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Introduction, Part 2

This summer marks the 80th anniversary of JSAH. As former editor Keith Eggener noted last summer when commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Society (JSAH 79:2), the Journal has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a few mimeographed pages sent to a handful of readers. Today JSAH and JSAH Online, published quarterly by the University of California Press, stand among the most important and widely cited journals of the history of the built environment—available not only in libraries but also on digital screens around the world. How should we commemorate these years of change, development, and growth? This was the question we confronted as the two most recent editors of JSAH.

We decided that to celebrate JSAH’s legacy we would invite scholars to review the Journal’s full catalog, going back to its debut in 1941 ( to select those articles that they deemed to be of special value in their various areas of expertise. These scholars would then compose short introductions to their selections, explaining why they considered these essays significant, how they opened up new avenues for investigation, or how they shifted the broader discourse in new directions. The goal would be for these introductions to serve as prompts to encourage readers to visit or revisit our back pages, and to consider their relevance for today. At the same time, this project would also serve as a virtual introduction to new readers by inviting them to explore the Journal’s prodigious scholarly output.

This second virtual anniversary issue contains eight full-length essays—all previously published in the Journal—each accompanied by a new introduction. We would like to thank the members of the JSAH Editorial Advisory Committee, who helped to select subject areas (a couple of which went unfulfilled) and identify potential contributors, and to our colleague Nancy Levinson, Editor and Executive Director of Places Journal, whose ongoing Future Archive project inspired the format of these anniversary issues (

It has been exciting to read the materials prepared by our contributors, and to consider the articles they have chosen in light of their introductory essays. Several of our contributors noted that the selection of just one work was exceedingly difficult and many more articles deserved to be called out. We agree wholeheartedly: such an observation underscores the remarkable richness and depth of our catalog. We hope that the selections included here will whet readers’ appetites to consult our unique repository, a treasure trove composed over 80 years by some of the most innovative and engaged thinkers in our discipline, and we urge you to reflect on how these writings might still inform views of the diverse built environments that we study and inhabit today.

Editor, JSAH and JSAH Online
College of the Holy Cross

University of Oregon

Table of Contents

Europe, Mediterranean, pre-500

Introduction to Samantha Martin-McAuliffe, and John Papadopoulos, “Framing Victory: Salamis, the Athenian Acropolis, and the Agora,” JSAH 71:3 (September 2012): 332-361.

Asia, pre-1000

Introduction to Adam Hardy, “Tradition and Transformation: Continuity and Ingenuity in the Temples of Karnataka,” JSAH 60:2 (June 2001): 180-99.

Indigenous America, North/South, pre-1900

Introduction to Jean-Pierre Protzen, “Inca Quarrying and Stonecutting,” JSAH 44:2 (May 1985), 161-182. 

Africa, Middle East, Turkey, pre-1500

Introduction to Oleg Grabar, “The Islamic Dome, Some Considerations,” JSAH 22:4 (December 1963): 191-98. 

Africa, Middle East, Turkey, pre-1500

Introduction to Christina Maranci, “The Architect Trdat: Building Practices and Cross-Cultural Exchange in Byzantium and Armenia,” JSAH 62:3 (September 2003): 294-305. 

Africa, Middle East, Turkey, 1500-1900

Introduction to George Kubler, “The Machine for Living in 18th-Century West Africa,” JSAH 4:2 (April 1944): 30-33.

North America, 20th-21st c

Introduction to Meredith L. Clausen, “Northgate Regional Shopping Center: Paradigm from the Provinces,” JSAH 43:2 (May 1984): 144-61. 

Global architecture

Introduction to Shima Mohajeri, “Louis Kahn’s Silent Space of Critique in Tehran, 1973-74,” JSAH 74:4 (December 2015): 485-504.


