"The Whiteness of 19th Century American Architecture" presents a powerful lineup of scholars and practitioners exploring the intersection of race, architecture and history in the 19th century.

Mabel O. Wilson

Keynote Speaker

Mabel O. Wilson.

Professor Mabel O. Wilson teaches architectural design and history/theory courses at Columbia GSAPP. She is also appointed as a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Research in African American Studies and co-directs Global Africa Lab. Her design and scholarly research investigates space, politics and cultural memory in black America; race and modern architecture; new technologies and the social production of space; and visual culture in contemporary art, film and new media.

She is the author of Negro Building: Black Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums (University of California Press 2012), which was a runner-up for John Hope Franklin Prize for the best American Studies publication in 2012. She is currently developing the manuscript Building Race and Nation: How Slavery Influenced Antebellum American Civic Architecture and collaborating on a collection of essays on race and modern architecture.

Dianne Harris

Keynote Speaker

Dianne Harris.

Dianne Harris is a senior program officer at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation where she focuses on Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities.

Her scholarship, which has a broad temporal and geographic reach spanning from 18th-century Lombardy to the postwar United States, is united by a constant interest in the relationship between the built environment and the construction of racial and class identities. She is particularly well-known for her scholarly contributions to the study of "race and space." Her award-winning publications include the co-edited volumes Villas and Gardens in Early Modern Italy and France (2001), and Sites Unseen: Landscape and Vision(2007). She is editor of Second Suburb: Levittown, Pennsylvania(2010), and she is the author of three monographs: The Nature of Authority: Villa Culture, Landscape, and Representation in Eighteenth-Century Lombardy (2003); Maybeck’s Landscapes: Drawing in Nature(2005); and Little White Houses: How the Postwar Home Constructed Race in America (2013).

Joanna Merwood-Salisbury


Joanna Merwood-Salisbury.

Joanna Merwood-Salisbury an architectural historian whose research focuses on architecture and urbanism in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century United States, with a particular specialization in the Chicago School of architecture. Her book, Chicago 1890: The Skyscraper and the Modern City (2009), describes the development of the early Chicago skyscrapers between 1880 and the turn of the twentieth century, understanding them not only as important artifacts in the history of architecture, but also as sites for a contentious debate about the future of the industrial city. Related work explores the design of public spaces and buildings in modern cities and the socio-political contexts in which they are conceptualized and used. This is the subject of her forthcoming book, Design for the Crowd: Patriotism and Protest in Union Square (University of Chicago Press) which investigates the history of Union Square in New York City as both a geographical location with real formal characteristics and as the symbol of competing ideas about the operation of democracy in the United States. She is also interested in the historical inter-relationships between architecture and interior design.

Kathryn ‘Kate’ Holliday


Kathryn ‘Kate’ Holliday.

Kate Holliday is an architectural historian whose research and teaching focuses on the built environment in American cities. Her background is in architecture, art history, and environmental studies and she brings this interdisciplinary approach to the classroom and to her writing. Her most recent project is The Open-Ended City: David Dillon on Texas Architecture, a collection of essays by the late architecture critic that delves into issues of downtown redevelopment, urban sprawl, planning, and historic preservation in Texas cities in the age of postmodernism; it will be releasted in May 2019 by the University of Texas Press. Her two prior books are Leopold Eidlitz: Architecture and Idealism in the Gilded Age (W. W. Norton, 2008) and Ralph Walker: Architect of the Century (Rizzoli, 2012), monographs that explore the theory and practice of two influential but little-known New York architects. She has lectured widely on her work in public venues like the 92nd Street Y and the Skyscraper Museum in New York, as well as at universities and conferences from Havana to Zurich.

Charles Davis

Presenter & Symposium Organizer

Charles Davis.

Charles L. Davis II is an assistant professor of architectural history and criticism at the University at Buffalo. His academic research examines the integrations of race and style theory in modern architectural debates from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. He is co-editor of the cultural reader Diversity and Design: Understanding Hidden Consequences (Routledge, 2015) and the forthcoming Race and Modern Architecture (University of Pittsburgh), which collects 18 case studies on the racial discourses of modern architecture from the Enlightenment to the present. His current book manuscript, Building Character: The Racial Politics of Modern Architectural Style is forthcoming in the Culture, Politics and the Built Environment series of the University of Pittsburgh Press. This intellectual history traces the historical integrations of race and style theory in paradigms of “architectural organicism,” or movements that modeled design on the generative principles of nature. His research has been supported by grants from the Canadian Center for Architecture, the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

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.