Recap of the SAH 69th Annual International Conference in Pasadena, California

by Pauline Saliga | May 11, 2016
View photos from the conference on Flickr

The SAH Pasadena conference had a record number of participants. Seven hundred and thirty-eight SAH members participated in the Society’s 69th Annual International Conference that took place in Pasadena, California, from April 6–10, 2016. Attendees hailed from 36 countries and 42 states. A brief recap of the conference’s events follows. 

Wednesday, April 6

Following their spring meeting, the SAH Board of Directors met for lunch with the 2016 SAH-Getty International Program participants who traveled from around the world to participate in the conference. With funding from the Getty Foundation, the Society was able to bring a record number of 15 architectural historians, museum curators, heritage conservationists and planners to the conference from countries that have traditionally been underrepresented. In this second year of the SAH program, the grantees were from Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Iraq, Hong Kong, Russia, South Africa, and Tanzania. Of the two men and thirteen women, six identified themselves as scholars; two were curators of architectural collections, three were heritage conservationists, and four were architects working at academic institutions. Seven were in the early stages of their careers and eight were mid-career. The grantees all gave five-minute talks so conference attendees could better understand their work and the issues they face, such as the challenges of working in Iraq to restore ancient sites when there is little or no documentation or information on the built heritage that has suffered so much damage. Biographies of the grantees are available on the SAH website

SAH-Getty International Program Participants

The conference officially kicked off Wednesday with a social hour at one of the large halls at the Pasadena Convention Center. SAH offered a new attendee social hour, which gave first-time conference attendees an opportunity to meet SAH Board members and one another prior to the larger opening reception, which was heavy on food, refreshments and good cheer.

Opening Social Hour

The SAH Annual Business Meeting followed and included the election of officers and board members. SAH President Ken Breisch gave an update on the state of SAH and announced the launch of a new BUS city guide series with the release of Buildings of Savannah. He also announced that SAH just received a third major matching grant from NEH for the continued development of SAH Archipedia. Congratulations were offered to the recipients of more than 25 Annual Conference Fellowships, travel and research fellowships, and the 25- and 50-year members. Secretary Gail Fenske conducted the election of SAH officers and directors, and Michael Gibson gave the Treasurer’s Report indicating that SAH was operating in the black.  

Newly elected offers include President Ken Tadashi Oshima, University of Washington; First Vice President Sandy Isenstadt, University of Delaware; Second Vice President Victoria M. Young, St. Thomas University; Secretary Kathryn O’Rourke, Trinity College; and Treasurer Michael Gibson, Greenberg, Whitcombe, Takeuchi, Gibson & Graver. Newly elected directors who will serve three-year terms include Edward Dimendberg, University of California, Irvine; Anat Geva, Texas A&M University; David Rifkind, Florida International University; Arijit Sen, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; and Claire Zimmerman, University of Michigan.  

All of us at SAH extended our sincere gratitude to two officers whose terms came to an end with the Pasadena conference, namely President Kenneth Breisch, University of Southern California, and Secretary Gail Fenske, Roger Williams University. Their many years of service to SAH have helped shape the Society and will provide a foundation for future growth. We also extend our sincere thanks to five Board members whose terms ended in 2016, namely Dale Allen Gyure, Lawrence Technological University; Richard L. Hayes, architect, Alexandria, Virginia; Martha McNamara, Wellesley College; Abby Smith Rumsey, historian and writer focusing on the creation, preservation and use of the cultural record in all media; and Michelangelo Sabatino, Illinois Institute of Technology.

After the business meeting, Conference Chair Ken Tadashi Oshima took the stage to introduce the Introductory Speaker, Eric Avila, professor of history, Chicano studies and urban planning at University of California, Los Angeles. Avila spoke on “Learning from Los Angeles: Identity, Mobility, Climate and Design.” 

Introductory Address

Thursday, April 7

More than 212 scholarly papers were delivered in 42 sessions on Thursday and Friday, divided into three tracks each day. This is the largest number of papers and sessions SAH has ever offered at a conference. The paper sessions covered a wide range of subject matter and periods and were chaired and delivered by scholars and graduate students from 30 countries. 

Three roundtables took place during both breaks on Thursday. They included “Teaching a More Global History Yet?” organized by the Global Architectural History Teaching Collaborative; “Architectural History Online: Is it Different?” moderated by Abby Smith Rumsey and focusing on digital publishing (listen to audio below); and “Beyond the Lecture: Teaching Innovations,” moderated by Christy Anderson and addressing new ways of teaching architectural history. 

