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Symposium of Architectural History The Whiteness of 19th Century American Architecture

This symposium examines the racial discourses that subtended “American Architecture” movements during the long nineteenth century. Explore this site to learn more about the specific themes, case studies and speakers that will be featured at this event. “The Whiteness of American Architecture” is organized by Charles Davis II, UB assistant professor of architecture.

About the symposium

“The Whiteness of 19th Century American Architecture” is a one-day symposium in architectural history organized by the School of Architecture and Planning at the University at Buffalo. This symposium is an outgrowth of the Race + Modern Architecture Project, an interdisciplinary workshop on the racial discourses of western architectural history from the Enlightenment to the present.

– Professor Mabel O. Wilson, Columbia GSAPP
– Dianne Harris, senior program officer at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
– Joanna Merwood-Salisbury, architectural historian
– Kathryn ‘Kate’ Holliday, architectural historian
– Charles Davis, assistant professor of architectural history and criticism at the University at Buffalo

Race + Modern Architecture Project

Race + Modern Architecture logo
The “Whiteness & American Architecture” symposium continues the research that began with the Race + Modern Architecture Project, a workshop conducted at Columbia University in 2013. The forthcoming co-edited volume, Race and Modern Architecture presents a collection of seventeen groundbreaking essays by distinguished scholars writing on the critical role of racial theory in shaping architectural discourse, from the Enlightenment to the present. The book, which grows out of a collaborative, interdisciplinary, multi-year research project, redresses longstanding neglect of racial discourses among architectural scholars. With individual essays exploring topics ranging from the role of race in eighteenth-century, Anglo-American neoclassical architecture, to 1970s radical design, the book reveals how the racial has been deployed to organize and conceptualize the spaces of modernity, from the individual building to the city to the nation to the planet.

– Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture – Columbia University
– Darwin D. Martin House Complex – Buffalo, NY
– School of Architecture – Victoria University of Wellington
– UB Humanities Institute – University at Buffalo, SUNY
– School of Architecture and Planning – University at Buffalo, SUNY

Purpose and Themes
Our symposium will outline a critical history of the white cultural nationalisms that have proliferated under the rubric of “American Architecture” during the long nineteenth century. This theme will be explored chronologically from the late-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century and regionally from representative avant-garde movements on the East Coast to the regionalist architectural styles of the Midwest and West Coast. Such movements included the neoclassical revivals of the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, the Chicago School of Architecture and the Prairie Style, the East Bay Style on the West Coast, the Arts & Crafts movement across the continent, and various interwar movements that claimed to find unique historical origins for an autochthonous American style of building.

The five architectural historians in attendance have been charged with providing some preliminary answers to the central question of these proceedings:

What definitions of American identity have historically influenced the most celebrated national architectural movements of the long nineteenth century, and how was this influence been manifested in the labor relations, ideological commitments and material dimensions of innovative architectural forms?

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