This DPDF research field will engage students in the study of space and science, and in the exploration of architecture and the production of new knowledge. A decade ago, an important collection of essays suggested why ‘the architecture of science’ deserved attention, but it did not lead to a sustained engagement between architectural historians and historians of science and medicine on a methodological or theoretical level. What a recent historiographical essay dubbed the “spatial turn” in the history of science seems to have taken a detour around some of the key spaces of science, technology, and medicine. Aside from a few notable exceptions, studies of the built environment so central to the practice of science and medicine have framed their subject in strictly disciplinary terms. What is needed is an approach attuned to how space is designed, interpreted and negotiated, and to how it conveys meaning(s), as William Whyte argues.

Our discussions will reach out to sociology (Thomas Gieryn’s investigations of ‘what buildings do’), human and cultural geography (David Harvey’s attempts to ‘spatialize corporate capital’), and anthropology (Sharon Traweek’s studies of laboratory practice), while staying grounded in the history and material culture of particular places and spaces. The fields of the history of architecture and of science have moved far beyond the lumbering weight of Great Men and geniuses; but the two fields have not fully benefited from one another’s vernacular interests and global perspectives.

We welcome students from a broad range of disciplines to explore with us how spaces of inquiry structure the practice, and the experience, of science and medicine, from the perspective of scientists, physicians, patients, students, the public. How does architecture reflect and reinforce distinctive ways of knowing, and how adaptive are such spaces in the face of rapidly changing professional practice? We encourage cross-cultural and transnational comparisons, since architecture, science, and medicine must all balance their universal aspirations with the insistent demands of local patrons and clients. Dissertations may examine countless spaces of inquiry, including the laboratory, the clinic, the hospital, the asylum, the garden, the classroom and the museum. Our goal is to visually scrutinize the design and redesign of places of knowledge-making, so that we can bring theory to bear on (sometimes literally) concrete examples. We will lead students on site visits in San Diego and Philadelphia, where the two DPDF workshops will meet, in order to spur discussion and generate new ideas. From the cell blocks of prisons to the halls of Victorian museums, and from operating theaters to laboratories overlooking the Pacific, the spaces of inquiry will inspire and challenge us.


  • Majed Akhter

    University of Arizona, Geography

    Built agrarian environments: Water planning and canals in Punjab, Pakistan
    As salinity, waterlogging, siltation, and water scarcity become clearer dangers, the consequences for the irrigated agrarian economy of Punjab, Pakistan appear dire. Pakistan’s economy is largely agricultural, and millions of people rely on Punjabi farms for food and livelihood. Ironically, planning responses include augmentation of the very hydraulic infrastructure at the root of ecological fallout in irrigated tracts. My project’s aim is to explain how the built environment, development discourse, and agrarian production have shaped each other and how this relationship surfaces in contemporary rural water planning in Pakistan. I do this by studying the socio-ecological and discursive relations that the irrigation system of Punjab has been active in since its first components were constructed under British rule. This project uses mixed methods of interviews, archival research, and GIS based spatial analysis to understand how canals and dams are designed, constructed, and become a part of social processes like production, urbanization, and planning. Exploratory research is necessary to inventory archival sources, identify a research site, and establish interview contacts in Pakistan.
  • Roberto Chauca Tapia

    University of Florida, History

    Missionary Cartography and The Forging of National Space in Western Amazonia
    My purpose is to study the process by which the Jesuit and Franciscan cartographic production of the western Amazon basin between the seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries preconfigured the way postcolonial Peruvians and Ecuadorians imagined their national spaces. My hypothesis is that, while pursuing their own missionary interests rather than following royal or imperial imperatives, mapping monks carved out a “space of inquiry” and evangelization that was later appropriated as a “national frontier” by the Creole elite of Quito and Lima, respectively. While the legacy of the Jesuits was to include the Amazonian province named “Maynas” in the spatial imagination of the Audiencia de Quito, the legacy of the Franciscans was to inscribe “Maynas” into the Viceroyalty of Peru. The twin legacy of missionary mapping may be at the root of the ongoing conflict over the definition of national spaces in Ecuador and Peru.
  • Phil Clements

    University of California / San Diego, History

    Science on the Roof of the World: The 1963 American Mount Everest Expedition
    In 1963 the American Mount Everest Expedition set out to both place an American atop the tallest mountain in the world and conduct first-rate physiological, geological, sociological, and psychological research. The expedition provides a case-study for several science studies interventions, including the role of Everest's exceptional geography as the "where" and "what" of scientific inquiry, how that geography determined the production and subsequent reception of scientific knowledge, the physical and physiological challenges facing mountain-scientists and the methods used to overcome those challenges, the nationalism of American publicly- and privately-funded scientific research undertaken in Central Asia during the height of the Cold War, the masculinist ethos of American field sciences, and the creation and deployment of technologies designed to enable scientific and mountaineering success at and above Base Camp, elevation 17,800 feet above sea level. This study draws on archived primary sources including correspondence between expedition members, grants from the National Geographic Society, the NSF, NASA, the Office of Naval Research, the Atomic Energy Commission, and other public funding agencies, the articles published by expedition researchers in professional scientific journals, unpublished field-notes, and other research data--including a set of 19 individualized, standardized diaries kept by expedition members for sociological research.
  • Aimi Hamraie

