History of Art and Architecture


Related tags

monuments and memory

communities and polities






Since the origins of humankind, the physical environment has been profoundly shaped by the countless ways people make, modify, and interpret the places they inhabit or use.  Conversely the environment has always shaped the material possibilities through which people can order their existence.  Here we investigate the environment as both a material and imaginary field through which social and cultural relations are represented and constituted.  Areas of inquiry include landscape, urbanism, gardens, ecocriticism, historic preservation, and architectural history and theory.

Since its inception, the Environment Constellation has pursued these areas of interest via a wide range of initiatives and programming. It has contributed significantly to the graduate curriculum, helping to constitute the conceptual core of the department’s historiography seminar in 2018, and providing the basis for in-depth examinations of colonialism and cosmopolitanism; arranged lectures by external scholars including “Architectural Studies without Architecture: The Built Environments of Slavery in the Indian Ocean” by Dwight Carey, and “Migration of Architectural Forms and Ideas in the Early Modern Spanish Empire” by Jesus Escobar; and it has offered screenings of such films as “Nostalgia for the future”by Avijit Mukul Kishore, along with a lunch/workshop with Kishore and graduate students.  

Environment continues to be a focal concept explored in multiple graduate student and faculty-led projects. In 2016, HAA faculty Drew Armstrong collaborated with Chloe Hogg from the Department of French and Italian to create the graduate course and speaker series “Versailles: Space, Power, Memory,” which was accompanied by a week-long, on-site study experience at Versailles. The "Narratives of the Nationality Rooms: Immigration and Identity in Pittsburgh"exhibition (2017), which grew out of the Museum Studies Exhibition Seminar taught by Shirin Fozi in collaboration with the University Art Gallery, explored the ways that immigrant identities were embedded in the spaces of the Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning. Also in 2017, Alex Taylor and Isabelle Chartier developed the week-long Consuming Nature workshop that explored the human presence in the landscape through the rich collections of Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh partners; and in 2018, the graduate symposium “Motivating Monuments” offered a venue for an interdisciplinary conversation about the power invested in monuments.


The Constellation has also arranged faculty-led walking tours of Pittsburgh, fieldtrips to different cities (e.g. Detroit, Washington DC, Chicago, Buffalo, New York City, etc.), and study-abroad courses in European cities such as Prague, Vienna, Ljubljana, Zagreb, and Budapest, which have provided invaluable opportunities for graduate students to engage with a myriad of landscapes and buildings within their local contexts.