Grants help fund HAUD graduate student research

News
September 2, 2009

The History of Architecture and Urban Design (HAUD) program at Cornell represents a sophisticated blend of interdisciplinary research and scholarship.

Lawrence Chua (Ph.D. candidate) spent the 2008-09 academic year in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand as part of an International Dissertation Research Fellowship from the Social Science Research Council. This fellowship allowed him to delve deeply into Thailand Chinese-language archival material on the historical intersections of architecture, leisure, and violence in 20th-century Thailand.

During this historical period, architecture was the tool par excellence of royal elites in building both the Thai nation and the institution of the monarchy. They used architecture to build monuments, palaces, and temples, but also institutions of leisure and entertainment. This architectural culture of leisure became a site of violent struggle between older elites and new classes that emerged in the early 20th century.

Chua’s archival research coincided with a series of political disturbances in Bangkok in October and November 2008 and again in April 2009. Pitched battles were fought between government troops and demonstrators at key public monuments around the city. These events underscored the persistence of several historical themes that he is exploring in his research: the contested nature of public spaces; the fragile construction of Thai nationalism; and the violent rivalry between newly emerging classes and older elites.

Every day Chua emerged from the archives and confronted the realities of what he had studied, underscoring the notion that history seems anything but a lonely academic pursuit. It can be a powerful tool that reveals much about how present-day realities have been constructed.

Ph.D. candidate Richard Guy spent the past academic year as a Mellon Graduate Fellow at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell, working through materials gathered from the Netherlands national archives and Cornell’s collections of 18th-century manuscripts and rare books, toward his dissertation, which is an inquiry into spatial aspects of control, resistance, and communication aboard the ships of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in the 18th century.

The VOC has been called the world’s first multinational, capitalistic corporation, with a network of shipping and commerce that stretched halfway around the world employing a mobile labor force under uniform working practices. The company’s ships were its most widespread and indispensable architectural productions: reproduced everywhere, they played an active role in forming and transmitting the company’s culture and norms of comportment around the world. The ships were the homes of hundreds of sailors, soldiers, and craftsmen for years at a time. In addition to being the most complicated machines of their day, they were floating communities, embassies, hospitals, and fortresses.

Guy’s dissertation traces the development of a novel kind of seafaring spatial order developed by the company, concentrating on how ships were occupied and used, on territoriality aboard, on the relation between space and authority, and on the lines of control, communication, rivalry, and resistance.

Over the last year Chad Randl (PH.D. candidate) has explored post-World War II architectural production in East Central Europe and the United States, with the support of a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowship. Randl received both academic year and summer FLAS fellowships from the U.S. Department of State that supported Polish language and European studies at Cornell as well as participation in a six-week intensive Polish language program at Jagiellonian University in Kraków.

While in Poland, Randl examined approaches to postwar reconstruction and commemoration that were motivated by the ideological priorities of the People’s Republic. Most recently, he received a traveling fellowship from the A. Henry Detweiler Fund for a research trip to Washington, DC. There, he examined National Association of Home Builders and United States Information Agency archives relating to American participation in trade fairs, expositions, and exchanges in the Eastern Bloc as well as promotion of the single-family home as a symbol of American prosperity, democracy, and capitalism. Cultural programs, housing initiatives, urban development, and living standards were the armaments and battlefields of the Cold War, with each side seeking to demonstrate the superiority of their system through promises of better architecture. A close reading of dialogues between East and West during the postwar era reveals modes in which political conflicts are expressed through the built environment, modes that extend far beyond 1960s Warsaw and Washington.

Recent graduates from the HAUD program and their dissertation/thesis titles:

Niall Atkinson (Ph.D. HAUD), “Architecture, Anxiety, and the Fluid Topographies of Renaissance Florence”

Ela Kacel (Ph.D.HAUD) “Intellectualism and Consumerism: Ideologies, Practices, and Criticism of Postwar Modernism in Turkey and the United States"

John M. O'Brien III (Ph.D. HAUD) "The OPenwork Dome as Sacred Theater: Illumination and Illusion in the Centrally Planned Churches of Bernado  Antonio Vittone"

Daniel Coslett (M.A. HAUD) “(Re)scripting a (Post)colonial Streetscape: Tunis’s Avenue Habib Bourguiba"

William Skinner (M.A. HAUD) “All for One: Nation-Making and the National Museum of the American Indian"

Ruth Lo (M.A. HAUD) “Tasting Fascism: Food, Space, and Identity in Italy”