RA. Revista de Arquitectura, n. 23 (English and Spanish)
Journal Article, 2021

A fundamental shift in employment patterns among architects in North America during the 1960s and 1970s impacted the ways particular kinds of tasks were either monopolized or delegated within firms. This article uses the archive of the US-based architectural firm Gunnar Birkerts and Associates to show evidence of a growing gulf between executive architects and employee architects (particularly women assigned to interiors work), as well as the persistence of chauvinistic practice ideals under changed circumstances. The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis building design is shown to be illustrative of the gulf between imaginative and interpretive labors.

Sketch by Gunnar Birkerts and others exploring variations for the catenary structural system of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis building, ca. 1968. BL000573, Gunnar Birkerts papers, Bentley Historical Library.

University of Utah School of Architecture
Spring 2021

With issue coeditor Ole W. Fischer, 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 selected from an open call 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.

Journal of Architectural Education, v. 74, n. 2: Othering
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article, October 2020

This “micronarrative” is a critique of architecture’s aporia around cross-industry solidarity. Due to the posture and rhetoric of professionalism, architects have too often been unwilling and unable to form relationships of solidarity with other parties involved in the making of buildings. If we are to transform the processes of design and construction to address the urgent challenges of the present, solidarity with these “others” will be necessary. Analysis of an article discussing the construction of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (FRBM), designed by Gunnar Birkerts and Associates, illustrates some of the tensions caused by class hierarchies and subordinations within construction, while also revealing opportunities for stronger, industry-wide bonds.

Steelworkers tension one of the suspension cables supporting the FRBM office tower, April 1971.

Flying Panels: How Concrete Panels Changed the World
Book Chapter, 2019

This text was written for an exhibition catalog on concrete panel architecture, and discusses the ideological reasons behind the comparatively small number of such buildings in the United States. I argue that the consumerist braiding of personal identity with one’s choice in housing led to a representational problem for concrete panels that was exacerbated by anti-Soviet propaganda. Calls for greater efficiency in construction did lead to the adoption of concrete panels for housing aimed at particular constituencies—the itinerant, the elderly, and the poor. I discuss one governmental attempt to encourage their use in housing construction at length: the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s program “Operation Breakthrough,” which ran from 1969 to 1974. Under this program, HUD commissioned dozens of demonstration buildings to show the potentials of innovative construction techniques like concrete panels. In the end, I conclude, panels found their most widespread use in college dormitories and in housing for the elderly.

Photograph of Hyman/Rouse-Wates Panel Factory in Edmonston, Maryland, early 1970s.

Beginning with the first critical analysis of the buildings and design practice of important Detroit-based architect Gunnar Birkerts, my dissertation addresses the conventions of architectural practice and the ways in which they underwrite claims to authorship posited by firm figureheads like Birkerts. Examining archival materials related to five key projects spanning twenty years, I traced the development of Birkerts’s firm within its disciplinary, professional, and social contexts. In doing so, I foregrounded often overlooked processes and protocols, and questioned not only the hierarchies of mainstream architectural practice but also the way they are obscured and reified in architectural history. I exposed the essential role played by firm associates, the reciprocal influences between client and architect, and the function of professional standards in enabling the signature of architects like Birkerts. 

Construction photograph of Gunnar Birkerts and Associates’ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis by Schwang Studio.