New Essay Introductions

Introduction to Samantha Martin-McAuliffe, and John Papadopoulos, “Framing Victory: Salamis, the Athenian Acropolis, and the Agora,” JSAH 71:3 (September 2012): 332-361.
When scholars of Hellenic studies celebrated the 2,500th anniversary of the Battle of Salamis as the famous routing of the Persian armada by the relatively small Athenian navy that changed the course of history, another cataclysmic contemporary event remained largely overlooked in spite of its considerable impact on the history of architecture: namely, the burning and pillaging of the Acropolis of Athens that left the sanctuary of the goddess Athena in ruins. The desolate state of this citadel that traced its history back to the legendary kings of Athens provided the demos (people) of Athens with a tabula rasa upon which to commemorate their momentous victory. The Athenians promptly constructed new walls using spolia from the burnt buildings, and eventually built three new all-marble temples to Athena lavishly adorned with sculpture, along with the much-admired monumental gateway known as the Propylaea.  
In this ground-breaking article, Martin-McAuliffe and Papadopoulos re-examine these structures with reference to the earlier architectural history of the Acropolis, their specific orientations and sightlines, and their clear intent to commemorate Athens’ extraordinary victories at Marathon and Salamis. The authors argue that the ‘classic’ vantage point promulgated by painters and photographers as early as the 1840s gave a misleading impression by isolating the Parthenon from its contemporary buildings, and further distorted our understanding of the ancient viewer’s experience by privileging the western or rear end of the temple. Rejecting the old but still prevalent interpretation of the Propylaea as unfinished, Martin-McAuliffe and Papadopoulos contend that it was intentionally curtailed to honor the venerable Cyclopean wall that is still preserved to the south. This gateway is more than a monumental entrance, but also significantly frames the island of Salamis in the far distance for visitors as they leave the Acropolis. Similarly, the colossal bronze Athena by Phidias, the newest dedication after the battle, was oriented to gaze to the west out to sea. While it is well known that the builders deliberately positioned the spolia from the ruined temples (column drums and entablature) in the rebuilt north wall of the Acropolis in two separate sections, making them visible from the Agora below, the authors also point out how these two groupings framed the grand north porch of the Erechtheion.
The authors then turn their attention to the Agora, the civic center of Athens, through which the great procession of the Panathenaic festival solemnly moved on its way up to the temple of Athena Polias. In an earlier article Papadopoulos convincingly argued that this was the second Agora, begun following the Persian Wars, and Martin-McAuliffe here demonstrates that many of its archetypal buildings, known as stoas, offered sightlines to important elements on the Acropolis. A famous painting in the Stoa Poikile (currently under excavation by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens) and the south frieze of the Nike Temple on the Acropolis both commemorated the victory at Marathon, and enemy shields retrieved from various battlefields decorated both structures. 
This article and the developing use of isovists, or the method of measuring particular volumes of space visible from a given location, provided scholars a more accurate understanding of the experience of ancient visitors to the Acropolis, enabling them to transcend the “classic” view created by nineteenth- and twentieth-century century artists that shaped the archaeological imagination for so long. The authors are to be congratulated for offering a fresh perspective on old ruins.
American School of Classical Studies at Athens


Introduction to Adam Hardy, “Tradition and Transformation: Continuity and Ingenuity in the Temples of Karnataka,” JSAH 60:2 (June 2001): 180-99.

For three decades, architect and architectural historian Adam Hardy has researched the structural logic of early medieval Indian temples with extraordinary commitment. During these long years, his writings reveal some methodological shifts, for example, moving from a near-indifference towards architectural treatises (vāstuśāstras) to a close study of a few of these texts, with special emphasis on their relationship to the process of architectural creation. In the essay under consideration here, Hardy unequivocally asserts the limitations of architectural treatises in aiding an understanding of actual designing and building practices, subscribing instead to the view that these practices must be deduced from the monuments directly. 

With his earlier magnum opus published in 1995, Indian Temple Architecture: Form and Transformation, Hardy unveiled a fresh approach to the study of temple architecture that drew upon the skills he developed during his professional architectural training as well as the conceptual and academic rigor that he practices as an architectural historian.1 His incisive understanding of temple architecture led him to see patterns of evolution in the further development of the temple’s form across centuries, specifically in the relationships of its parts to the whole, the combinations and permutations of the basic elements of the temple’s architectural language and mode, and the dynamism of its ever-evolving forms.  

