Fellowship

Buell Graduate Fellowships are annual awards available to Columbia University students for historical research on the built environment, including but not limited to architecture, urbanism, landscape, and the building sciences.

Buell Center Research and Teaching Fellowships are intended to give recently graduated postdoctoral fellows a chance to advance their own research, gain teaching experience, and take part in the ongoing intellectual life of the Buell Center, the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP), and Columbia University—over the course of twenty-one months (two academic years and one intervening summer). Fellows will be co-hosted by the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities.

Prize

Annually between 2017 and 2020, three prizes were awarded to students at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation whose fall semester architectural design (MArch & AAD) studio projects most successfully complied with, interpreted, and/or critically extended the terms and spirit of the 2015 Paris Agreement. 

Columbia University’s Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture together with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, calls for course proposals on the theme of “Architecture, Climate Change, and Society.”

The Catherine Hoover Voorsanger Writing Prizes were generously endowed by Voorsanger and Associates, Architects. Each prize was given at the end of the academic year for an outstanding paper on a subject in American architecture, landscape or urbanism written during the academic year. One prize was awarded to a student in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation; the other was to awarded to a graduate student in the Department of Art History or to an undergraduate at Columbia or Barnard College for a senior thesis. Each prize carried an honorarium of $250.

Buell Graduate Fellowship

Buell Graduate Fellowships are annual awards available to Columbia University students for historical research on the built environment, including but not limited to architecture, urbanism, landscape, and the building sciences.

2023 Buell Graduate Fellowships

 

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The Buell Graduate Fellowship is an annual award for historical research on the built environment, including but not limited to architecture, urbanism, landscape, and the building sciences.

Awards are given annually for the purposes of facilitating primary research in conjunction with a masters thesis or PhD dissertation project. Interdisciplinary or comparative work on the Americas is especially encouraged. Though research may be conducted in a time and manner of their choosing, applicants must be enrolled full-time in a Columbia University graduate school, included but not limited to GSAPP and GSAS, both currently and continuing in the fall. In addition to receiving support for their research, winning candidates will have the opportunity to present their work at a Buell Center-organized event.

Recipients: Ultan Byrne, Pedro Correa Fernandez, Malcolm Rio, Javairia Shahid, Joseph Weil Huennekens

 

Ultan Byrne, PhD Candidate Architecture
State in Formation: The Architecture of the U.S. Treasury Department, 1852-1893

My dissertation examines the office practices and building projects undertaken by a group of architects, engineers, and clerks who were situated within the developing bureaucracy of the U.S. Treasury Department during the second half of the 19th century. In response to the demand for a large number of post offices, custom houses, and federal court houses; and in service of settler-colonial expansion; this ‘Office of the Supervising Architect’ established a clerical approach to architectural design that contemporaries referred to as architecture by ‘machine.’ Taking this term seriously, my research is coordinated around some of its many valences during the period, including its relationship to: free and unfree labor, changing attitudes towards serial and mass production, conceptualizations of originality and authorship, and post-civil war political, territorial, and administrative consolidation.
 
Combining techniques from media theory and digital history with architectural history, I will draw attention to the human labor and paperwork practices that constituted the specific ‘machinery’ at the Treasury Office. I am especially interested in the ways in which their use of formulaic language in correspondences, lithographic and photographic copying, and (mis)management of files interacted with such varying conditions of their dispersed construction sites as: access to materials and construction labor, overlapping political jurisdictions, and climate. My contention is that by the end of the century, even as the Office appeared to be floundering, its once-peculiar approach to architecture was beginning to exert significant influence on the course of professionalization and the practice of architecture in the United States more generally.

 

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Pedro Correa Fernandez, PhD Candidate Architecture
The Social Contract of Drawing. Architecture and Other Regimes of Making in Nineteenth-Century South America (1850-1890)

This graduate fellowship will support archival research into the means, media, and techniques that separated crafts from technical professions at a time when the impact of industrial capitalism was strongly felt in nineteenth-century Chile, Peru, and Argentina and yet industrialization was far beyond their reach. Faced with this limitation, liberal governments choose to industrialize the body and the mind before industrializing the nation. By looking into competing projects to educate artisans, this research will examine the place of technical drawing, and its attendant bureaucracies, in the processes that linked and differentiated engineering and architecture, and in turn separated them from artisanal trades, at a critical juncture in the history of the Southern Cone. In the wake of independence, which enfranchised hitherto excluded sectors of the population to then submit them to the strictures of free trade, drawing promised to improve not only objectsbut also new political subjects, such as artisans. In the consolidation of this emergent social order, drawing literacy sought to enforce differentiated regimes of making. Yet it often failed to do so, blurring the boundaries that technical drawing intended to secure. An unresolved dialectic of skill and expertise haunted the academic and professional transformation of time-honored colonial trades in efforts to consolidate local economies. Despite the dissolution of colonial guilds, and European competition, artisans remained essential suppliers of internal markets and participated in crucial dimensions of state building, such as surveying recently occupied land, extracting ore from copper and nitrate mines, and erecting public monuments.

