayson gave the Treasurer’s Report.

Richard Cleary, the conference’s local chair and Page Southerland Page Fellow in Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, gave the Introductory Address, “Austin’s Growing City Limits.” The talk explored the defining episodes in the history of Austin’s urban landscape and provided attendees with a background for understanding how rapid growth has affected the city in recent years.

Photos by Cris DeWitt

Thursday, April 10

Over 160 scholarly papers were delivered in 36 sessions on Thursday and Friday, divided into three tracks each day, a new format that was introduced this year. The paper sessions covered a wide range of subject matter and periods and were chaired and delivered by scholars and graduate students from 25 countries.

Once again, SAH offered a new attendee orientation, which included an overview of the conference and Q&A session with staff on Thursday morning. Experienced SAH members volunteered as hosts to help make new attendees feel welcome, and we sincerely thank all who served as hosts.

Abby Smith Rumsey, chair of the SAH Digital Humanities Taskforce and director of the Scholarly Communications Institute at the University of Virginia, led the SAH Roundtable, “Being a Scholar in the Digital Age.” Panelists discussed new research methods, digital scholarship, pedagogy and extending the reach of scholarship to the wider public.

In the afternoon, guided tours of Austin’s architecture and landscapes were offered that covered early Austin houses, the hipster SoCo area, public housing projects and estate gardens.

Thursday evening, the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture hosted the SAH Awards Reception in the Eden and Hal Box Courtyard at Goldsmith Hall. Conference attendees enjoyed drinks and hors d’oeuvres in the courtyard before heading across campus to the Hogg Memorial Auditorium for the SAH Awards Ceremony. SAH President Abigail Van Slyck announced the recipients of over 25 Annual Conference, travel and research fellowships, six publication awards and 25- and 50-year members. The inaugural SAH Award for Film and Video was given to Unfinished Spaces, a film by Alysa Nahmias and Benjamin Murray. Four new Fellows of the Society were inducted for their significant contributions to the field:  Naomi Miller, professor emerita of the history of art and architecture at Boston University; Robert B. Rettig, longtime historic preservationist and a founder of the New England Chapter of SAH; Dell Upton, professor of architecture at UCLA; and Patricia Waddy, Distinguished Professor of Architecture Emerita at Syracuse University. The contributions of these distinguished Fellows include scholarship, service to SAH and stewardship of the built environment.

Links to press releases:
Society of Architectural Historians Announces 2014 Publication Award Winners
Society of Architectural Historians Announces Winner of the 2014 SAH Award for Film and Video
Society of Architectural Historians Names the 2014 SAH Fellows

After the induction of the SAH Fellows, Dianne Harris, former SAH president and professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture, Architecture, Art History and History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, gave the Plenary Talk, “Architectural Histories and Architectural Humanities.” The talk explored the relationship of architectural history to the broader fields known collectively as “the humanities.” Harris pointed out how the methodological pathways taken by architectural historians have often been adopted later by scholars in other fields, being multidisciplinary in nature. She asked how architectural historians might engage the public in a discussion of their work in order to broaden the impact of their work and strengthen recognition of their contributions. Her talk highlighted some of the ways in which SAH is already reaching a wider audience through digital resources, including SAH Archipedia Classic Buildings, social media like Twitter and Facebook, and the SAH Blog.

Friday, April 11

Three tracks of paper sessions took place on Friday, along with midday tours of the Moore/Andersson Compound, downtown Austin, religious architecture and the LBJ office and Presidential Library.

The Graduate Student Roundtable, “Online Architectural Histories: Fight, Flight, or Adapt?” led by Gretta Tritch Roman, examined the changing environment of teaching architectural history and looked at the positive and negative aspects of e-learning and technology in the classroom.

Friday evening was largely left open so that conference participants could attend small receptions, enjoy dinner with friends and explore the city of Austin. In addition, the Landscape History Chapter of SAH celebrated its tenth anniversary with a group dinner at one of Austin's fine restaurants.

Saturday, April 12

Nearly 100 conference attendees and members of the public attended the SAH Austin Seminar, “Austin and the Place of Historic Architecture in Rapidly Growing Cities,” on Saturday morning. Michael Holleran, director of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at the University of Texas at Austin, chaired the seminar, which opened with a Keynote Address by architectural historian and fellow of the Anchorage Foundation Stephen Fox. The talk, “Architectural History, Public Discourse, and Political Action in Texas: Looking Backward and Forward,” looked at how the work of architectural historians in the twentieth century has engaged the public, formulated counter narratives and promoted new consensuses on cultural identity in Texas.

Two panels of local experts explored the challenges and opportunities Austin is facing due to the rapid influx of residents and businesses. The seminar was held in a room on the 15th floor of the Hyatt Regency Austin, which offered a magnificent view of the city’s downtown skyline, complete with soaring construction cranes—an apropos backdrop for the morning’s topics. The first panel included Barbara Brown Wilson, director of the Center for Sustainable Development, University of Texas at Austin; Sarah Lopez, architectural historian at the University of Texas at Austin; and Fred L. McGhee, historical anthropologist and principal, Fred L. McGhee & Associates. The three speakers examined issues of growth and environmental sustainability, migration and cultural exchange, and affordable housing. The second panel included speakers Jennifer Minner, assistant professor, Department of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University; David Preziosi, executive director of Preservation Dallas; and John Rosato of Southwest Strategies Group in Austin. Panel two discussed preservation and development issues.

Many conference goers took part in morning and afternoon tours on Saturday, exploring buildings and sites in Austin and nearby San Antonio.

On Saturday evening, SAH members boarded a bus and travelled to the legendary honky-tonk Broken Spoke for the closing event. Once inside, everyone lined up for some Texas barbecue and southern sides. It was an entertaining evening that gave members the chance to put on their cowboy boots, relax with friends and even do some boot scootin’. As the night went on, the dance floor filled up with two-steppers and country music maverick Dale Watson took the stage. It was a night to remember as SAH folks got to see the laidback side of Austin.

Sunday, April 13

The conference came to a close with two tours offered on Sunday. One tour explored the German Texan community of Fredericksburg and the other included visits to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Paisano Ranch.

On behalf of the SAH 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, roundtable panelists, tour leaders, volunteers, conference partners and conference sponsors. A special thanks goes to the conference’s General Chair Ken Breisch and the Local Committee members: Richard Cleary, Local Committee Chair; Michael Holleran, SAH Austin Seminar Chair; Marisa Gomez, Local Volunteer Coordinator; and Kim McKnight, Tere O’Connell, R. Scott Gill, Christopher Long, Emily Little, Gregory Smith and Emily Freeman Reed for all of their help with local coordination. In addition, I’d like to thank the SAH staff for their hard work managing the conference, namely Director of Programs Kathy Sturm, who oversaw every aspect of the conference; Beth Eifrig, assistant director of programs; Helena Karabatsos, media and communications editor; Anne Bird, director of membership; Jane Reilly, membership services coordinator; Bob Drum, director of operation and comptroller; Jenny Gavacs, SAH Archipedia project editor; and Rachel Sweeney, SAH Archipedia media editor.

We are greatly indebted to all of the individuals, foundations, not-for-profit organizations, and companies that provided support for the conference. Thank you all for making the 67th Annual Conference such a success.

Pauline Saliga
SAH Executive Director