    Emory University, Women's Studies

    The Science & Phenomenology of the Body in Universal Design: a feminist, disability studies approach
    The movement towards Universal Design aims to design spaces that are accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of age, ability, race, gender, and other markers of human variation. Rather than merely adopting the medical model of disability, in which the body is impaired by pathology, Universal Design adheres to a social model, in which it is inaccessible environments that construct disability by excluding variant bodies from use and participation. Intrinsic to the difference between the two is each model’s understanding of the body, based on both scientific and experiential knowledge of how the body behaves, thinks, and functions within space. Operating within a feminist disability studies frame, this study will explore Universal Design’s critique of architectural ways of knowing and reacting to the body and cognition. I will employ theoretical and site-based research to explore three central questions: 1) In what ways does architecture contribute to scientific and phenomenological knowledge of variant bodies? 2) What epistemological and ontological assumptions about normal and abnormally gendered and disabled bodies enter the design process? 3) Can feminist and disability theories of embodiment, knowledge, and science provide architects a way to reconcile the competing claims to objectivity of medical and experiential knowledge?
  • Christopher H. Heaney

    University of Texas / Austin, History

    Grave Expectations: Indigenous Burials, Transnational Archaeology and Local Museums in the Creation of Peru, 1780-1930
    My project uses graves, archaeology and museums to explore post-colonial Peru’s changing legal, religious and scientific relationship to the pre-Columbian past. While the Spanish church and crown monitored indigenous burials during the colonial period, in 1822, within a year of independence, Peru’s government decreed that monuments and artifacts from “Peruvian antiquity” belonged to the nation. If individuals were caught excavating and exporting artifacts without permission, they turned over their loot to the newly-founded National Museum. Such a law proved difficult to enforce, however, and for the next century, Peruvians and foreigners debated whether the subject matter of archaeology – ruins, artifacts and bones – might also belong to the individual who excavated them, or indigenous people themselves. My project focuses on the changing interaction of two distinct but related spaces of that debate: graves and other archaeological sites (the “field”), and the series of national and private Peruvian museums (the “lab”) that struggled to study, display and store their still-sacred contents. By doing so, I hope to illuminate the historic roots of an apparently not-so-modern question: how do museums and nations construct their right to narrate the spiritual, national and scientific meaning of the indigenous dead?
  • Jennifer Frances Kosmin

    University of North Carolina / Chapel Hill, History

    Contested Bodies: Midwives and the Politics of Reproduction in Early Modern Italy
    Over the course of the eighteenth century, the professionalization of medical practice and the extension of that practice into traditional spaces profoundly altered the ways in which childbirth was understood and embodied. Fundamental to these developments was the development of new childbirth spaces and technology. My research explores the ways in which these spaces and the pregnant body itself were defined and redefined in the context of the first Italian maternity ward at the hospital of San Giovanni in Turin. In Europe’s urban centers, the knowledge and practice of traditional midwifery was gradually eroded in the early modern period by new scientific and masculine epistemologies. Unlike London or Paris, however, Italian cities witnessed no protracted battles between male and female birth attendants for control of the birthing room. Rather, efforts were aimed at professionalizing female midwives through new courses of instruction and clinical training. This project thus seeks to explore how the shift from experiential to institutionalized midwifery training affected cultural understandings of and attitudes toward childbirth. By understanding the politics and epistemology of space within the first Italian maternity ward, we can more fully understand the gradual shift from ‘natural’ to ‘medical’ childbirth begun in the early modern period.
  • Kathleen Curry Oberlin

    Indiana University / Bloomington, Sociology

    Believing It. Defending It. Proclaiming It: Using the Museum Form to Challenge Science
    Museums have long been sites of contestation among audiences, curators, organized interest groups, and states. Natural history museums, for example, have become institutions that promote the credibility and legitimacy of scientific worldviews. However, with that ascent, science has found itself in a seemingly unending competition with religion. Throughout most of the 20th century, incendiary battles between religion and science took place in classrooms and courtrooms. Perhaps inevitably, the contestation between religion and science has shifted to a different space: museums. As opposition grew against the evolutionary depiction of human origins, members of the Young Earth Creationist (YEC) social movement built the Creation Museum in Kentucky to promote an alternative understanding. Its organizers sought to use the ‘museum form,’ with its history as a source of scientific legitimacy, to subvert the authority of science. How does this Creation Museum exploit the credibilizing capacity of the museum-space to promote a particular religious worldview —without compromising the appearance of the place as a bona fide museum? This project focuses on the ambitions, strategies, and accomplishments of the Creation Museum. The museum has become a space of inquiry for curious visitors seeking answers to enduring questions at the troubled juncture of religion and science.
  • Karen R. Robbins