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Malcolm Rio, PhD Candidate Architecture
Architectural Ventriloquism: Building a Black Atlantic

Focusing on Haiti’s architectural production at a series of world’s fairs, my dissertation will analyze building projects and interiors where figures involved in the formation of a transnational Black identity converged to articulate their position within an emerging imperialist capitalism. The dissertation seeks to unpack the role architectural form, style, and image played in the translation of such diasporic discourses on Black identity and projects of Haitian national identity construction through one another across four case studies that detail the intersection of spatial formations with the racial superstitions integral to the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century global order. In other words, the dissertation looks to read the rhetorical devices of architecture itself alongside the rhetorical devices of literature and diplomacy as well as vice versa. Looking at the architecture commissioned by the government of Haiti in this manner goes beyond framing such architectural production as univocal articulations of the nation-state and denaturalizes the conjunction of architecture and national identity by addressing how rhetoric around nationality provided a convenient frame for the formations of imaginations of black identity that extended beyond the bounds of the nation-state. The dissertation, therefore, juxtaposes the architectural productions of Haiti’s exhibition pavilions with reports and other media related to them as well as US-Haiti and France-Haiti relationships, alongside the artistic and intellectual works of contemporaneous Black figures concerned with Haiti that offers a method of reading hidden-in-plain-sight architectural histories premised on an understanding of architecture as a kind of text.

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Javairia Shahid, PhD Candidate Architecture
Architectures of Containment: Camp, Canal and Colony in India (1857-1920)

The Buell Graduate Fellowship will support archival research for my dissertation Architectures of Containment: Camp, Canal and Colony in India (1857-1920). British colonial governance and economic interests, in the decades spanning India’s accession to the British crown in 1857 and its partition in 1947, transformed the two major river systems of the Bengal and Punjab region into fecund sites for the production of cash crops and labor force. My dissertation project traces how harnessing India’s rivers through canal infrastructure and the territorialization of native land and labor as property, codified the precarious management of India’s environments. Specifically, by focusing on two key architectural projects— the canal colony and the emigration depot—I will map how architecture formed the interface for the convergence of networks of imperial extraction across the Indian landmass, the Atlantic Ocean & Indian Ocean world. The sites, the Calcutta Emigration Depot (1857-1890) and Sirhind Canal & Colony in Punjab (1860-1910), launched new modalities of extractive relationships between colonial power and the indigenous knowledge and labor of its subjects. This project argues that this system of environmental management at these sites-- as aesthetic objects and territorial formations-- brings thick histories of labor and agrarian social milieus to bear upon histories of global capital, enclosing the stealing of labor, land, and knowledge within a singular frame. In turn, it recasts the reformative ethos of empire’s extraction of value—centering depletion, not improvement. 

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Joseph Weil Huennekens, PhD Candidate Urban Planning
A Different Type of Dream: Planning for Density in an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Ethnoburb

This project investigates Ramapo, New York; one of the fastest growing municipalities in the New York City region. Ramapo’s municipal land use system is a fierce arena of contestation, where different groups battle to enforce their preferred norms of “good” or “appropriate” suburban living. Politicians, activists, planners, and developers all seek to steer housing demand – especially demand from ultra-Orthodox Jews – in certain directions and towards certain built forms, leveraging divergent arguments about housing, landscape, and the suburban good life to stake their claims to space. Starting in the 1980s, the town government of Ramapo has embraced new multifamily housing production, producing a quasi-urban environment highly differentiated from surrounding places. This project clarifies the specific actors, discourses, and relationships at play in this process of densification, investigating the factors that led a standard, anti-growth American suburb to be retrofitted into a dense “landscape of difference.” I use the town as a case for understanding how the suburban built environment is made and remade in a culturally diverse context – assessing which set of conditions were necessary for Ramapo to transform and providing lessons for other communities where physical and demographic change interact. 

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2022 Buell Graduate Fellowships

 

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The Buell Graduate Fellowship is an annual award for historical research on the built environment, including but not limited to architecture, urbanism, landscape, and the building sciences.

Awards are given annually for the purposes of facilitating primary research in conjunction with a masters thesis or PhD dissertation project. Interdisciplinary or comparative work on the Americas is especially encouraged. Though research may be conducted in a time and manner of their choosing, applicants must be enrolled full-time in a Columbia University graduate school, included but not limited to GSAPP and GSAS, both currently and continuing in the fall. In addition to receiving support for their research, winning candidates will have the opportunity to present their work at a Buell Center-organized event.

Recipients: Caitlin Blanchfield, Hannah Pivo, Yara Saqfalhait

 

Caitlin Blanchfield, PhD Candidate Architecture   
Unsettling Colonial Science: Modern Architecture and Indigenous Claims to Land in North America and the Pacific

The Buell Graduate Fellowship will support archival and oral history-based research for my dissertation Unsettling Colonial Science: Modern Architecture and Indigenous Claims to Land in North America and the Pacific. This project examines how the settler colonial governments of the United States and Canada have used federally-funded, cold-war era scientific research infrastructures to appropriate Indigenous lands. The research reveals the mechanisms by which settler colonial governance continues and changes through the twentieth century and demonstrates the role of architecture and land use planning in that governance. It also centers Indigenous land use practices as forms of refusal of the settler state, studying land claims, legal cases, and protest movements as expressions of Indigenous sovereignty on contested lands. It does this at three sites: the Kitt Peak National Observatory on the Tohono O’odham Nation in Arizona; the Maunakea Observatories in Hawai‘i; and the Inuvik Research Laboratory in Inuvik, NWT, Canada. 

Scientific inquiry has been a means for the state to exert jurisdiction over Indigenous lands at strategic locations and to render so-called wastelands into valuable territories. The observatories and research stations I am studying reveal how US empire operated as an ongoing process of settler colonialism. More importantly they broaden discourses of resistance, showing how material culture, mobility practices, and traditional land use give rise to political movements. Recent scholarship in landscape history has linked Indigenous studies and landscape discourses, my research brings science and technology studies and architectural history to that conversation to show how technology is used to create contested landscapes. 