In this study Hardy investigates temples belonging to the Karṇāṭa-Drāviḍa architectural vocabulary that prevailed in large parts of the Western Deccan from the 7th to the 13th centuries CE, built successively during the rule of the Western Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Later Chalukyas, and Hoysalas. These temples reveal an eclectic combination of Nāgara and Drāviḍa temple architectural traditions and incorporate a range of possibilities in the evolution, progression, and innovation of elements. Hardy explores the principal determinants of architectural vocabulary—the aediculae and superstructure—their typologies and elaborations, juxtaposition, embeddedness, and the staggered, fractional, and rhythmic proliferations by which the architectural elements organize themselves both individually as well as in relation to each other. 

In the process, Hardy proposes and also visually exemplifies a novel ‘way of seeing’ temple architecture.2 Stella Kramrisch had earlier discussed the explanatory basis of temple architecture as an embodiment of Indic metaphysical ideas located in philosophy, religion, and mythology.3 Scholars such as M.A. Dhaky and M.W. Meister also examined in minute detail the terminological rationale, the rhythmic elaborations of plan and elevation, and the ways by which temple ground plans determine the shape of their elevations and superstructures.4 Hardy takes these fundamental inquiries in Indian temple architecture further by asking and answering some crucial questions with a practice-based approach, for example, how did the architects of these temples innovate? As the title of Hardy’s article clearly indicates, he locates the transformation of the temples’ forms within the larger matrix of a long and continuous tradition of temple building. His analysis demonstrates that while the ingenuity of the architects is not in question, their creativity and innovations were not individualistic or arbitrary. Rather, their interventions were born out of properties inherent to the architectural language of the temple and the thought-systems of the culture that brought about their embodiment. Hardy thus sees a larger design in the way that these makers maneuvered the creative process. This creative process of development of an artistic vocabulary that is linked to the nature of its individual compositions and elements, while not predictable, is inherent to and draws from the language of the art itself. Hardy’s central and lasting contribution to the realm of Indian temple architecture in this important essay is his perceptive, methodical, and convincing unraveling of a creative process within a specific cultural context, one that was also shared across a spectrum of other early medieval Indian artistic expressions such as music, dance, sculpture, and painting. This is an essay rich in vision and method, and it will continue to inspire future generations of architectural historians for years to come. 

University of Delhi

1Adam Hardy, Indian Temple Architecture: Form and Transformation, the Karṇāṭa-Drāviḍa tradition, 7th to 13th centuries (New Delhi: Abhinav, 1995).
2For historiographical analysis, see Parul Pandya Dhar, “Historiography of Indian Temple Architecture (Post-Independence Writings): Some Methodological Concerns,” in Archaeology in India: Individuals, Ideas, Institutions, ed. G. Sengupta and K. Gangopadhyay (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 2009), 333-350.
3Stella Kramrisch, “The Temple as Puruṣa,” in Studies in Indian Temple Architecture, ed. P. Chandra (New Delhi: AIIS, 1975), 40-45.
4 See, for example, the volumes of the Encyclopaedia of Indian Temple Architecture, eds. M.A. Dhaky and M.W. Meister (Varanasi and New Delhi: American Institute of Indian Studies, 1983- ).


Introduction to Jean-Pierre Protzen, “Inca Quarrying and Stonecutting,” JSAH 44:2 (June 1985), 161-182. 
Although Indigenous architecture in the Americas spans the entirety of the Western Hemisphere and encompasses tens of thousands of years and distinct peoples, serious research on the diverse architecture of the Indigenous Americas started late, and even today the few scholars who work in this vast area still confront troubling paradigms that tend to simplify, diminish, or even deny the tremendous scope of Indigenous achievements. Despite these challenges, a small collection of scholarship has taken form over the years that not only addresses the richness of the Indigenous built environment but that also raises critical issues for the larger field of architectural history. In 1985 JSAH published one of the most important of these studies, Jean Pierre Protzen’s now classic text on Inca architecture.

Inca architecture has fascinated visitors for centuries: the stunning settings, elegant design, and masterful stone masonry of these structures have made places like Machu Picchu among the most visited architectural centers in the world. Unfortunately, this popular interest has also encouraged the spread of fantastical tales about their construction (the use of mysterious liquids, lasers that melt stone, etc.) as well as about their builders (aliens, giants, wandering Europeans etc.). Rooted in the colonial period, such fables have grown unchecked given the vacuum of architectural scholarship, and flourished in the context of a general (mis)perception that not enough evidence survives to challenge even the most outlandish of these tall tales. Seeking to end the “wild speculation” as to how the Inca made their magnificent lithic architecture, Protzen, a Swiss architect and professor of architecture at UC Berkeley, decided to see what the evidence he could collect might tell us about Inca architecture. The findings that he published in the JSAH radically changed how we understand architecture, construction, and Indigenous innovation in the Andes.