Conference Attendees

Thursday evening, the annual Awards Ceremony and naming of new SAH Fellows took place at the Pasadena Convention Center. Incoming SAH Second Vice President Victoria Young emceed as the respective selection committees announced the recipients of six publication awards and the SAH Award for Film and Video. SAH recognized four new Fellows of the Society for their long careers in service of SAH and the field of architectural history: Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Modern Architectural History at Columbia University; Diane Favro, professor of architecture and urban design and associate dean of Academic Affairs at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture; Richard Longstreth, professor of American studies and director of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at The George Washington University; and Therese O’Malley, associate dean at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art. The contributions of these distinguished Fellows include scholarship, service to SAH, and stewardship of the built environment. 

Read related press releases:
SAH Announces Winners of 2016 Publication Awards, Film and Video Award
SAH Announces 2016 Fellows 

After the induction of the SAH Fellows, Dana Cuff delivered this year’s Plenary Talk, “Potentials of the Profession.” Cuff is an American architecture theorist, professor and founding director of cityLAB at the University of California, Los Angeles, and her talk explored the history of the architect’s licensing exam with its biases and surprisingly ambiguous multiple choice history questions.

Friday, April 8

Three tracks of paper sessions took place on Friday, along with several roundtable discussions including a Book Publishing Roundtable organized by Nancy Eklund Later; and a Graduate Student Roundtable, “Toward a Global Architectural History,” moderated by Cristina Urias-Esponoza. The European Architectural History Network and the SAH Chapter Delegates both held business meetings on Friday. Also on Friday four sections of Graduate Student Lightning Talks took place, focusing on “Building Cultures,” co-chaired by Jennifer Donnelly, University of Pittsburgh; “Modes of Perception,” co-chaired by “Tait Johnson,” University of Illinois; “Politics of Representation,” co-chaired by Sben Korsh, University of California; and “Space and Identity,” co-chaired by Munazzah Akhtar, University of Virginia. Friday evening was intentionally left open so conference attendees could attend university reunions and socialize with friends.

Saturday, April 9

Nearly 150 conference attendees and members of the public attended the SAH Los Angeles Seminar, “Surveying L.A.:  Past, Present, Future,” at the Keck Lecture Hall at SCI-Arc on Saturday morning. The seminar looked critically at SurveyLA, a $5 million city-wide survey of historic resources in the L.A. area sponsored by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the City of Los Angeles. The afternoon tours of Little Tokyo and Boyle Heights built on the morning discussion and enabled participants to experience the surveyed neighborhoods to experience firsthand the rich architectural heritage and cultural diversity of Los Angeles neighborhoods. On Saturday afternoon, conference attendees and the general public had a choice of participating in six tours in the Pasadena/Los Angeles area, ranging in topic from the Pasadena City Beautiful Movement to Schindler, Neutra and Ain in Silver Lake.

SAH Los Angeles Seminar

On Saturday evening, SAH held its closing night dinner at the incomparable Gamble House, designed by Greene and Greene and operated by the University of Southern California School of Architecture.  In 2016 the house is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a museum, and it remains the most complete and best-preserved example of American Arts and Crafts style architecture. Although unusually rainy weather required SAH to install a tent on the grounds that evening, attendees enjoyed access to the interior of the Arts and Crafts masterpiece, including the attic space with its expansive views. We sincerely thank James N. Gamble Director Ted Bosley for generously welcoming SAH to The Gamble House. We also thank the generous sponsors who supported the closing night reception: The Gill Family Foundation, Suzanne Deal Booth, Elizabeth Edwards Harris, The USC School of Architecture, and Adelaida Cellars, Paso Robales, CA.

Closing Night at The Gamble House

Closing Night at The Gamble House

Sunday, April 10

The conference came to a close with four day-long architectural tours throughout the region. With longer tours times, participants were able to focus on a wide variety of topics including regionalism in Southern California, post-industrial architecture in Orange County, Neutra and Wright in Bakersfield, and the riches of the Huntington Library and Gardens.  

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, conference sponsors and the SAH staff. Special thanks go to Conference Chair Ken Tadashi Oshima and Local Co-Chairs Linda Hart and Kevin McMahon for their many efforts to create and manage this conference. In addition, I’d like to thank the entire SAH staff for their hard work managing the conference, namely Director of Programs Kathy Sturm, who oversaw every aspect of the conference; Chris Higgins, program coordinator who assisted Kathy; Helena Karabatsos, media and communications editor who nurtured local partnerships and spread word of the conference internationally; Anne Bird, director of membership and volunteer coordinator for the conference; Beth Eifrig, SAH comptroller who managed all fiscal matters related to the conference; and Carolyn Garrett, SAH development director who raised sponsorship and underwriting for the conference.

We are greatly indebted to all of the individuals, foundations, not-for-profit organizations, partner organizations, and companies that provided support for the conference. Thank you all for making the SAH 69th Annual International Conference a great success. We hope to see you at the 70th Annual International Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, June 7–11, 2017. 

Pauline Saliga
SAH Executive Director

View photos from the conference on Flickr

Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs.

SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
1365 N. Astor Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610