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Hannah Pivo, PhD Candidate Art History   
Dots, Graphs, and Pictograms: Social Science, Market Research, and Graphic Design in the United States, c. 1900-1970

This project investigates the relationship between social science, graphic design, and corporate marketing in the 20th-century United States. I explore how design has participated in the transfer of epistemic attitudes, methods, and visual vocabularies between social science and corporations, as designers have borrowed and transformed graphic methods used by social scientists to visualize, disseminate, and instrumentalize information about people and populations into means of representing and shaping consumer behavior. Graphic methods have been integral to studying social bodies since “society” and “the social” became objects of study in the 19th century, as maps, graphs, and other tools were used to render visible—and thus knowable— these emergent concepts. Such efforts resulted in a recognizable graphic language for social science by the early 20th century, with dots, maps, graphs, and pictograms coming to represent not just the so-called “social facts” they visualized, but also the epistemic authority that the disciplines themselves had garnered by this point. At the same time, marketing professionals began to look to social science, adapting certain methods for their own aims of market research. I contend that graphic methods played a less direct— but no less significant— role in the transfer of knowledge between social science and corporations in this period. To unpack these relations, I examine ways in which designers encountered the discourse and methods of social science, especially design education and engagement with the publication of social scientific information—from book and magazine covers to the production of statistical graphics for general-audience publications.

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Yara Saqfalhait, PhD Candidate Architecture   
Tools of Trade: Architecture, Applied Knowledge and Capital in the Ottoman    
Empire 1830s – 1880s

My project examines the relationship between transformations in architectural knowledge and practice in the nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire and simultaneous processes of administrative centralization and economic liberalization. I will trace the interrelatedness between changes in knowledge categories, building networks, trade relations, and modes of quantification and valuation across the empire by following the development and employment of specific technical tools: textbooks of applied mathematics taught in architecture and engineering schools, conversion tables used in construction as well as wholesale commodity markets, the munakasa (tender contract) which made winning bids contingent on a thorough knowledge of the building market and an ability to estimate needed labor, building materials and their value, and the waqfiyya (pious endowment certificate) which relied on different surveying techniques and modes of abstraction and quantification to establish its evidentiary claims for the assets (land, buildings, cash, among others) whose endowment it verified. While each of these tools has its own specific history and modes of operation and circulation during the time period under study, collectively, they weave together dispersed sites of learning and practice that extend beyond the school and the construction site. My research explores how changes in construction operations in the nineteenth-century Ottoman empire were mediated by existing bureaucratic mechanisms and modes of quantification and valuation used in the administration of fiscal revenue. I argue that architects and engineers served as important interlocutors in mediating the changing relationship between capital and labor in the nineteenth-century Ottoman empire, as they navigated the shifting landscape and structures of their own spheres of operation and influence.

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Hala Habib, Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology

Landing Invasion: the Role of   
Concrete in the US Occupation/Reconstruction of Afghanistan 2002-2020

I investigate the role of concrete in the US invasion and occupation of   
Afghanistan from 2002-2020, asking: What role does concrete play in political invasion? Premised on the mission to rebuild the “failed state,” US forces early on identified Afghanistan’s lack of cement manufacturing capacity and use of concrete as central to its mission Operation Freedom. Because of concrete’s versatility as a composite material that is supposed to be readily accessible for all kinds of users; its promise of semi-permanence and hardness (mimicking natural rock); and its metaphoric penumbra, I take concrete as an important analytical tool for allowing one to simultaneously analyze the multiple and overlapping infrastructures that come together in modern state formation and speculate on the recalcitrance of non-human elements in the instabilities that haunt its use and form. Building on Nicholas D’Avella’s (2018) prompt to become attentive to the unstable and variable “indigenous” aggregates used to assemble concrete, my research looks at the link between concrete and invasion in order to interrogate those paradigmatic divisions deployed by field   
scientists, architects, and geologists around the human/nonhuman, secular/spiritual, vital/inert worlds. By taking concrete’s composite nature as a fraught field, where imported materials and techniques are encountered by local soil aggregates and labor, I seek to track the extent to which concrete can be understood as a technopolitical situation of invasion, and therefore a materialization of the war into landed and emplaced (de)forms.

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2021 Buell Graduate Fellowships

 

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The Buell Graduate Fellowship is an annual award for historical research on the built environment within or between the fields of architecture, urban history, and landscape.

Awards are given annually for the purposes of carrying out primary research in conjunction with a scholarly research project at the advanced graduate level. Interdisciplinary or comparative work on the Americas is especially encouraged. Applicants must be full-time Columbia University students at the time of the award's distribution.

Recipients: Andrea Comair, Samuel Stewart-Halevy, Elliott Sturtevant, Ife Salema Vanable

 

Andrea Comair, MS. CCCP 2022
Real Waste Estates: Architectures of Waste and Financial Capital

My project examines the relationship between waste disposal and land reclamation in the reconstruction efforts of postwar Lebanon. It argues that waste and reclamation have not only transformed the urban and ecological environment of Beirut and its coast, but also reconstituted the colonial relationships of knowledge and power among international capital and indigenous elite. Taking the case of Beirut as a starting point, I will trace the political economy of waste and its interactions with architectures of financial imperialisms and practices of land reclamation. In addition, I will examine activist and artistic practices of dissent that attempt to render visible neoliberal instrumentalization of waste. I will first offer a critical analysis of waste management through the disposal of ruins and rubble on the coast of Beirut during and after the Lebanese civil wars. These provided the main source of waste for land reclamation schemes inaugurated in the 1990s, marking the entry of neoliberal capital under the auspices of the World Bank. The severely detrimental practice of disavowing the problem of waste by using it as material to reclaim land from the sea persists today causing the progressive expansion of the Lebanese shoreline. Although recent scholarship* has addressed the role of privatization in the eradication, appropriation and reconstruction of the city, the economic, financial and political functions of waste have largely gone unnoticed. This despite the fact that waste disposal has continued as a de facto state policy/scheme to create new land on the coast for financial speculation ex-nihilo. Such practices have provoked numerous civil disobedience movements and protests which are still ongoing. 