Protzen set out to study how the Inca quarried, cut, dressed, placed and fit their massive stones, and in the process, to clarify what evidence exists (he identified a diversity of physical, textual, and linguistic sources). In the process he debunked longstanding fantastical tales. As revealed in the article, Protzen looked closely, not only carefully examining and mapping quarries, roads, ramps, and buildings, but also studying minute markings on individual blocks, determining stone types, locating original Inca tools, and discovering the chips and other detritus from the working process. In addition to conducting this close material analysis, Protzen mined sixteenth- to nineteenth-century texts containing first- and second-hand accounts that described how the Inca worked their stones. He also undertook a series of experiments to test his ideas, and consulted Indigenous masons working on site today. Through this investigation he gathered an abundance of evidence that revealed exactly how the Inca cut and placed their stones, with what tools, and in what sequence. He also distinguished between common and alternative technologies developed by the Inca. Most importantly, his work highlighted the extraordinary innovation, creativity, skill, and organization of the Inca builders, as the source of such striking and awe-inspiring architecture.  

Protzen’s article is not only an important study for the architecture of the Inca, the Andes, and the Indigenous Americas, but it also raises key issues for the larger discipline of architectural history. Much of what Protzen conveyed in his article addresses critical concerns we need to consider today regarding our own approach to the discipline of architectural history. First, Protzen showed the deeply entangled relationship between design and construction, and pointed out that construction does not merely serve design, but in fact construction can drive design itself. Second, Protzen demonstrated that not only design but also construction itself represented a source of innovation and creativity. Third, he revealed the great value in conducting fieldwork and experiments. Although Protzen’s work has been long revered in the Andes, it does not always get the recognition it deserves from those who work from the safety of their armchairs and think that theory has all the answers. As he demonstrated, it is crucial not only to examine the physical remains with great care, but also to experience the process of making itself—whether in the form of training, or working, or doing experiments—in order to learn what it means to build. Finally, this study underscores the point that the work of architectural historians matters. Protzen’s article continues to serve as a powerful reminder of the ingenuity, creativity and mastery in Indigenous architecture, as a vast field that still remains largely overlooked. 

University of California, Los Angeles


Introduction to Oleg Grabar, “The Islamic Dome, Some Considerations,” JSAH 22:4 (December 1963): 191-98. 

Invited to select an article of lasting importance on Africa, the Middle East, or Turkey in the period ending in 1500, I looked forward to reading the kind of solid scholarly analysis for which JSAH is known. But I learned that the Islamic world and Africa have not figured prominently in the journal’s 80-year history. The first essay on an Islamic topic to appear was “A Critique of the Taj Mahal” (1958), a refutation of Aldous Huxley’s disdain for the Taj—argued entirely on the basis of style and taste—by Clay Lancaster, a historian of North American architecture. At five pages, it was blessedly brief. Africa did not appear until Labelle Prussin’s “An Introduction to Indigenous African Architecture” of 1974. Only after 2000, when architectural history turned its gaze toward issues of colonialism and modernism, did contributors to the JSAH begin to take a regular interest in Africa and the Middle East. In this context, Oleg Grabar’s early contribution in the field of Islamic architecture, “The Islamic Dome, Some Considerations” (1963), written when he was a young scholar, stands out for ideas that were to become critically important for the Islamic field and for architectural history more generally. 

The essay modeled two innovative ways of thinking about Islamic architecture. As Grabar traced the syncretic appropriation of buildings, ornament, and elements that was the hallmark of early Islamic architecture, he showed that when classical and Near Eastern forms were inherited by Islam from the seventh century onward, the symbolic meanings originally associated with those forms did not necessarily transfer to the new contexts. This prompted a significant question: “why a new culture built on the foundation of many older ones appropriated for itself the old forms and gave them new or modified meanings.” Grabar examined the symbolism of early Islamic domes, beginning with the vaulting of the bay before the mihrab, pointing out that the dome’s function in that new location was not liturgical but ceremonial, introducing the political power of the prince from the domed throne room of the palace into the most highly charged place in the mosque. In this and other key elements of Islamic architecture, the author showed that meaning usually flowed from the secular to the religious context, and that form and meaning are not inextricably bound to each other. They travel in different ways, one driven by the need for architectural solutions to spatial problems, the other driven by the desire to communicate through symbolism. This emphasis on communication as an act occurring between architect and community revealed Grabar’s lifelong interest in the social context of architecture. 