    Boston University, American Studies

    Women Living in Cells: Institutional Sites of Learning and Reform
    Using an interdisciplinary approach that includes architectural history, cultural geography, material culture, history, literature, psychology, and sociology, I will investigate the buildings and campuses where women of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries lived in non-traditional, institutional “homes,” sites that include some element of reform. In some cases, these were retreats from society that women chose to inhabit, such as the dormitories of the new women’s colleges. In other instance, women were forced into isolation and into environments not of their choosing. In either case, the built forms were designed in part to offer lessons of “proper” living and the people in control of the site modeled behavior that women were meant to aspire to. Along with the cultural lessons of creating and providing a home environment, students learned about the ideas of domesticity through the built forms and objects found in these spaces. Women had been regulated to the home, but these new types of spaces offered additional locations for learning and living that had not been available before and forced a new type of interaction between women and domestic spaces.
  • Brittany A. Shields

    University of Pennsylvania, History of Science

    Place and Space in the History of Mathematics: A Comparative Study of the University of Göttingen and New York University’s Mathematical Institutes under the Leadership of Richard Courant
    In his remarkable career, the mathematician Richard Courant (1888-1972) oversaw the construction of two world-class mathematical institutes, one in the late1920s at the University of Göttingen (he lost his position there in 1933), and one at New York University in the 1960s. My comparative project considers these two architectural spaces as historical artifacts that illuminate the social and intellectual practices of twentieth century mathematics. I consider each building’s planning, construction and habitation processes, drawing on blueprints, meeting minutes, correspondence and other documents to understand how space mattered to those whose work required not laboratories or gardens, but the right kind of private workspace, desk and blackboard, situated in the proper relationship to shared workspaces, a library and classrooms. Important scholarship on architecture and knowledge production has suggested profound reciprocal relationships between the space of scientific inquiry and the identity and practice of the scientists. As Peter Galison and Thomas Gieryn have proposed, buildings are both active agents and sources of evidence in the negotiation of scientific identity. My work looks at a group often viewed as unbounded by the demands of a laboratory, and demonstrates the complex spatial dimensions of a seemingly abstract knowledge field.
  • James Dalgoff Skee

    University of California / Berkeley, History

    Experiencing Science: The Built Landscapes of Charles Luckman and William Pereira
    Two recent trends in the history of science, represented by Katherine Pandora and Karen Rader’s exhortation to broaden the category of science to include humanistic meanings, and Sophie Forgan’s call to create “an architecture of museums in history of science,” suggest that a renewed dialogue between historians of science and architectural historians may be fruitful in broadening our understanding of the relationship between science, ideology, and the built environment. While museums are one potential area of inquiry, Americans also experienced the architecture of science through their quotidian routines and moments of crisis. This project seeks to explore science in both its humanistic dimensions and a method of rational knowledge production by examining the work of Los Angeles-based architects Charles Luckman and William Pereira, who greatly influenced the shape of America’s Cold War built landscapes. Their work structured the production and consumption of science through industrial research centers, university campuses, and hospitals. Yet they also applied similar aesthetic and organizational approaches to the design of theme parks, world’s fairs, airports, hotels, and department stores. Through archival research and interviews with the users of these spaces, this project seeks to trace the relationship between the architecture of America and science.
  • Jenna Tonn

    Harvard University, History of Science

    Disciplined Construction/Constructing Disciplines: The Museum and the Laboratory in the Development of American Biology, 1880-1940
    When one thinks about “spaces of biology” in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, one thinks about the gentleman’s armchair, the curiosity cabinet, the natural history museum, and the laboratory. Between 1880 and 1940 in the United States as universities began to rethink and restructure their biology programs and as new endeavors in fields like physiology, applied genetics, and experimental zoology required updated facilities, the topography of practice in the biological sciences shifted away from the well-established natural history museums and into multistory laboratories. Rather than marking an end to the spatial and institutional relations between museum “stamp collectors” and laboratory “scientists”, these newly constructed laboratory structures in their architectural design, their ornamentation and their internal organization of research groups and individual investigators remained deeply connected to the museum. By examining the local contingencies surrounding the planning and construction of new experimental laboratories at Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, the California Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences, it becomes clear that the concerns about space which had originated in the context of museums housing vertebrate zoology and vertebrate paleontology impacted the development of biology in both universities and non-affiliated institutions dedicated to science.
  • Sara M. Witty

    University of Wisconsin / Madison, Art History

    The Visual Landscape of the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center
    My proposed study is to investigate the evolving architectural landscape and visual representations of the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center. Originally labeled the St. Peter Hospital for the Insane, the campus began with a linear plan hospital and was slowly shaped by changing attitudes regarding treatment. Similarly, the usage of architectural and campus spaces was shaped by the realities of life at the hospital, often deviating from prescribed usages of said spaces. Photographic and filmic representations will be considered as both documents and objects in their own right. As documents, these representations illuminate the way in which life was lived, by both patients and staff, in the hospital setting. As objects in their own right, they offer one perspective of the visual culture, and visual perception, of mental illness in the United States. The primary goal of my proposed study is to examine the way in which the hospital and its representations simultaneously uphold and contradict contemporary theories regarding the treatment of mental illness, evolving social policies of treatment, and modern conceptions of institutional treatment.