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Samuel Stewart-Halevy, PhD Candidate Architecture
Participation and its Afterlife: Artifacts of Elicitation circa 1971

The postwar participatory moment - a period from the mid 1960s through the early 1970s in which “participation” was adopted as both a slogan and strategy by a wide range of western-trained architects, designers and planners - can be seen as one of many instances in the histories of the design and planning professions when the distinction between the studio and its exterior world fell away.  My project addresses this participatory dissolution and its central paradox: architects, designers, and planners sought the “participation” of their clients and audiences out of a desire to remove indirect representation, yet a cascade of representative artifacts fell out from these participatory encounters: interactive mockups and prototypes, solicited sketches and plans, cognitive maps and transects, questionnaires and mood boards, structured forms of play and immersive simulations, and forms of televisual feedback. 
Taking up the work of Giancarlo de Carlo, my research shifts the focus towards artifacts and underscores the importance of “unrealized” projects such as the Rimini Masterplan (1965-1975).  It was here that De Carlo and his team deployed the widest range of techniques and mediating devices in order to elicit feedback across scales: frame-by-frame video analysis of pedestrian movements, street questionnaires, door-to-door “micro-planning,” live sketching in Rimini’s municipal hall, and television broadcasts over RAI that were meant to stimulate the imaginations of a regional and national audience.  Moving behind the image of the Rimini masterplan, which appears today as one of many utopian fragments of 1970s urbanism and architecture, I hope to reconstruct these multi-scalar and inter-medial encounters, taking up the design and staging of meetings, presentations, and interviews as vital evidence of the conceptual field of participation in the period.

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Elliott Sturtevant, PhD Candidate Architecture
Title: Empire’s Stores: Graphic Methods, Imperialist Enterprise, and Entrepôt Urbanism in America, 1876–1939

“Empire’s Stores” seeks to understand graphic methods, conjointly with American businesses’ architecture and urbanism, as agents of the United States’ corporate-led, turn-of-the-century territorial and economic expansion. Working against accounts that privilege the nineteenth century’s technological annihilation of space and time, this dissertation foregrounds the media practices operationalized by the modern business enterprise to take advantage of their unevenness. The project focuses on a range of graphic methods that allowed disparate persons, elements, and property—labor, resources, architecture and machinery—to be combined visually on the page and the physical infrastructures built to support graphic composition. The latter include figurative lines of communication as well as literal modes of distribution employed between buildings or stores, from chutes to steamships and power lines to wire rope landings. As US commercial interests took on imperial dimensions, I argue these practices and architectures played a crucial role in reconfiguring the “obstacles” imperial enterprise encountered, opening opportunities for some to profit from their transformation. Examining four firms that straddled US “borders,” I aim to show how “American” corporate architecture produced and profited from imperial formations and, in doing so, reshaped territorial, geographic, and economic barriers.

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Ife Salema Vanable, PhD Candidate Architecture
Tall Tales: State Looks, Black Desire(s), Housing Schemes 

Tall Tales: State Looks, Black Desire(s), Housing Schemes is an in-progress dissertation project interrogating publicly funded and incentivized, though privately developed and managed high-rise residential towers developed in New York under the 1955 New York State Limited Profit Housing Companies Law, known as Mitchell-Lama. The bulk of materials consulted for this project are held at the New York City Municipal Archives, a division of the New York City Department of Records and Information Services, located in the Surrogate’s Courthouse in Manhattan.

Attentive to legal rhetoric put to paper in legislative acts and the ways in which persons are figured in texts as targets and architectural artifacts marketed and rendered desirable though real-estate advertising, among other schemes and devices, this dissertation deals with categories enacted by state and municipal authorities and their enumeration; particularly attending to the oscillations, uncertainties, assumptions, and fabrications about what constituted “middle-income,” and the work of both gesturing to and eliding reference to racial categorizations. This work pursues architecture in the glut of bureaucratic documents that depict the daily work of city government. In so doing, this work mines those records teasing out predetermined parameters for how architectural developments meant to house were financed, developed, geographically situated across the urban domain, and designed, before any architect was commissioned; recognizing a kind of shadow architect therein. Pushed to outsize heights in the name of public benefit, simultaneously bold and unnerving, with aesthetics championed by the state, this work fundamentally seeks the often invisibilized (and often black and brown) residents, and their varied sanctioned, unauthorized, ingenious, pleasurable, sensuous, and especially quotidian domesticities and modes of dwelling.

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2020 Buell Graduate Fellowships

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The Buell Graduate Fellowship is an annual award for historical research on the built environment within or between the fields of architecture, urban history, and landscape.

Awards are given annually for the purposes of carrying out primary research in conjunction with a scholarly research project at the advanced graduate level. Interdisciplinary or comparative work on the Americas is especially encouraged. Applicants must be full-time Columbia University students at the time of the award's distribution.

Recipient: Nadine Fattaleh

 

Nadine Fattaleh, MS. CCCP '21

The Village: Agricultural Landscape and Media Encounter

My project takes as its starting point the rural village, reconceived as a place of intervention and environmental management in the Arab world. In the early 1950s, the village was rendered legible as a global site in need of development and modernization through early US cold war narratives and logics. Whereas previous rural schemes inscribed the village within a narrow framework of agricultural development, US efforts fused the agricultural with a broader investment in forging new ways of life. In conforming to prevalent modernization paradigms at the time, the schemes defined modern life through Western notions articulated in discourses on community development, and supported by mass media and communications infrastructure. Some institutions at the forefront of these efforts, like the United States Information Agency (USIA), were directly linked to the US Cold War propaganda machinery, while other foundations not directly affiliated with the government provided shadow support for US strategic interests. 

