University of Utah School of Architecture
Dialectic VIII: Subverting—Unmaking Architecture?
Editorial Project, Forthcoming Winter 2021

With issue coeditor Ole W. Fischer and journal editors Shundana Yusaf and Anna Goodman, I helped to develop an open call for papers addressing how and why architectural practice or design pedagogy might be in need of subverting. In this case, we take subverting to mean (to play on Audre Lorde’s famous architectural metaphor) turning the master’s house against itself. Articles will include discussions of contemporary community-engaged teaching, ethnographic studies of tenant appropriation, progressive design projects, analysis of historical examples, as well as theoretical explorations of fundamental concepts including nature and ground. I wrote an editorial to set the stage for this diverse selection that discusses the subversive tactics of Virgil Abloh and overlooked aspects of Learning From Las Vegas.

This project has received support from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

Still from Buster Keaton and Edward F. Cline’s short comedy film One Week (1920), in which a newly married couple assemble, reassemble, and spectacularly dismantle a build-it-yourself house kit.

Collaboration with Joss Kiely, University of Cincinnati
The Masterplan at Midcentury: Soft Power and the Politics of Architectural Expertise, 1945–75
Research Project, Begun 2019

In the post-WWII period, master plans designed by architects committed to modernist ideals reimagined cities and campuses as orderly and aesthetically pleasing agglomerations. These master plans were used as a means to channel growth and development, but were also often enlisted either as fundraising tools in capital campaigns by NGOs and cultural institutions, or as instruments of consent-building by the government agencies and multinational corporations who asserted American soft power at home and abroad. This project considers master plans prepared by US architecture and landscape architecture firms before or duringthe rise of urban design as a distinct practice with its own expertise and techniques — between the end of WWII and the 1970s. Projects to be considered include campus planning for universities, downtown urban renewal proposals, new town planning, neighborhood redevelopment, and large-scale infrastructural projects. These works are categorized according to a selection of verbs—live, work, play, shop, learn, govern, move—to suggest the primary activities around which the plans were prepared.

Perspective drawing of master plan proposal for Cedar-Riverside “New Town-In Town” in East Minneapolis by Ralph Rapson.

Collaboration with Bryan Norwood, University of Michigan
Globalizing Professional Practice
Pedagogical Project, Begun 2019

The conceptual persona of the well-educated professional architect is itself a global, historical construct and must be interrogated as such. Too often, however, courses addressing the professional practice of architecture actively undercut historical consciousness and global awareness by naturalizing the constraints and limitations of the contemporary, private-practice professional order. By positioning historical thought as a key aspect of the content of professional practice courses, historians can work to denaturalize the profession’s contemporary order by revealing how it has changed over time. And, further, we can suggest that the way architecture is practiced (and, in fact, its own criteria of evaluation for education into the professional order) is open for radical redesign. History, in this case, does not merely function to reveal other worlds, but also to reveal the contingency of architecture’s current conditions. With a rewrite of NAAB criteria underway in 2019 and the globalization of those criteria through the 2008 Canberra Accord on Architectural Education in mind, we aim to expand the question of how global architectural history situates itself in professional pedagogy. We are planning a workshop to discuss and imagine pedagogies for globalizing professional practice.

Office Manager Moritz Kahn and staff of Albert Kahn Associates en route to Moscow, 1929.

Currently Seeking Funding
Solidarity Houses: Architecture and Organized Labor in the US, 1865–1970
Research Project, Begun 2019

Over the course of a century, the US Labor Movement made extensive, so far unexplored use of architecture for both pragmatic and symbolic purposes. By surveying this history, my research addresses patronage of architecture among working class organizations that paralleled and sometimes exceeded the ambitions of more familiar commissions by corporations and elite philanthropists. The chronological scope of this study begins with the terminus of the Civil War—which resulted in a total restructuring of US labor markets through the abolition of slavery—and ends with a peculiar conjunction of organized labor and architecture: the death of architect Oscar Stonorov alongside United Auto Workers founding organizer Walter Reuther in a plane crash while reviewing construction progress at the site of a new UAW retreat in northern Michigan.

Through archival research in Wyoming, Michigan, New York, Maryland, and Virginia, I will explore how architecture was mobilized to serve the goal of class solidarity, what types of spaces were used in this process, and draw a contrast between the styles and forms of architecture that were commissioned by fledgling unions prior to WWII and during labor’s postwar détenté with corporate power.

Wives of United Auto Workers members meet at the union’s headquarters building in Detroit, known as Solidarity House, which was designed by Philadelphia-based modernist architect Oscar Stonorov. Photograph from Walter Reuther Library Collection, Wayne State University.