Grabar’s second move—and the one that has given lasting shape to the ways Islamic art and architecture are studied today—was his importing of the model of iconography, one of the foundation stones of Western art history, into the non-representational field of architectural history, and specifically Islamic architectural history. In the essay, Grabar grappled with the question of the relationship of form and meaning, employing the methodology of art history, with its emphasis on symbolism, rather than the more classificatory approach of archaeology, the field to which Islamic art and architecture—famously lacking the image that provides the grist for art historical iconography—had historically been assigned. This method would reach fruition in his extraordinary and complex study of the symbolic meaning of the Dome of the Rock in The Formation of Islamic Art (1973; rev. ed. 1987), and it would reappear in in his 1990 JSAH essay “From Dome of Heaven to Pleasure Dome.” His insights in these studies were nothing short of brilliant. 

University of Illinois


Introduction to Christina Maranci, “The Architect Trdat: Building Practices and Cross-Cultural Exchange in Byzantium and Armenia,” JSAH 62:3 (September 2003): 294-305. 

Bold argument, exemplary erudition, novel connections, and elegant writing: Christina Maranci’s 2003 article possesses the qualities one expects of essays that have run JSAH’s gauntlet of rigorous peer review. Beyond this, however, the article exemplifies a pioneering foray into the global turn in architectural history, one rarely equaled in its depth of knowledge, cross cultural connections, and historiographic significance. Maranci reconstructs the bicultural career of the medieval Armenian architect Trdat, credited with the repair of the dome of the Hagia Sophia, and the creator of the Cathedral of Ani, the capital of the Armenian Kingdom, in the late 10th and early 11th centuries. Her account reaches into some of the most marginalized periods and places of architectural history—Byzantine and Armenian, Georgian and Islamic, and their far-flung connections. Her account has implications across time periods as well, since the monuments she studies continued to play critical social roles through their function, their image, and in modern times, through reuse and preservation in the context of international cultural heritage. As in her other publications, Maranci decenters architectural historiography and demonstrates the centrality of this historical moment to the development of global architecture.

The article’s analysis of the subtleties of architectural form is based on sustained in-person study of structures. Many of these structures are remote, largely inaccessible, or endangered. The best known, Hagia Sophia, dominated the news in July 2020 when the Turkish state unilaterally changed the status of this UNESCO World Heritage Site from museum to mosque. The church of Mren, located in a military area and surrounded by signs warning about minefields, figured on the World Monuments Fund watchlist. Ani Cathedral and the city of Ani, located on the border between Armenia and Turkey—a border closed since 1993—spent much of the twentieth century experiencing vandalism, neglect, and destructive “restorations.”1 As I read Maranci’s essay today, what resonates most poignantly is the enormous, invisible, and often unacknowledged labor of the scholar—fieldwork, archival research, language study, library work. This invisible labor is unevenly distributed not only in the various fields and subfields of architectural history—certainly it is more feasible to do fieldwork in some places than others. Some archives are more accessible than others. Some languages are difficult to study, but fewer are in danger of extinction like Western Armenian. Some sites are difficult to access, but fewer force scholars to negotiate landmines and military checkpoints. The labor is also unevenly distributed for certain kinds of scholars more than others because of gender, race, and class. But things are also fraught when a scholar is affiliated with a persecuted community and she studies the last glorious traces of that community’s medieval past among state institutions that rarely name the group or acknowledge its history. In an absorbing, recent essay, Maranci reflects upon what it takes to research Armenian church architecture in Turkey, a state that proactively denies the Armenian genocide and persecutes its remaining Armenian community, and what that means to an architectural historian who is also a grandchild of genocide survivors.2 In that essay, she reflects on “ghosts inside and outside the buildings at Ani.” Yet in her JSAH essay, all you see is a polished tour de force of scholarship. The essay, along with Maranci’s award-winning book Vigilant Powers (2015), continues to exert a quiet but commanding influence on the work of scholars of medieval Turkey, Armenia, Iran, Byzantium, and the broader region, and stands as a model for thinking about cross-cultural exchange in all its complexity, with its implications for cultural heritage and preservation today.