Two archives are critical to my research: The National Archives at College Park and the Rockefeller Archive Center. At the National Archives, I will look primarily at the records of the USIA. The archival material, which had previously been restricted by the Smith–Mundt Act, was recently made available to the public. Here I will look for traces of the USIA film programs, which initiated screenings at various sites including rural villages across the Arab world. At the Rockefeller Archive Center, I will consult the Ford Foundation records documenting investment in agriculture and related activities across the region. 
 

Village Central Demonstration Plot, 1953, American Friends Service Committee Archive Village Central Demonstration Plot, 1953, American Friends Service Committee Archive 

Village Men Gather Around Film Projector, American Friends Service Committee ArchiveVillage Men Gather Around Film Projector, American Friends Service Committee Archive

2019 Buell Graduate Fellowships

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The Buell Graduate Fellowship is an annual award for historical research on the built environment within or between the fields of architecture, urban history, and landscape.

Awards are given annually for the purposes of carrying out primary research in conjunction with a scholarly research project at the advanced graduate level. Interdisciplinary or comparative work on the Americas is especially encouraged. Applicants must be full-time Columbia University students at the time of the award's distribution.

Recipients: Ashraf Abdalla, Óskar Arnórsson, Elizabeth Marcello, Isabelle Tan

 

Ashraf Abdalla, PhD Candidate, Architecture

Modern Architecture in Egypt (1939-1959): A Repressed Episode

The Egyptian Modern Movement and the National-Rural Question

A striking feature of the Anglo-American academic accounts of architecture history in modern Egypt (mid-19thcentury-present) is the virtual absence of a scholarly examination of Egypt’s architectural debates and production during the period from the 1930s-1950s. Largely informed by postcolonial theory, these accounts lack a rigorous treatment of Egypt’s locally initiated and sustained efforts at the time to advance, what could be identified as, an indigenous modern architectural movement.

Taking shape during the 1930s-1950s, at a critical phase in the country’s ongoing socio-political struggles, when the quest for national liberation from British colonial rule was joined by, and expanded into, the demand for a larger project of social modernization, the Egyptian modern movement sought, from the moment of its inception, to develop an indigenous architectural response that is national in character in precisely being modern. That is, in its very engagement with the modern demands and material conditions of Egyptian society, the majority of which belonged, at the time, to the rural class.

While emerging in the late 1930s during the years of Egypt’s semi-independence status under British colonial rule (1922-1952), with the aim of developing a distinctively modern-national architecture, I argue that the dictates of the Egyptian modern architectural movement were, in effect, revered in the early years of the country’s postcolonial phase in the late 1950s. It was thus a distinct modern movementthe attributes of which could not be granted to a colonial legacy, or reduced, in a linear fashion, to a simple precursor to the country’s subsequent phase of postcolonial modernization efforts.

The significance of this modern movement lies in its far-reaching theoretical implications, which extend beyond its specific socio-historical context. Not only did the inception of the movement lay the foundation for the subsequent development of the architectural field in Egypt, but it did also aspire to an architectural vision of social modernization, the examination of which would pose a certain predicament to the postcolonial architectural approaches concerned with the relation between modernity and the so-called “non-West.”

1.  Cigarettes Factory, 1941, Cairo, Egypt. Al Emara 1941, no. 1. Egyptian Architect: Sayed Karim (1911-2005)

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Egyptian Workers Union, 1958, Cairo, Egypt. Egyptian Architect: Mahmoud Riad (1905-1979)

 

Óskar Arnórsson, PhD Candidate, Architecture

The Architectures of the Marshall Plan in Europe, ca. 1947-51

This dissertation takes as its object the European Recovery Plan for Europe, commonly known as the Marshall Plan. Through a series of case studies, it examines two mechanisms of the plan—the counterpart funds and Technical Assistance Program—to reveal how aid was spent on architecture and infrastructure, as well as on technical training of the administrators, architects, and engineers implementing it, across Europe over the duration of the plan between 1948 and 1951. Each chapter presents a separate thesis building on the one before it. In the first chapter, the curatorial device of the traveling exhibition train (the “Train of Europe”) overshadows the famous CIAM grid. In the second chapter, the German architect Walter Gropius fails to participate in German reconstruction, leaving it to a generation of protégés of former NSPD architects such as Rudolf Hillebrecht in the German city of Hannover. In the third chapter, C.A. Doxiadis’ work on the reconstruction of Greece is evaluated as a test case for American development, to be re-exported elsewhere after the Marshall Plan. In the fourth chapter, I turn my attention to the technical assistance program and the visits of French architects, engineers and their industrial suppliers to the USA to learn new methods of technocracy and efficiency. Together, they combine to tell a story of a new era of American power, manifested in European buildings and infrastructures, even if one may not always know where to look for it.

1.“On the spot, they discuss a host of problems that so vast a program raises. Priorities. Designs. Methods of construction. Above all, they try to look ahead; aware that decisions taken now will make or mar much of the European landscape for decades to come.” From “A Grand Design: A Progress Report from Europe Today: No 3: Somewhere to Live.” George C. Marshall Foundation.

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Worker in West Berlin, ca. 1948 - ca. 1955. National Archives Identifier: 541691

 

Elizabeth Marcello, PhD Candidate, Urban Planning

The Politics of Public Authorities: The Case of the Empire State Development Corporation

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), New York State’s chief economic development agency, is a powerful public authority equipped with the legal authority to condemn property and override local zoning ordinances. These powers, paired with its use of loans, grants, tax credits, marketing, and other forms of assistance, allow the authority to play a critical role in shaping the built environment sometimes at the expense of local public planning. 

