Writing Land into Architectural Histories

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Image with text reading Writing Land into Architectural Histories. PhD Symposium. March 2022, 2924. History of Architecture and Urbanism Society

image / Asya Ece Uzmay


The spring 2024 symposium "Writing Land into Architectural Histories," organized by the doctoral students in Cornell University's History of Architecture and Urbanism Society (HAUS), aims to explore the entangled histories of the built environment, land, and ecologies, examining intertwined methodologies that address questions of writing land into and out of histories of architecture.

The combinatory practices of both architectural and landscape architectural history have grappled with new ways to interrogate the instrumentality of land as a mechanism that perpetuates relationships of power. How do land policies integrate into the built environment to produce various forms of skill and expertise that challenge normative, often colonial and imperial, forms of knowledge production? How does the materiality of land shape architecture? How do technologies of land and state-making processes move bodies across land? How do various forms of colonialism imbue structural histories of violence on and to land?

Spanning a broad temporal range and extending to various geographies, we invite doctoral students working on the built environment in any discipline to rethink ways of utilizing land as a method in transnational and transimperial histories of architecture. Papers can include, but are not limited to: soils and their relationship to building practices and techniques; medicalization and health measurements; land and ecological governance; property rights and land-use schemes; cultivation and resource management through surveying technologies and agricultural infrastructures; representations of land; models of community and solidarity building through land traditions; labor; and methodologies of multispecies histories of architecture.

This will be an in-person symposium. 


10–10:10 a.m. — Opening Remarks by Asya Ece Uzmay (HAUD)
10:10–11 a.m. — Keynote by Dr. Hollyamber Kennedy (Northwestern University)

Session 1: Techniques of Landmaking (11 a.m.–12 p.m.) 

11–11:15 a.m. — "Land Reform, de-urbanization, and the built environment in the late-Russian Empire" Irina Chernyakova (Columbia University)
11:15–11:30 a.m. — "Architecture of Colonial Medicine and Land Use in Assam Plantations" Devika Singh Shekhawat (Cornell University)
11:30–11:40 a.m. — Response by Dr. Maria Taylor (Landscape Architecture, CALS) 
11:40 a.m.–12 p.m. — Q/A Moderator by Piergianna Mazzocca (HAUD)

Session 2: Multispecies Histories of Land (12:15–1:15 p.m.) 

12:15–12:30 p.m. — "California in the Crystal Palace: The Mother of the Forest and Indigenous Sovereignty" Kurt Pelzer (U.C.L.A.)
12:30–12:45 p.m. — "Iskenderun: The Story of a Port Town, Its Land, and Its Marshes from 1850 to 1950" Feyza Daloglu (M.E.T.U.)
12:45–12:55 p.m. — Response by Dr. Rafico Ruiz (Canadian Centre for Architecture)
12:55–1:15 p.m. — Q/A Moderated by  Andrew Scheinman (HAUD)

Session 3: Land Solidarities  (2:30–3:30 p.m.) 

2:30–2:45 p.m. — "Land and the Anti-Colonial Architectural Imaginary: the 1947 Asian Relations Conference" Shivani Shedde (Princeton University) 
2:45–3 p.m. — "'Something Good and Something Profitable': Ecology, Expertise, and Constructed Land in the San Francisco Bay" B. Jack Hanly (M.I.T.)
3–3:10 p.m. — Response by Dr. Esra Akcan (HAUD) 
3:10–3:30 p.m. —  Q/A Moderated by Qianye Yu (HAUD)

Session 4: Land as Material  (3:45–4:45 p.m.) 

3:45–4 p.m. — "Settlement Service: Agricultural Ladder and Experimental Farm, 1924-1935" Hou Chi-Chia (U.C.L.A.) 
4–4:15 p.m. — "Materiality of Land and Dynamics of Construction in 1960s East Pakistan: Unveiling the Tensions between Modernity, Concrete and Tradition" Fatema Tasmia (Boston University)
4:15–4:25 p.m. — Response by Dr. Hollyamber Kennedy (Northwestern University)  
4:25–4:45 p.m. — Q/A Moderated by Alican Taylan (HAUD)

Closing Remarks by Priyanka Sen (HAUD) (4:50–5 p.m.)

Keynote Speaker

Hollyamber Kennedy
Northwestern University 

Fallow Fields and Garden City Vernacular: Unearthing Apartheid’s Durational Landscapes

Following the shifting alluvial sands of the Namib Desert, this talk will explore the durational landscapes of Namibia's historical extraction zones, from the Northern Fields south of Walvis Bay to the Sperrgebiet, a partitioned region known since 1908 as the "forbidden zone." Across these mobile and increasingly arid coastal landscapes, long-concealed material remnants of entangled colonial and apartheid pasts resurface to visibility alongside the slow granular burial of the derelict mining town of Kolmanskop. Together, these unregimented temporalities daily reveal architecture's modernity in the ecological concerns of our moment.

Hollyamber Kennedy (she/her) researches and teaches modern architectural and landscape history, with an emphasis on heritage politics and the material and environmental legacies of colonial building cultures and land practices. Focusing on transregional links between sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Eastern Europe, her work investigates the ways in which architecture and infrastructure facilitated imperial governance and reshaped agrarian modernities through rural modernization projects across the 19th and 20th centuries. Her current book project, (Un)settling Territory, which emerges out of her doctoral research, examines the visual and technical building cultures of two ministry-supported "settler-state" projects in the non-aligned jurisdictions of German South-West Africa, present-day Namibia, and the German states of Posen and West Prussia, in present-day Poland.

Kennedy is coeditor (with Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi) of the forthcoming volume Settlement (gta Verlag, 2025) and the forthcoming volume Insurgent Domesticities. Her articles have appeared in Grey Room, The Journal of Architecture, Arch+, and The Avery Review. She is a contributor to the volumes German Colonialism in Africa and Its Legacies: Architecture, Art, Urbanism & Visual Culture (Bloomsbury, 2023), German Colonial Building Cultures, a Global Architectural History in 100 Visual Primary Sources (Dietmar Klinger Verlag, 2023), Unearthing Traces: Dismantling the Imperialist Entanglement of Archives and the Built Environment (EPFL Press and CAN Centre d’Art Neuchâtel, 2023), Documents of Contemporary Art: Craft (Whitechapel Gallery and MIT Press, 2018), and Glass! Love!! Perpetual Motion!!! A Paul Scheerbart Reader (University of Chicago Press, 2014).

Kennedy has received grants and fellowships from the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University, the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) at the ETH in Zurich, Switzerland, the Mellon Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, Humboldt University, the DAAD, the Max Planck-Kunsthistorisches Institute, and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, which awarded her the Carter Manny Dissertation Prize in 2018.

Kennedy serves on the Board of Directors of the Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative. She is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Research and Mediation Project "A Future for Whose Past? The Heritage of Minorities, Fringe Groups and People Without a Lobby," for the Architectural Heritage Year 2025 / ICOMOS Suisse. Kennedy codirects the Settlement project, and she is a member of the international research collective Insurgent Domesticities.


Priyanka Sen / ps2242@cornell.edu 

Asya Ece Uzmay / au98@cornell.edu 

Qianye Yu / qy238@cornell.edu

And members of the History of Architecture and Urbanism Society (HAUS) Cornell University Graduate Student Group

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