SAH News

Society of Architectural Historians to Host 71st Annual International Conference in Saint Paul

by SAH News | Jan 09, 2018

Registration is open for the 71st Annual International Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians to be held in Saint Paul, Minnesota, April 18–22, 2018.

Minnesota State Capitol

The Society of Architectural Historians will host its 71st Annual International Conference in Saint Paul, Minnesota, from Wednesday, April 18, to Sunday, April 22, 2018. Architectural and art historians, architects, museum professionals, and preservationists from around the world will meet at the Saint Paul RiverCentre to present new research on the history of the built environment and explore the architecture of the Minneapolis–Saint Paul region. Roundtable discussions, workshops, networking receptions, keynote talks, SAH’s annual awards ceremony, and public architecture tours will supplement the program.

“SAH is excited to welcome our members to Saint Paul this year, a city with a wealth of historic architecture, diverse cultural offerings, and vibrant neighborhoods,” said SAH First Vice President and Conference Chair Sandy Isenstadt, professor of architectural history at the University of Delaware. “In addition to the paper session portion of the conference, which covers a wide array of topics on the history of architecture and urban form, we’ve organized key events and tours that will take full advantage of the rich architectural heritage of the Twin Cities region.”

Edna S. Purcell HouseThe Minnesota State Capitol will be the setting for a public workshop on Wednesday, presented by the Minnesota Chapter of SAH. Participants will learn how to create oral and video histories that document the experiences of those who have engaged with historic buildings and landscapes. The workshop also will include a discussion with the people involved in the recent restoration of the Capitol building, designed by Cass Gilbert.

Twenty-nine guided tours will offer conference attendees and the local community the opportunity to explore the buildings and landscapes of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Tours run throughout the duration of the conference and will explore the works of Louis Sullivan, Cass Gilbert, William Purcell and George Elmslie, Frank Lloyd Wright, Eliel and Eero Saarinen, and Marcel Breuer, among many others. The tours will highlight the distinctive urban areas of downtown Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Lowertown, Cathedral Hill, Irvine Park, Summit Avenue, and the Mississippi riverfront.

Saint John's Abbey Church

“The tours give our attendees the chance to venture outside the conference center and experience firsthand the rich architectural heritage of Saint Paul and Minneapolis,” said Local Co-Chair Kristin Anderson, an architectural historian and professor of art at Augsburg University. “We’ve developed the tours with locals who are experts in their field and in their hometown, which allows SAH members and residents alike to discover the region’s architectural treasures at a whole new level.”

“We are thrilled to host SAH’s annual conference this year and know attendees will love the architecture, history and story of Saint Paul,” Terry Mattson, president & CEO of Visit Saint Paul and the Saint Paul RiverCentre.

SAH members will deliver papers in 48 sessions throughout the day on Thursday and Friday. Conference attendees will get to choose from a broad range of topics such as materials and memory, atmosphere and infrastructure, enduring and ephemeral figures, colonialism and diplomacy, finance and science, bodies and beauty, and religion and slavery. One session will cover the diverse landscapes of Minnesota, and another will focus on Cass Gilbert’s role as a collaborator from Saint Paul to New York City.

The conference will also feature a number of roundtable talks, including panels on labor issues in the academy and current issues in heritage conservation. This year, SAH will launch its Architects Council, a new program that recognizes and builds relationships with leading architects who rely on research and support the historic built environment. The inaugural members of the group will meet on Friday to discuss the conservation of digital records.

On Friday evening, the Society will name the 2018 winners of the SAH Publication Awards and SAH Award for Film and Video at SAH’s annual awards ceremony, which will take place at the Landmark Center. Kenneth Frampton, Ware Professor of Architecture at Columbia GSAPP, will deliver the plenary talk immediately following the ceremony.

James J. Hill HouseOn Saturday, SAH will present a public seminar at the Science Museum of Minnesota that examines the changing postindustrial landscapes along the Twin Cities Mississippi River Corridor. Speakers will include local designers, planners, historians, and community activists who are reshaping the riverfront. Tom Fisher, chair of the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation, will moderate the discussion.

“Our goal with all of the SAH City Seminars is to identify timely issues and relevant speakers to spark dialogue between conference attendees and the local community. Although the issues addressed in the Saint Paul Seminar arise from the region’s unique circumstances, the discussion is equally pertinent to other riverine cities attempting to reimagine, reclaim, and respect their waterfronts,” noted Isenstadt.

Later that evening, SAH will host a closing night reception at the James J. Hill House, the grand Summit Avenue mansion built by Peabody, Stearns and Furber in 1891.

Conference registration is open at Early registration ends February 20. Registration for tours and events opens to the public on February 21. The full conference program is available at

Images (top to bottom): Minnesota State Capitol Building, Saint Paul, Cass Gilbert, 1905 (courtesy of Visit Saint Paul); Edna S. Purcell House, Minneapolis, Purcell, Feick, and Elmslie, 1913 (courtesy of Minneapolis Institute of Arts); Saint John’s Abbey Church, Marcel Breuer & Associates, Collegeville, MN (1953-1961). Photo courtesy of Olga Ivanova; James J. Hill House, Peabody, Stearns, and Furber, 1891 (courtesy of Visit Saint Paul).


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