As the first step of dissertation research, this project tells ESDC’s origin story to better understand the authority’s contemporary planning activities. I use qualitative data gathered from historical documents including legislation, bill jackets, and executive memos at the New York State Archives; media reports; and interviews with retired and current staff members of the agency as well as current and former elected officials. The collected data yields a descriptive analysis of the political and economic factors driving the creation of the ESDC, as well as a relationship map that illustrates how the authority’s political arrangements impact planning outcomes. Toward this end, this research pays particular attention to ESDC’s engagements with other economic development planning efforts and local governments to highlight its intergovernmental politics and internal operation. This case highlights the role of public authorities in economic development planning while adding a more nuanced view of the political and material relationships that are endemic to the planning process. 

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1. Javits Center President and CEO Alan Steel, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Empire State Development Corporation president and CEO Howard Zemsky with New York AFL-CIO president Mario Cilento breaking ground on a Javits Center redevelopment. Source: Associated Press, Cuomo Breaks Ground on Javits Center Expansion, March 1, 2017.

2. Frank Gehry’s design for Barclay’s Arena and the Atlantic Yards project (backed and facilitated by ESDC) in Brooklyn, New York. Gehry’s design was eventually thrown out for a less expensive one. Source: Brooklyn Paper,Bruce to Gehry: You’re fired, June 4, 2009.

 

Isabelle Tan, MS.CCCP 2020

The Gray Architecture of China’s Belt and Road Initiative

In 2013, China’s president, Xi Jinping, announced the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the “21stCentury Maritime Silk Road,” collectively known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI is a massive undertaking—an estimated 900 billion dollars’ worth of infrastructural projects are already planned or currently underway. The BRI’s vast network constitutes mines, oil and natural gas pipelines, roads, railroads, coal-fired plants, hydroelectric dams, and fiber-optic cables. The project conjures the neoliberal dream-world of seamless, optimized exchange. But this dream-world is not border-less nor body-less: rather, it is predicated on the very conflict over bodies and space. The buried infrastructural lines of China’s BRI materialize a political, social, and economic struggle. Though diffuse and distributed the BRI’s infrastructural web consolidates power nonetheless. How exactly are these spaces being ordered, managed, and controlled? What are the political stakes of the BRI in the era of climate change?

This project investigates the BRI’s “gray architecture,” the logistical and infrastructural spaces that reach from the ground in mines to the clouds in digital networks. It is part of an effort to recuperate the materiality of architecture precisely defied by capital’s perpetual abstractions. With this fellowship, I intend to trace the development of the BRI in Indonesia through projects like the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway. I hope to place the BRI within a historical constellation that takes into account a prehistory of global south transnationalisms like the Bandung Conference of 1955. My aim is to bring the BRI’s gray architecture—its spaces and the labor subtending it—closer into view. 

1.  “Map of Central Asia.” From Ferdinand von Richtofen, China: Ergebnisse eigener Reisen und darauf gegründeter Studien (Berlin, 1877). Taken from Tamara Chin, “The Invention of the Silk Road, 1877,” Critical Inquiry 40, no. 1 (2013): 200.

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“Indonesian women look at the construction site of the country’s [Indonesia’s] high-speed rail Walini tunnel on Sept. 11.” Image by Takehiro Masutomo/Caixin (2018). From Caixin, https://www.caixinglobal.com/2018-10-11/indonesias-china-financed-high-speed-rail-project-off-track-101333896.html.

2018 Buell Graduate Fellowships

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The Buell Graduate Fellowship is an annual award for historical research on the built environment within or between the fields of architecture, urban history, and landscape.

Awards are given annually for the purposes of carrying out primary research in conjunction with a scholarly research project at the advanced graduate level. Interdisciplinary or comparative work on the Americas is especially encouraged. Applicants must be full-time Columbia University students at the time of the award's distribution.

Recipients: Maur Dessauvage, Jonah Rowen, Paula Vilaplana de Miguel

 

Maur Dessauvage, MS.CCCP 2019

The Native Towns of the Union Minière du Haut Katanga, 1906-1929

In 1906, Leopold II formed the Union Minière du Haut Katanga (UMHK) in what was then the Congo Free State. Over its sixty-year career, the Belgian mining company grew into one of the world’s leading producers of copper, cobalt, zinc, cadmium, tin, radium and uranium. The vast infrastructural network of the UMHK was constituted of mines, factories, railroads and hydroelectric dams, as well as native towns [cités indigènes] adjacent to the sites of production. The consistent process of recruiting, training and sustaining African workers was an industrial enterprise in itself without which the mining company could not have functioned. Besides their specialization as underground or surface workers, the regimentation of workers in general was closely tied to the management of their living spaces. Native towns were fitted out with schools, shops, clinics and other basic amenities necessary for the maintenance of the labor force, but not more than that. Social discipline, racial segregation and cost-effectiveness reigned supreme as the sole determining factors of their organization. While architects and planners experimented with garden city principles in the European towns, the native towns remained subject to a minimum of life. With this fellowship, I intend to trace the development of the native towns in Katanga. This research will be conducted through company archives and interviews with historians. My aim is to situate the UMHK native towns within the global processes of primitive accumulation, industrialization and modernization in order to understand the work performed by these towns and the people who inhabit them.

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 René Schoentjes, Scheme of a Congolese City, 1932

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UMHK camp for the preparation of recruits in Elizabethville from R. Mouchet and A. Pearson, L'hygiène pratique des camps de travailleurs noirs en afrique tropicale, 1922.

