Recap of the 71st Annual International Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians that took place April 18-22, 2018, in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
On Tuesday, April 17, librarian Ann Whiteside, Assistant Dean for Information Services at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, led the two-day forum, “Building for Tomorrow: Collaborative Development of Sustainable Infrastructure for Architectural and Design Documentation.” The program addressed the challenges architectural museums and archives face with the rapidly growing need to preserve digital information.
Later that evening, conference attendees were invited to attend a talk at the University of St. Thomas on the new Voorsanger Architects Archive. Bart Voorsanger, FAIA, principal of Voorsanger Architects, was joined onstage by SAH First Vice President Victoria Young, University of St. Thomas professor and Chair of Art History, Dell Upton, UCLA architectural history professor and Chair of Art History, and librarian Ann Whiteside, Assistant Dean for Information Services at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. The four discussed the work of Voorsanger Architects, the process of creating the archive at the University of St. Thomas, and the international effort to preserve born digital architectural records. A reception followed the talk and participants were able to view the accompanying exhibition, curated by Young.
On Wednesday, April 18, the Minnesota Chapter of SAH (MNSAH) presented a pre-conference workshop at the Minnesota State Capitol on how to create oral and video histories. Some of the participants took part in an optional tour of the Capitol building. The workshop kicked off with an overview of the Minnesota Modern Masters project, MNSAH’s oral history video series, followed by short presentations on video production, field interviews, iPhone photography, and oral history best practices. The workshop closed with interviews with the people involved in the recent restoration of the Minnesota State Capitol building, designed by Cass Gilbert.
Opening Social Hour
The conference officially kicked off with the Opening Night Social Hour, which took place in the exhibit area at the Saint Paul RiverCentre. Conference attendees enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and drinks while catching up with friends and colleagues. In addition to the mingling, SAH members had the chance to browse the books on display at the conference’s 13 exhibit booths and talk one-on-one with publisher representatives.
SAH Annual Business Meeting & Introductory Address
The SAH Annual Business Meeting began after the social hour. SAH President Ken Oshima took the stage to deliver the President’s Address. He opened by sharing a letter from Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton welcoming SAH members to Saint Paul and recognizing the work of Conference Local Co-Chairs Kristin Anderson (Augsburg University) and Kate Solomonson (University of Minnesota) and Conference Chair and SAH First Vice President Sandy Isenstadt (University of Delaware). Recognition was also given to the generosity of the conference’s sponsors and partners, as well as the foundations and funders of SAH’s annual conference fellowships. The recipients of SAH’s fellowships and awards, along with 25- and 50-year members were displayed onscreen and recognized. Oshima shared SAH’s new initiatives for the year, including the SAH Open Humanities Portfolio, a digital open access archive of SAH publications and grey literature that will document the 78-year history of the Society of Architectural Historians and the development of the field of architectural history in the United States. The newly formed Graduate Student Advisory Committee will help SAH better serve its student members and provide them with the resources and opportunities they need to launch their careers both within and outside of academia. Oshima also announced the launch of the SAH Architects Council and its inaugural members: Kenneth Frampton, Ware Professor of Architecture at Columbia University; Bartholomew Voorsanger, FAIA, Voorsanger Architects, New York; and Cynthia Weese, FAIA, Weese Langley Weese, Chicago. The Council’s aim is to deepen the Society’s relationship with practitioners and engage architects in an ongoing conversation about our shared commitment to the study of the built environment. SAH Secretary Kathryn O’Rourke (Trinity University) led the election of officers and SAH Treasurer Michael Gibson (Greenberg, Whitcombe, Takeuchi, Gibson & Grayver, LLP) shared SAH’s financial report.
Once the business meeting concluded, Sandy Isenstadt welcomed Local Co-Chairs Kristin Anderson and Kate Solomonson to the stage to deliver the Introductory Address, “Saint Paul: Last of the East, First of the West.” The talk provided attendees with an historical overview of the development of the city and its key players, and Anderson suggested buildings that members should check out while in town for the conference.
Sessions and Roundtables
The paper session portion of the conference began on Thursday at the Saint Paul RiverCentre following a breakfast for all speakers and session chairs presenting that day. An evening session track was held on Thursday—a new addition for this year’s conference. Twenty-seven sessions covered an array of topics including digitizing architectural heritage, affordable housing design, women’s narratives in architecture, and the audience for architectural history in the 21st century.
Participants in the day’s roundtable discussions addressed topics such as essential skills for the architectural historian, organized by the SAHGB); digital architectural records; and current issues in heritage conservation, which included panelists from the SAH Heritage Conservation Committee. SAH Board member Itohan Osayimwese (Brown University) led a discussion that addressed the challenges minority scholars face in SAH, in the discipline of architectural history, and in the professional world. Participants shared their perspectives and personal experiences as minority scholars in the field. The group talked about how an SAH Minorities Caucus could work to affect change and encourage diversity and inclusion within SAH. (See the Report on Minority Scholars Meet & Greet)
Some of SAH’s student members gave short presentations during the Graduate Student Lightning Talks, which included a Q&A session from the audience. Later in the evening, graduate students took part in an intimate reception where they mingled with fellow students and members of the SAH Board.