University of California Davis

1Heghnar Watenpaugh, “Preserving the Medieval City of Ani: Cultural Heritage Between Contest and Reconciliation,” JSAH 73:4 (Dec. 2014): 528-55.
2Christina Maranci, “In the Traces: Reflections on Fieldwork in the Region of Ani,” Refract 3:1 (2020), 39.


Introduction to George Kubler, “The Machine for Living in 18th-Century West Africa,” JSAH 4:2 (1944): 30-33.

George Kubler’s 1944 article, “The Machine for Living in 18th-Century West Africa,” presented a technologically audacious idea for a prefabricated treehouse proposed by an eighteenth-century Swedish inventor, Andrew Johansen, intended as a base for Westerners venturing into tropical Africa as settlers. Johansen’s original design, modeled on stilt-houses still common in West African lagoon areas, was then further enhanced with the addition of a hydraulic air-conditioning system by Carl Bernhard Wadström (also its inventor), a Swedish  abolitionist, and Swedenborgian, then active in Britain. Although Wadström is best known today for his iconic images of the slave trade, including “Description of a Slave Ship,” as well as “A View Taken Near Bain on the Coast of Guinea in Affrica,” he also published an image of this treehouse in his book, An Essay on Colonization Particularly Applied to the Western Coast of Africa (London, 1794-95). Although not necessarily expressing a consistently Swedenborgian perspective as some scholars now argue, in truth, Wadström’s varied outputs all anticipate and justify European colonialism enacted, interestingly, in the name of free and unfree Blacks of Britain and North America.1 In other words, Johansen and Wadström came to instrumentalize people of African descent as colonialism’s unwitting vanguard, both supporting and justifying the recently formed or soon to be established British colony of Sierra Leone as well as the US colony of Liberia.

Kubler wrote in 1944 from New York, amidst the distant but ghostly and sinister aura of Nazi Germany and World War II (even if it was clear the Allies would prevail), and at the time his article could hardly have been imagined as important for the study of architecture in Africa, the Middle East, or Central Asia. However, it is clear now that it did have a strange influence, one that we should also at this juncture be better able to critique. Reading Kubler alongside what the JSAH has since published about the histories of modern architecture in this broad and troubled region (all in the Global South), suggests that he introduced a stance that has informed both the outlook of scholars and their readers regarding the modern arenas of this broad region from 1990 onwards, both in the JSAH and beyond.   

Wadström’s essay plots a jaw-droppingly triangular, dynamic relation between the forces of modernity-technology-colonization. Kubler’s account of Wadström’s treehouse construes it as a “prefiguration” of the modernisms to come—“prefabrication, provisional housing, the Dymaxion house, and air conditioning"2—thus assessing it as a technologically sophisticated and civilizing force for non-modern culture that was only indirectly informed by colonialism. Kubler’s reading emphasizes Wadström’s role as a pioneering architectural visionary who connected modernity and technology, pre-Viollet le Duc, but at the same time mutes Wadström’s no less crucial linkages of technology to colonization, and of colonization to modernity. Perhaps we should enact a Wadström theory of the modern so as not to repeat Kubler’s evasion? Kubler reveals, already, an awareness of a framework for future Global South modernist architectural histories: while surely understanding Wadström’s proposals as far from benign in the relations they establish between the supposedly modern stranger and non-modern native, he “liberates” modernity from its entanglement in the coloniality (without which, however, modernity could not arise). 

