Race and the Historiography of American Architecture

Presented by the Society of Architectural Historians

12:00-1:30 PM PDT / 2:00–3:30 PM CDT
Free and open to the public
Virtual Event on Zoom


This program will be recorded and video will be available online after the event.

This publication workshop for a co-edited book project will examine the role of race in the construction of historical narratives of “American architecture” during the long nineteenth century. Canonical surveys of American architecture have optimistically, and perhaps anachronistically, interpreted national architectural movements through the lens of an inclusive democratic liberalism that embraced and collected the material cultures of people of all colors, nationalities, and religious creeds. Yet the first century and a half of American history was characterized by stark debates about the racial and ethnic composition of the new nation state and its citizens. Claims to ‘Americanness,’ called into stark relief by the profound violence of the Civil War, were highly contested, exerting a direct influence on both the body politic and its perception of material culture.

Across architectural periods and movements, the appropriation and adaptation of historical forms and styles gave rise to nationalist and regionalist ideologies with diverse political aims. The purpose of this volume is to consider revisionist histories of American architecture that subvert the synthetic narrative of “a nation of immigrants” or a “melting pot,” to recover the competing debates. This new portrait of American architecture will bring canonical and vernacular histories together in a contrapuntal narrative of the formative nineteenth century, paying special attention to the histories of those written out of canonical surveys.

This roundtable will be divided into two complementary parts: a set of presentations that will outline the general scope of the research project, and a panel of respondents who will discuss the key conceptual rubrics, theoretical lenses, and potential case studies that are necessary to construct new histories of American architecture. It will close with a public conversation on the understudied or ignored material cultures that might present grounds for alternative histories of American architecture in the nineteenth century.

For further details, please contact info@sah.org or (312) 573-1365

July 28 @ 12:00 pm
12:00 pm — 1:30 pm (1h 30′)