I study the history of architecture to understand our past and our present.
I’ve written on the history of surveillance in buildings. I’ve researched the post-World War II building industry, looking at how changes in construction practice, tastes, and zoning have shaped the suburban landscape.
Architecture writes our dreams, failures and everyday lives on the landscape, for all to see.
Architecture connects us with the past in such visceral ways. Lately, I’ve become fascinated by Madison-area architects and builders, especially Frank Lloyd Wright and Marshall Erdman. I feel immersed in this research because I see these buildings daily and talk regularly with people who live in them.
Last spring, my class on Wright met weekly in different buildings by Wright or one of his followers.
We saw, touched and experienced these extraordinary spaces while talking with owners and stewards who helped the class understand the continued viability of these buildings. It was an incredible gift and brought home to all of us the role of architecture in our daily lives.
I’m now researching the history of west Texas’s Permian basin.
Recent fracking activities there are part of a much longer history of boom and bust in this arid frontier region.
To understand the present, I look to the ghost towns and abandoned industrial sites to tell us about how pioneers continue to try to succeed in an otherwise inhospitable environment.
Here, as elsewhere, history becomes legible in the buildings and the stories residents tell about them.