71st Annual Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) Conference. St. Paul, MN (April 18-22, 2018)

By Aimee Lind, Getty Research Library

The 72nd Annual Society of Architectural Historians conference will be held in Providence, RI from April 24-28, 2019.

The program is available here: https://www.sah.org/2019/program

I attended the 2018 SAH conference in St. Paul, MN and found many sessions, particularly the roundtables, to be extremely relevant to issues facing ARLIS members working with architecture collections.

I’ve included a summary of last year’s conference below. Hope to see some of you in Providence!

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SAH 2018 Annual International Conference Report

Saint Paul, MN (April 18-22, 2018)

Despite the fact that spring had still not officially sprung in Saint Paul, MN, the 2018 SAH Annual International Conference was abloom with informative and inspiring paper sessions, panels, workshops, roundtables, and tours.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18th, 2018

My conference experience began with a visit to the Northwest Architectural Archives at the University of Minnesota. Northwest Architectural Archives “collects the records of architects, engineers, contractors, landscape architects, and interior designers from a region which includes Minnesota, western Wisconsin, northern Iowa, and the eastern Dakotas. Every type of document generated by these individuals and firms is collected: drawings of all kinds, specifications, job files, and photographs are chiefly sought.The collections span nearly 130 years of work by many notable practitioners.”

Our hosts Barbara Bezat and Cheryll Fong brought out a fabulous selection drawings that followed a theme of Built/Unbuilt. We were then treated to a tour of their impressive storage  facilities followed by a bus tour of some of the historic architecture of Minneapolis and Saint Paul that we’d just seen in original drawings.

Back at the conference venue, the RiverCentre, booksellers displayed publications covering all manner of scholarship in the field of architectural history while attendees enjoyed wine and hors d’oeuvres during the Opening Night Social Hour.

Next up, at the Business Meeting, officials provided news on SAH programs and initiatives, including the announcement of the 2020 conference location of Seattle. Topics of discussion included grants, Archipedia development, graduate student outreach, the SAH Architects Council, SAHARA, the SAH Field Seminar, and the treasurer’s report.

Following the Business Meeting, attendees were treated to the Introductory Address from Kristin Anderson of Augsburg University, and Katherine Solomonson of University of Minnesota: “Saint Paul: Last of the East, First of the West”, which helped us all to better understand the history and architecture of the region.

THURSDAY, APRIL 19th, 2018

So many great sessions and so little time! My highlights of the day included paper sessions on the themes of Burnt Clay (brick and tile) and Affordable Housing Design plus two very interesting roundtables on subjects near and dear to my heart. The first was Digital Architectural Records and Our Future moderated by Ann Whiteside(Harvard Graduate School of Design). This well-attended roundtable included librarians, archivists, architects, and architectural historians, all seeking to solve the problem of how to preserve digital architectural records. A forum earlier in the week netted concrete plans of action which will be reported upon soon. If you’d like to be involved, contact Ann Whiteside.

The other roundtable I attended on Thursday focused on Essential Skills for the Architectural Historian, moderated by Danielle S. Willkens (Auburn University), and Jonathan Kewley (Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England) and asked the question what do instructors teach to future architects? Issues of vocabulary, understanding physical surveys, mastery of archival research, critical thinking, ethics, as well as project management skills were raised, among others.

Despite a very packed schedule, I was fortunate enough to pass many impressive works of architecture on my way to and from the conference venue, including the stunning Saint Paul City Hall and Ramsey County Courthouse (Thomas Ellerbe & Company and Holabird & Root,1932)

the charming Saint Paul Women’s City Club (Magnus Jemne, 1931)

and the Hamm Building (Toltz, King and Day, 1915), with its exquisite terracotta facade and interiors.

FRIDAY, APRIL 20th, 2018

On Friday I attended paper sessions focused on themes of Latin American Religious Architecture, Queer Spaces, and Temporal Junctures, as well as another thought-provoking Architects Council roundtable on Making, Management and Preservation of Archives. Many of the same themes as the Making, Management and Preservation of Archives roundtable came up as Bart Voorsanger, Cynthia Weese, Sandy Isenstadt, and Kenneth Frampton discussed how architects and architectural historians can contribute to this important conversation.

If you’re interested in more detailed notes on any of these roundtables, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Friday evening saw the Awards Ceremony & Kenneth Frampton’s Plenary talk at the stunning Landmark Center (Willoughby J. Edbrooke, 1902).

SATURDAY, APRIL 21st, 2018

On Saturday, I toured downtown Minneapolis, where I had the chance to see the Mississippi River as it passes through the Mill District, the Farmers & Mechanics Savings Bank (McEnary, Dale; Krafft, Edwin, 1942), Foshay Tower (Magney & Tusler, 1929), now a W Hotel, and Cedar Square West/Riverside Plaza (Ralph Rapson, 1973), among others.

Saturday evening saw the closing night event at the historic James J. Hill House (1891) where conference organizers recognized the hard work of the many volunteers who helped make this SAH conference successful.

Until next year!

 

 

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