 

Jonah Rowen, PhD Candidate Architecture

The Construction of Wealth: Insurance, Surveying, Sugar, and Values

British fire insurers had been operating in the Americas for some years when, in 1808, a fire destroyed “all the most valuable part of Port of Spain, Trinidad." The Phoenix Assurance agency approved its first policies in the West Indies in 1785 but included caveats: fires caused by earthquakes, hurricanes, or “military force.” Distinguishing colonies “where Civil Liberty is enjoyed and where public credit and Commercial Honour mutually support each other,” Phoenix withheld fire insurance as a privilege. Hedging was integral to the insurance business, but refusal to assume risk implied a judgment that Caribbean buildings, proprietors, and builders did not deserve indemnification. During rebuilding the colonial government ran out of money, prompting the governor to complain about remote English designers' choices of construction materials, planning, and style. This episode demonstrates tensions between architecture's exchange-value—materials' costs and insurance policies—and its use-value, as administrative facilities and aesthetic objects.

Through fire insurance, space's intangibility became as much an object of capital investment as any other material, with buildings rated according to their volume. Fire insurance thus made architecture fungible.
 

Insurers gained large profits from sugar mills’ and refineries’ inflammability, and proliferating steam technology created new dangers. Several insurance companies were entangled in the transatlantic trade of labor and capital in the forms of construction, building materials, sugar, and insurance. Comparing alignments or discrepancies in alternative modes of conceiving of buildings, this project analyzes the capacities of architecture to create and manifest value, predicated on that architecture's hypothetical destruction.

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“Continuing Hazard: A Gutted Refinery” (1820), from Clive Trebilcock, Phoenix Assurance and the Development of British Insurance, Vol. I (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 20.

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 “[Jenkin] Jones sketches rebuilding on St Thomas,” (1808) from Trebilcock, Phoenix Assurance, 217.

 

Paula Vilaplana de Miguel, MS.CCCP 2019

Haunted Real Estate: Gender, Occultism, and the Mediatization of Domestic Space

“Fall into the Mystery. Tours daily.” This enigmatic invitation is the first encounter one may have when approaching the Winchester House in San Jose, California. The historical value of the house is entangled with a narrative of the occult thoroughly exploited through the media: novels, films, postcards and a wide range of memorabilia emphasize the ghostly associations of the house over its specific features as a Victorian rarity. A similar strategy seems to surround the functioning of uncounted XIXth Century houses across the country: open to the public as sites of both history and mystery, these buildings serve as museum-houses where the visitor is offered the possibility to choose between conventional tours or fabricated paranormal “experiences”. Because a wide range of haunted attractions construct their narratives around female figures, what systems of power do they facilitate and disseminate? Following Silvia Federici’s re-reading of witch hunting as an orchestrated socio-economical tactic giving rise to capitalism through public condemnation of marginal practices, architectural scholarship needs to query the role of haunted architectures as by-products of a larger structure of dominance. Are haunted houses disciplinary spectacular machines playing an eternal reprobation of unruly behaviors? This project aims to analyze these and other related issues through inspection of different case-studies across the United States and will explore the possibilities to offer counter-narratives to the widespread associations haunting Victorian architecture.  

HAUNTED REAL ESTATE’s case-studies include, amongst others, the Winchester House in San Jose, the Whaley House Museum in San Diego, the Molly Brown House in Denver, the Lizzie Borden House in Fall River or the Merchant’s House Museum in New York.

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Winchester Mystery House 1959

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1910 Garden Party at the Molly Brown House Museum (The Denver Post via Getty Images)

2017 Buell Graduate Fellowships

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The Buell Graduate Fellowship is an annual award for historical research on the built environment within or between the fields of architecture, urban history, and landscape.

Awards are given annually for the purposes of carrying out primary research in conjunction with a scholarly research project at the advanced graduate level. Interdisciplinary or comparative work on the Americas is especially encouraged. Applicants must be full-time Columbia University students at the time of the award's distribution.

Recipients: Jana Beránková, Yujia Bian, Gabriel Ruiz-Larrea, Amy Zhang

 

Jana Beránková, PhD Candidate Architecture

Revolution through Architecture: Educational Institutions in Cuba

The project explores architecture of post-revolutionary educational institutions in Cuba and social implications of related experiments with prefabrication and design typologies.

After the 1961 literacy campaign, Cuban state has built an extensive body of education institutions. Education played a key role after the revolution as the new government strived to legitimize itself by transforming Cuba into the “most educated nation in the word.” These efforts were embodied in projects such as ESBEC (Escuela secundaria básica en el campo). The ESBEC was a prototype to be repeated and deployed in numerous rural locations around the whole territory. It was based on a Girón system of prefabricated concrete elements; only through an industrialized construction process could knowledge be delivered quickly to everyone. Vivid colors and porosity between interior and exterior were supposed to contrast with the former “prison-like” typology of bourgeois schools with enclosed courtyards. A school was seen not as a single building but as a testing environment of future community; the socialism itself was interpreted as a constant school. The school was to be transformed into a totally designed environment where every design element would foster learning. The architectural structure of these buildings was supposed to enable its future expansion or modification of its function.

This project aims to study and document Cuban post-revolutionary educational institutions and related archival sources; it questions the relationship between a political event and transformation of architectural education and of architectural knowledge.

 

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1. A double-page in the review Arquitectura Cuba 339/1972. The page contains: Rural hexagonal school (first row, third from left); School City Camilo Cienfuegos (second row, first from left); Kindergarten at the Square of the Revolution (third row, first and second from left); Pre-university Institute Ciudad Libertad (fourth row, first and second from right). 

