Twenty Historically Contested Sites: Race and Ethnicity Shaping the Built Environment

Mar 22, 2022 by SAH News

vintage photograph of Harlem street scene


The Society of Architectural Historians is pleased to announce the publication in SAH Archipedia of a thematic essay and twenty entries that examine sites and settlements across the United States exploring the histories of under-represented and marginalized groups including African Americans and Native Americans, members of the Asian diaspora, and LatinX and LGBTQ people. Funding for this project was provided by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

The essay, “Beginning,” written by SAH Archipedia Editor Gabrielle Esperdy, reckons with implicit bias in published scholarship and forms a conceptual umbrella for the twenty entries that form this collection. While SAH Archipedia has always embraced an expansive definition of architecture, landscape, and urban form, it acknowledges that the narrow perspective of the dominant culture—white, heteronormative, and classist—has too often formed the focus of scholarship. By reframing scholarly significance, “Beginning” underscores the diversity of American narratives embodied by our buildings and our communities. The entries in this collection include Harlem’s 125th Street, Little Havana in Miami, Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., the Phoenix Warehouse District, and the Trail of Tears, among others. This publication project is one of the many SAH efforts to add content to SAH Archipedia that represents marginalized groups and concepts, including women in architecture, climate change and landscapes, and sites of erasure and cultural reckoning with systemic racism.

Image: 125th Street in Harlem, 1946. Photo courtesy Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library.


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About the Graham Foundation

Founded in 1956, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts fosters the development and exchange of diverse and challenging ideas about architecture and its role in the arts, culture, and society.

About SAH Archipedia

SAH Archipedia is an authoritative online encyclopedia of the U.S. built environment organized by the Society of Architectural Historians and the University of Virginia Press. It contains histories, photographs, and maps for over 21,000 structures and places. These are mostly buildings, but as you explore SAH Archipedia you will also find landscapes, infrastructure, monuments, artwork, and more. This cross-section of the country demonstrates the richness and diversity of architecture and building practice across many centuries, from mud brick to steel, from ancient cliff dwellings to contemporary office towers—a history that unfolds in individual building entries and thematic essays written by leading architectural historians who survey and explain styles and typologies, materials and techniques, and social and political contexts, from local to state to national levels. The content of SAH Archipedia was originally drawn from the award-winning book series, Buildings of the United States (BUS), and includes histories and thematic essays from all of the published BUS print volumes. SAH Archipedia has continued to grow with the addition of peer-reviewed, born-digital content and as new BUS volumes are completed. In 2017 we reached our goal of representing all fifty states in SAH Archipedia. U.S. content is only the beginning, however, as we plan to expand to include global content in the coming years.