Kubler, who worked on the architecture of twice-traumatized Spanish colonial New Mexico, surely understood Wadström not only as eager to celebrate technology and the resilience of the individual European in adapting to the African context, but driven by colonial desire and the imagining of its profitability. Kubler after all also wrote that “[…] Wadström’s and Johansen’s designs were contrived for the comfort of white settlers in generalized tropical environments […]” (italics added). The comfort of white settlers simultaneously entailed pursuing the “civilization” of the colonized indigenes exactly as Wadström’s allegiance to a New Jerusalem implied. The terrible non-questioning of the coloniality of the modern itself in effect accepts the civilizing mission.
Subsequent generations of scholars and readers willing to take on the worlds where once “architectural historians fear[ed] to tread”3 will nevertheless recognize that Kubler’s brief, rarely-referenced, three-page article presaged what has followed in startling ways. The small number of Global South-facing articles published in JSAH and elsewhere since 1944 have been concerned with architecture and urban design histories that, in Africa at least, elaborated the formal and technological rationalities of “tropical architecture,” sans however a critique of the coloniality of even its postcolonial projects—thus in many ways merely replacing the Sierra Leoneans and Liberians of Wadström’s world with the nationalist leaders of postcolonial states. The foreign status of inventor-architects in this literature remains barely noticed. Absent, too, is attention to the full range of modern architectures in these regions—in West Africa for instance the modernisms championed in the 1920s and 1930s, such as the mansions commissioned by a new generation of Indigenous merchants deploying technics and aesthetics connected to European modernisms only as deformations, and the “Syrian” (Lebanese), Indian, and Greek immigrant-owned cinemas, supermarkets, and car showrooms. 

In the eighteenth century, the feasibility of colonization remained, of course, an unresolved question. Kubler’s article opens a specific critical perspective on what counted at the time as an architecture of futurity. Given the imminent end of the war clearing space for the postwar, could not other kinds of inquiry have been sustained? Or did not doing so already signal a future possibly imagined as once again awaiting only Europeans and Americans? 

University of Delaware

1 Jonas Ahlskog, “The Political Economy of Colonisation: Carl Bernhard Wadström’s Case for Abolition and Civilisation,” Sjuttonhundratal: Nordic Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 7 (2010): 146-167.
2 George Kubler, “The Machine for Living in 18th-Century West Africa,” Journal of the American Society of Architectural Historians 4, 2 (1944): 30.
3 See John Maass, “Where Architectural Historians Fear to Tread,” JSAH 28, 1 (1969): 3-8.


Introduction to Meredith L. Clausen, “Northgate Regional Shopping Center: Paradigm from the Provinces,” JSAH 43:2 (May 1984): 144-61. 

Contrary to general opinion, shopping centers and malls do not design themselves, nor are they merely epiphenomenal “products” of mid-20th century American capitalism. What remains thrilling in Meredith Clausen’s essay is her attentive historical account of a seemingly non-descript, yet undeniably paradigm-setting, American shopping center as a proposition of architectural and urban design. Published in 1984, when key texts on postmodernism and consumer culture were circulating at the edges of architectural history and theory (for example, those by Andreas Huyssen and Frederic Jameson), Clausen's article was a step towards disciplinary legitimacy for retailing. Until that point, professional journals covered various aspects of the shopping industry, but academic architectural history treated suburban stores—culturally lowbrow and tacitly female—as generally unworthy of consideration.

Clausen's 1975 dissertation on the French architect Frantz Jourdain and the Samaritaine department store (1905-10) detailed the conflicted relations between architecture and the consumption economy. That her subsequent study of John Graham Jr.'s Northgate Shopping Center in the emerging suburbs of post-World War II Seattle utilized the same intellectual apparatus was a discursive leap in two ways. First, while both commissions represented a challenge to the social hierarchies of the field, the central Parisian site and Jourdain’s fluency in Art Nouveau design theory rooted his department store “within” architecture, while Yale-educated Graham landed a seat on the board of the Northgate Company, putting him in the unusual position as design lead for the shopping center of which he was also part owner. Second, alongside Graham’s precedent studies of urban architectural ensembles, such as New York’s Rockefeller Center and Chicago’s Miracle Mile, Clausen’s history of Northgate reached beyond typical architectural research by looking into municipal and property records, real estate publications, highway plans and traffic management reports, commercial leasing and rental protocols, income trends, the evolution of distribution mechanisms and national advertising, and the postwar single-family home suburban boom. Clausen created a broad picture of mid-century American consumption, expanding the field, so to speak, in which to consider Northgate's place in American architecture.