2. ESBEC published in Arquitectura Cuba 339/1972.

 

 

Yujia Bian, MS.CCCP 2018

Naturalists Redefined: Nature Expeditions in the 19th and the 20th century in Indochinese Peninsula and the Greater Mekong Subregion

With a Chinese handbook The Customs of Cambodia (真臘風土記) in hand, French naturalist Henri Mouhot traveled through Siam, Laos and the former territory of Khmer civilization in Cambodia between 1858 and 1860. Drawn to the architecture, plants and people of the region, Mouhot recounted them with a sense of the monumental and sublime. Seventy years later,  another group of naturalists, the Kelley-Roosevelts Asiatic Expeditions, traveled this same route before heading north into Southwest China. The expedition filled the Field Museum’s collections with thousands of specimens of plants and animals, including the banteng and giant panda. My research takes these two expeditions, tracing the connections and transformations between them. As the documented and the imagined, climatic and biological geographies of the region had shifted, so did the political ones: The French soon obtained control over Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, incorporating the three countries into the colony of French Indochina. The latecomer Americans were different. In distinguishing themselves from the European colonizers, they nevertheless deployed strategies of resource plundering and cultural domination. In retrospect, though being a naturalist, Mouhot was mostly remembered by the French of his photographs of architecture, while Coolidge was among the founding members of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Ted. is remembered, together with his father Theodore Roosevelt Jr., as a nature conservationist to this day. In the narratives of the two naturalists, we see changing attitudes of explorers toward architecture, plants and mammals ... from the colonial French to the neocolonial Americans. 

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   1. Facade of the Temple of Ongcor Wat (Angkor Wat). Retrieved from Henri Mouhot: Travels in the central parts of Indo-China (Siam), Cambodia and Laos, during the years 1858, 1859, and 1860. London: John Murray, Albermarie Street. 1864.

2. Completing the construction of the United States National Museum building (now the National Museum of Natural History) on May 11, 1909. The Smithsonian Institution Building is visible across the Mall. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Archives. 

 

Gabriel Ruiz-Larrea, MS.CCCP 2018

The Articulation of Nature: The cultural, political and aesthetic reinvention of nature in America through the second half of the 20th century

This research aims to explore the post-romantic constructions of ‘nature’ through the second half of the 20thcentury in the United States. The history of North American art and architecture has been filled with examples where nature was put at the center of stage, generating a cultural discussion, both aesthetic and political, which has contributed to a shift towards a new concept of nature: a place in permanent conflict, a political subject that works as a platform for debate from where we can nowadays discuss ideas around political ecologies, environmental aesthetics, otherness, and the non human.

The word ‘nature’ comes from natura, Latin for birth - as do the words nation, native and innate. In the United States, the relationship between nation and nature has been central to its colonial and post-colonial history, from the idea of the noble savage to the myth of the frontier, but also for the creation of a line of thought that understands the natural as such place for discussion and negotiation.

The conflict around the dominion of the human over the natural has motivated a huge catalog of productions: political (boundaries), aesthetic (land art works) and economic (resources and urbanization) throughout the second half of the 20thcentury. This relationship, often conflictive and antagonistic, has been strongly discussed from many perspectives, and has become today a fundamental and controversial space from where we can try to understand the transformations of contemporary culture.

The necessary construction of a discussion around topics such US political ecology, postcolonial theory, critical archeology, the loss of centrality of the human, the dissolution of the nature-culture binomial, the consequences of anthropic action, the reproductions and displacements of natural phenomena, etc. may find some of its predecessors in the artistic and architectural practices of the second half of the twentieth century. The research for the Buell Fellowship, the CCCP thesis project the research supports, will try to destabilize notions of the aesthetic, political or economic boundaries that these practices were redrawing through field trips, interviews and research, assembling a constellation of archival documents, projects and contemporary voices.

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1. Still image from CLUI video Zones T16, T13-3, Owens Lake, California, 2017.

2. Satellite view of Roden Crater, Flagstaff, Arizona. 

 

 

Amy Zhang, PhD Candidate Architecture

Media Theory and Design Pedagogy in Brazil, 1962-1970

In 1962, as the new building plans for the University of São Paulo’s School of Architecture (FAU-USP) were being drawn, architect and professor Vilanova Artigas simultaneously coordinated a set of dramatic reforms to the curriculum. The principle directive from Artigas was to integrate Industrial Design into a class on visual communication—a synthesis strikingly similar to moves underway at MIT since 1944 under the aegis of visual artist and art theorist György Kepes.

The pedagogical change suggests the coeval presence of new media discourses alongside older, ongoing preoccupations with industrial development in Brazilian architecture, starting in the 1960s. The contemporaneous presence and activities of key figures in the history of media theory further support this hypothesis: most notably, Czech theorist Vilém Flusser, having escaped the concentration camps of Europe in WWII, taught a communications course at the USP’s School of Engineering throughout the decade. While Artigas and his students began to debate architecture’s relationship to industrialization in terms of the mediating acts of drawing, Flusser was developing his ideas on the communication structures of art and the technical image.

The main objective of my project will be to delineate—from the content and institutional materializations of Artigas and Flusser’s pedagogical overlaps—the historically specific environment for which their interventions served as distillations, informing changing approaches to design. Moreover, through the lens of new media, my work hopes to break from the strict attachment of architecture’s political horizon to the developmentalism of the 1940s and 50s—a trope which has produced an impasse in architectural assessments of Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985), the larger project of my dissertation.

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1. 1968 student protest in the Central Hall of the FAU-USP building (1961-1969), designed by Vilanova Artigas. Photograph by José Moscardi/FAU USP.

2. Vilém Flusser (1920-1991), television interview, n.d.