On Friday, April 20, speakers presenting that day came together with the session chairs for a continental breakfast in the morning. The day’s twenty-one sessions explored subjects such as queer history, architectures of the slave economy, architecture and disability, spaces for healing, Caribbean architectures, and new interpretations of Minnesota’s landscapes, among others. The GAHTC led a roundtable discussion on what it means to teach globally. Graduate students met for a roundtable on how to survive (and even thrive!) the dissertation and thesis process. The Architecture Lobby led a very popular roundtable on labor issues in the academy that drew around 60 participants. Another roundtable looked at religion in architectural history, and the inaugural members of the Architects Council met to discuss the making, management, preservation of archives.
This year’s conference featured 13 exhibitors: Actar D, Bloomsbury Publishing, Bookmobile Craft Digital, Penn State University Press, Princeton University Press, University of Minnesota Press, University of Pittsburgh Press, Routledge, The Scholar’s Choice, University of Georgia Press, University of Texas Press, University of Virginia Press, and Yale University Press. The exhibit area was centrally located on the same floor as all of the session rooms for maximum visibility. The conference’s Opening Social Hour on Wednesday was held in the exhibit area, which allowed publishers to meet, mingle, and showcase their books to attendees.
Twenty-seven tours explored the architecture and landscapes of the Minneapolis–Saint Paul region. The tours were very popular this year—demand was high and nearly all of the tours sold out. As always, the tours were open to the public and led by local historians, architects, and other experts in the field of the built environment. Tours ran Wednesday through Sunday and highlighted works by Louis Sullivan, Cass Gilbert, William Purcell and George Elmslie, Frank Lloyd Wright, Eliel and Eero Saarinen, and Marcel Breuer, among many others. Tours covered areas such as downtown Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Lowertown, Cathedral Hill, Irvine Park, Summit Avenue, and the Mississippi riverfront.
SAH presented its annual Publication Awards and Award for Film and Video during an evening ceremony at Saint Paul’s historic Landmark Center on Friday, April 20. During a sold-out, pre-event reception held on the building’s fourth floor, attendees socialized over drinks and hors d’oeuvres and snapped photos of the interior, which feature stained glass ceilings, intricately carved mahogany finishes and—most impressive of all—a five-story courtyard with skylight. The awards ceremony took place in the Musser Cortile, which provided a dramatic setting for the occasion. Victoria Young emceed the ceremony and announced the winners of the 2018 SAH Publication Awards and SAH Award for Film and Video, who took to the stage to receive their award certificates from Ken Oshima. SAH honored its 2018 class of Fellows as well and recognized their significant contributions to the field of architectural history. Following the ceremony, 2018 SAH Fellow and Ware Professor of Architecture Kenneth Frampton (Columbia GSAPP) delivered the conference’s plenary address to a full house.
Awards Ceremony & Plenary Talk
Transcript of the 2018 Plenary Talk by Kenneth Frampton
SAH Saint Paul Seminar
Conference attendees and members of the public gathered at the Science Museum of Minnesota on Saturday, April 21, for the SAH Saint Paul Seminar. Titled “Confluences: Place, Change, and Meaning on the Mississippi,” the half-day seminar featured presentations that looked at the Twin Cities Mississippi River Corridor from the multiple perspectives of its stakeholders, which include Dakota people, urban planners, developers, the National Park Service, historical societies, and government agencies. The seminar panelists joined each other onstage following the presentations for a discussion and Q&A session with the audience. The event drew 175 attendees—the highest number to date for the SAH city seminar series—that included many residents and students from the area.
Closing Night Event
The conference’s Closing Night Event was held at the James J. Hill House, a truly magnificent Gilded Age mansion designed by Peabody, Stearns, and Furber in 1891 for railroad magnate James J. Hill. Participants were treated to Native American cuisine by The Sioux Chef and had the chance to wander around multiple floors and the basement of the mansion, once the largest house in all of Minnesota. Most of the time was dedicated to socializing and exploring, but Ken Oshima took a moment to once again thank the conference’s Local Co-Chairs, Kate Solomonson and Kristin Anderson, for their tireless work organizing a memorable and successful conference this year.
First and foremost, on behalf of the SAH Board and membership I want to thank everyone who attended the SAH Saint Paul conference: our members, speakers, session chairs, roundtable panelists, tour leaders, volunteers, and public attendees alike. It is your participation that makes our conference possible. Thank you for contributing your expertise, your perspective, and your time. Together, we were able to create an engaging and successful meeting.
I extend sincere gratitude to the individuals, companies, and organizations that provided support for the conference. We are grateful for the generosity of our conference sponsors and partners.
Special thanks to Conference Chair Sandy Isenstadt (University of Delaware) and Local Co-Chairs Kristin Anderson (Augsburg University) and Kate Solomonson (University of Minnesota). I’d like to thank the SAH staff for their hard work managing the conference: Director of Program Christopher Kirbabas, who managed every detail of the conference, including fellowships and awards; Director of Communications Helena Dean, who handled conference communications and local partnerships; Director of Development Carolyn Garrett, who secured sponsorships and conference underwriting; Director of Membership Anne Bird, who managed registration and volunteers; and Comptroller Beth Eifrig, who handled all fiscal matters related to the conference.
Thank you all for making the SAH 71st Annual International Conference a success. We look forward to our 2019 Annual International Conference in Providence, Rhode Island, April 24–28. We hope to see you there.
Society of Architectural Historians