CFP: 2020 Latrobe Chapter Symposium of the Society of Architectural Historians

Call for Papers: 2020 Latrobe Chapter Symposium

Race, Ethnicity, and Architecture in the Nation’s Capital

In 2019, the Washington Post reported that the nation’s capital had the highest intensity of gentrification of any American city, with more than 20,000 African Americans displaced from low-income neighborhoods from 2000 to 2013. For architectural and urban historians, the implications were clear — this demographic transformation would inevitably reconfigure the physical appearance, experience, and structure of the city.

Yet this mutual shaping of Washington’s social and architectural make-up was by no means new. Since the city’s establishment in the late eighteenth century, scores of enslaved people and voluntary migrants structured the social and material composition of the broader Washington, DC region. The 13th SAH Latrobe Chapter Biennial Symposium — Race, Ethnicity, and Architecture in the Nation’s Capital — therefore calls for scholars to think through this history. It challenges participants to not only uncover the material contributions of diverse racial and ethnic groups, but also expose government and private attempts to control, segregate, and appropriate design traditions. Interested scholars are encouraged to submit work that delves into topics like the importance of slavery to the construction of local buildings; the development of Chinatown, Eden Center, Langley Park, Little Ethiopia, and other regional hot spots; urban renewal and public housing; racially integrated mid-century suburbs; and the design of embassies, museums, and public spaces, among other topics. In addition to the panels, symposium attendees will have the opportunity to join walking tours of sites that expose the mutual construction of race, ethnicity, and architecture in the nation’s capital.

Historic Victorian architecture at LeDroit Park, a neighborhood in NW, Washington, D.C., photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, 2010, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Formal CFP below (you can also access the CFP via this link): 


Governments and private developers have employed built environments to control and regulate racialized bodies. Through the systemic planning of residential and commercial districts, public spaces, and transit, they ensured the growth of isolated enclaves whose economic health varied based on inhabitants’ race. Historically-specific understandings of race have likewise shaped the design and construction of the capital’s architecture, for example influencing the development of various building typologies, ranging from embassies and museums to shopping centers. The 13th Latrobe Chapter Biennial Symposium therefore calls for a timely investigation of the symbiotic relationship between race, ethnicity, and architecture in the greater Washington, DC region. It conceptualizes race broadly, not as an issue of binaries, but rather of corporeal hierarchies that meaningfully structure the design and experience of architectural and urban spaces.

Presentations might explore:

  • Architectural education and practice;
  • The importance of slavery and its legacies to the construction of government and university buildings;
  • Development of Chinatown, the Eden Center, Langley Park, Little Ethiopia, and other ethnic regional hot spots;
  • Urban renewal and the construction of low- income public housing;

Growth of racially integrated middle-class suburbs and their modernist aesthetic aspirations;
Design of embassies, museums, and public spaces that appropriate different cultural design and construction practices; Architectural transformation of neighborhoods as a result of broader demographic changes.

The purpose of the symposium is to feature recent research
discussion. Presentations must be analytical rather than descriptive in nature and should place the subject in a comparative context that emphasizes the relationship between race and architecture.

All sessions will take place on Saturday, April 18, 2020, at The Catholic University of America School of Architecture and Planning. Tours will commence the following day on Sunday, April 19, 2020.

Please send a one-page, 350-word abstract of a 20-minute paper and 1-2 page curriculum vitae by August 1, 2019 to All applicants will be notified of the selection by August 23, 2019. April 1, 2020 is the deadline for final text to be sent to session moderators, who will work with presenters to develop themes for discussion. For further information, contact Vyta Baselice at

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