Summarizing the literature of the time, Clausen describes Northgate as more than a building solution: she sees it, rather, as the site planning of open spaces and built volumes, as a regional-scale real estate and financial operation, as a regional-scale transportation and parking hub. And Clausen is frank about the primacy of economics and Graham’s trimmed architectural goals at Northgate: it is “pragmatic,” even “mean”; its pedestrian malls lack the “aesthetic niceties” that would be necessary as retail competition emerged. Architecturally, Northgate ultimately remained a merchandising problem, a means to generate transactions between buyers and sellers. Graham acted—in this case—as a businessman informed by design and not, as the higher profile commercial architect Victor Gruen described himself, as an urbanist informed by commerce.1

Clausen’s synoptic essay on Northgate opened key avenues in research, since expanded in the work of Richard Longstreth, among others. The shopping center, we understand, emerged from manifold physical experiments with parking, branch stores, department stores, drive-ins, and from the less-visible complex relations among architects, financiers, builders, and store owners, in addition to experts in retail, land use, law, and engineering. 

Lizbeth Cohen’s 2004 A Consumers’ Republic asks architectural historians to look more deeply into the ideological tensions of American consumption and see how the shopping center actively fueled uneven patterns of suburban settlement: how it was sited and designed to select for an audience of white, middle-class women, and how its “culture of consumption” inhibited a political understanding or experience of the seemingly “public” space of the mall. Cohen also found that, across much of the 20th century, women and minority shoppers sought to shape their own participation in consumption economies. Moreover, in recent years, scholarship has focused on the agency of shoppers as community-based, examining the re-use of malls, specialized mini-malls, “ethnic” shopping centers, and new uses for open spaces, all of which displace class, race, and gender norms that have been central to popular and scholarly conventions for too long.

Clausen’s treatment of Northgate introduced the notion that the shopping center, like other architectural undertakings, is part of a network of actors, both social and systemic, and is a fully designed, if not total, environment. We ought to take further still, her investigation of participants, spaces, interests, and practices so that architectural history might become more articulate about the ways that malls—in ever-changing formats—have included and excluded by design. 

Columbia University

1Along with Gruen, Morris Ketchum, Lathrop Douglas, Morris Lapidus, and many others spent years bringing into spatial form what they considered a new and quasi-civic design model.


Introduction to Shima Mohajeri, “Louis Kahn’s Silent Space of Critique in Tehran, 1973-74,” JSAH 74:4 (December 2015): 485–504.

The challenge of the global historiographical project is often addressed as a matter of representation, that is, the adequate voicing of the underrepresented in the parliament of history. Solutions tend to be organized along the lines of roll-calling, ensuring that enough marginalized voices—measured against the norms of Eurocentrism / patriarchy / phallogocentrism / heteronormativity / etc.—are not only heard, but articulated as challenges to the existing canon. While this work of roll-calling is a necessary first step, it runs the risk of perpetuating the marginality of voices from outside the “centers”; these “others” become simply add-ons. In fact, the narratives of the margins are always deeply entangled with those of the centers, and vice versa. Thus, the critical second step of global history is one of undoing the hierarchic binaries of historiographical representation in search of other, more cosmopolitan historical narratives of the entire world’s architectures, not just its margins. This is difficult, not only because vested narratives are persistent, but because entangled histories are usually more provisional and messy, and only rarely offer the satisfaction of accounts that verify the synthetic agency of “heroic” architects. 

Shima Mohajeri’s article, "Louis Kahn’s Silent Space of Critique in Tehran, 1973-74,” does not sidestep this problem by proposing that Kahn’s project for the Pahlavi family represented the “real” Iran. Nor does it argue that Kahn’s modernist aesthetic superseded or sublated the question of representation by rising above it via universals. Rather, Mohajeri demonstrates how Kahn found himself entangled within, and implicated by, the complex web of political and cultural forces underlying the Abbas Abad Master Plan project, while underlining his rejection of facile solutions and his choice to remain suspended within the problems he was hired to address. In this way, Mohajeri demonstrates the architect’s work in the decolonial project goes beyond setting up idealized platforms for unrepresented voices, or brashly fielding visionary solutions to problems articulated by paying clients. Rather, the architect inserts an ethically grounded voice into a discourse still in process. This is important, Mohajeri argues, even if the project's viability is likely to be jeopardized by the architect’s questioning of the client’s specifications, or of his own projections of a culture’s character or needs.

University of Washington


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