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Conference papers reflect changes in architectural history scholarship

October 30, 2011

The annual meeting of the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians this past week in Charleston, SC, showcased the diversity of topics and approaches embraced by architectural historians.  Given that the conference mainly attracts scholars active within the southeast region of the United States (it is the only regional chapter that mounts an annual conference), some of the topics have a distinctly regional flavour: slavery, southern architects or southern buildings, and several papers focusing on the host city Charleston.   (One regrets that there were no papers addressing non-western topics.)  However, the new frontiers of the discipline were amply on display, with papers on such topics as:

– the impact of the fictional home “Tara” from the  film “Gone with the Wind” on actual architecture

– the relationship between architecture and anatomical dissection in the architecture of Michelangelo

– the architecture of airborne disease prevention

– the use of FormStone (a faux stone made out of concrete) as a barometer of taste

– the ceramic tile decoration in the Lisbon metro system and how it shapes the public perception of a city’s history

These papers, among several others, reflect not only the growing range of topics and methodologies, but also the openness of architectural historians to embrace the approaches of related disciplines, like cultural anthropology, biology and economics.

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