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Celebrated Italian architect Italo Calvino considered Savannah America’s most beautiful city

August 6, 2015

I have recently learned about the Italian writer Italo Calvino’s travels in the United States in 1959-60 in which he kept a journal, translated and published in the book Hermit in Paris: Autobiographical Writings.  Calvino (1923-1985) is most famous for his book Invisible Cities (1972).  In his journal entry of March 8, 1960, he had this to say about Savannah:

“Consequently, my impressions of the South would be very dark if I had not discovered


I stopped at Savannah, Georgia, to sleep and have a look at it, attracted only by its beautiful name and by some historical, literary or musical memory, but no one said I should go there, no one in any State of the United States.  AND IT IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CITY IN THE UNITED STATES.  Absolutely, there is nothing to compare with it.  I don’t know yet what Charleston, South Carolina, is like, where I will be going tomorrow and which is more famous.  This is a town where nobody ever comes (despite having a top-class tourist infrastructure and knowing how to present its attractions — relating to both history and town planning — with a sophistication unknown elsewhere; but this is perhaps the secret of its charm, that internal American tourism, which is always so phoney, has not touched it).  It is a town which has remained practically unchanged, just as it was in the prosperous days of the South at the start of the nineteenth century, in the heyday of cotton; and it is one of the only American cities to have been built with unique urban planning, of extreme rational regularity and variety and harmony: at every second intersection there is a small tree-lined square, all identical, but always different, because the pleasantness of the buildings which range from the colonial period to that of the Civil War.  I stayed there spending the whole day going round from street to street, enjoying the forgotten pleasure of feeling a city, a city in which the expression of a civilization, and it is only in this way by seeing Savannah that you can understand what type of civilization the South was. …”

Calvino is one of numerous visitors during the city’s history that have written glowingly about Savannah and admired its urban plan.  To read what others’ have said, visit our collection of praise for Savannah (or click the link above).

Architectural History alumna Katherine Williams wins SCAD’s top thesis award

May 28, 2015

Katherine WilliamsArchitectural History alumna Katherine Williams (M.A. 2014) received the Thesis Document Award for the top thesis at SCAD submitted in 2014.  Her thesis, “The Social Implications of Architectural Improvement: How Approaches to Poverty Influence the Success of Urban Revitalization in Over-the-Rhine,” considers the architectural changes and their social implications in urban renewal efforts in the Over-the-Rhine neighbourhood of Cincinnati in the twenty-first century, and suggests that limited community input and a lack of consideration for mixed incomes precluded the success of those efforts.

Her thesis is the second in the history of the department to receive this college-wide honour.  Click here to view her thesis.

Behind the Podium: A Graduate Student’s Experience in Presenting a Conference Paper

February 23, 2015

One of the perks of being an Architectural History graduate student at the Savannah College of Art and Design is having opportunities to step out of the classroom and get some real world professional experience. Recently, I had the privilege of presenting a paper at the Ninth Savannah Symposium: The Architecture of Trade.

Glen Umberger (far left) hosts the Graduate Student Roundtable at the 9th Savannah Symposium

Glen Umberger (far left) hosts the Graduate Student Roundtable at the 9th Savannah Symposium

Presenting a paper at an academic conference may sound intimidating and it can be. But it can be very rewarding, too. For me, it was a chance to push myself a bit farther outside my comfort zone.

The process is fairly simple. Most conferences require you to first submit a 300 word abstract on your paper. I chose to frame my paper around a few ideas that I wanted to use for my master’s thesis so writing a short abstract was fairly straightforward. Along with the challenge of writing only 300 words (my first draft was over 750) I was given the following advice: keep it simple, make sure it is interesting and don’t forget to include a clever title.

Once my paper was accepted, the real work began. At the symposium, you only have twenty minutes and you only get one chance to make a good first impression. So, my paper went through numerous drafts (I lost count how many) and I spent a lot of time selecting my PowerPoint slides (more advice here: make sure they are “visually stunning.”)

Of course, you are writing a paper that will be read out loud to an audience, which is a bit different than writing a paper for a professor who will be reading it in the comfort of his office. So, I had to think about my unique speech patterns, making sure to limit architectural jargon and avoid getting tongue-tied over superfluous words.

But, the most important step in the process was rehearsal. I rehearsed my paper in front of a mirror to see how my facial expressions affected what I was saying. I rehearsed with friends, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude and I rehearsed in front of some of our department faculty, whose critique was enormously valuable to get my paper into its final form: fourteen-pages, 3208 words, and almost exactly 20 minutes complete with a polished, professional PowerPoint presentation.

By the time of my session at the symposium, I was well prepared. The night before, I read my paper one last time before going to sleep and then didn’t look at it again until I was standing at the podium, in front of professional colleagues and friends who wanted me to succeed.

I should mention that no matter how much preparation you do, always expect the unexpected, or just remember the Boy Scout’s motto, “be prepared!” Try to think of everything that could possibly go wrong and try to anticipate a solution ahead of time.

At the end of the day, the success of my paper gave me good feedback for my thesis and confidence I can take to the next conference.

(Editor’s Note: Glen Umberger is currently an M.F.A. student in the Architectural History program at SCAD.)

9th Savannah Symposium Recap

February 21, 2015

72360-program-cover_smThe 9th Savannah Symposium: The Architecture of Trade, February 5-7, 2015, successfully fulfilled the high expectations we have for this series.  In addition to the two esteemed keynote speakers — Nasser Rabbat, Director of the Aga Khan Program in Islamic Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Joyce Appleby, Professor Emerita of History at the University of California, Los Angeles — 45 speakers participated, representing eight countries (Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Germany, Israel, South Africa, United Kingdom and United States).  The symposium offers junior scholars a chance to hone their skills and share insights from the cutting edge of scholarship.  Among the presenters were 15 graduate students (10 pursuing their Ph.D. and 5 their Master’s degree).  One of the goals of the series is to bring together academics and practitioners from different disciplines and it was thrilling to welcome diverse historians (architectural historians, art historians, social historians, economic historians) and architects, preservationists and planners.  We were especially thrilled to see 67 SCAD students register as attendees, representing several different academic majors.

New Career Survey Data posted

February 16, 2015

Our Survey of Architectural History Career Opportunities that exist outside academia has been updated, presenting data from January 2014 through December 2014.  See the “Careers” tab above.  The data was based on 129 full-time position announcements, which is up from 119 announcements posted for the previous survey period (7/13-6/14), continuing a steady upward trend since 2011.  The Southeast continues to offer more positions than any other region in the country, which has been the case for over a decade.

9th Savannah Symposium on the SCAD Blog

February 3, 2015

Read about the forthcoming 9th Savannah Symposium: The Architecture of Trade being presented by our architectural history department — at “Thread”: The official SCAD Blog.

Career Survey data updated.

January 11, 2015

Our Survey of Architectural History Career Opportunities that exist outside academia has been updated, presenting data from July 2013 through June 2014.  Of note, more opportunities opened within the Southeast (32.7%) than any other region in the country, which has been the case for over a decade.  Among the five majors categories of employment, Preservation Planning and Administration (46.2%) and Historical Research and Evaluation  (32.8%) — two areas more directly related to the focus of our program — represented over three-quarters of the 119 full-time job listings.


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