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Buell Center Director

Lucia Allais is Appointed Director of the Buell Center as Reinhold Martin Steps Down in December 2021
Lucia Allais and Reinhold Martin portraits
November 5, 2021

The Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP) is pleased to announce the appointment of Associate Professor Lucia Allais as the new Director of the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University. Allais will assume the role in January 2022 and succeeds Professor Reinhold Martin, who has led the Buell Center since 2008. Martin will return to scholarship and teaching full time, and he continues to direct the History and Theory Sequence in the School’s Master of Architecture program.

Allais is an architectural scholar who joined Columbia GSAPP in September 2019 from Princeton University, where she had been an Associate Professor of Architecture and Director of the program in Interdisciplinary Humanities, IHUM. Since her appointment Allais has reinforced the School’s legacy of fostering critical historical consciousness among its students and across the disciplines of the built environment. Earlier this year, Allais co-organized, with Forrest Meggers (Princeton), the conference After Concrete: Redefining Materials and Energy in the Anthropocene. Stemming from a multi-year research project about the “carbonation” of reinforced concrete, the conference situated architectural materials into the variously scaled processes that are inherent in climate change, construction industries, ecological science, and design advocacy. Allais is currently teaching courses offered as part of the School’s History and Theory Sequence in the Master of Architecture program, as well as a colloquium for the Ph.D. in Architecture program; she is also a member of Columbia University’s Center for Comparative Media. Allais’s first book, Designs of Destruction: The Making of Monuments in the Twentieth Century (University of Chicago Press, 2018) describes the rise of a new definition of “the monument” through liberal internationalist organizations, who sought to protect and salvage buildings from the extensive destructions of the middle of the 20th century. Her work has contributed immensely to the University’s commitment to advancing deeper understanding and new knowledge across our global condition.

“I am humbled to be asked to direct the Buell Center,” Allais said, “at a moment when American architectural discourse is rich with debates about how human agency permeates the built and natural environments, both in history and in ongoing struggles over the future of design. I am especially excited to be following in the wake of Reinhold Martin’s transformative leadership.”

During Professor Martin’s tenure as Director, the Buell Center generated numerous influential research initiatives, publications, and exhibitions involving collaborators and contributors from inside the University and beyond, and spanning a range of disciplines and expertise. In 2009, the programming series Public Housing: A New Conversation insisted that public housing take its rightful place in the dialogue over possible responses to the mortgage and foreclosure crisis. Ten years later, the accompanying pamphlet served as a key reference for national legislators working to envision a Green New Deal for public housing. The Buell Hypothesis (2011) and related initiative Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream (2011–13), which included an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, convened and led a public conversation to consider the role of government, suburban imaginaries, and the disciplines of the built environment in reinforcing, and possibly changing, the exclusions of the so-called “American Dream.” The Art of Inequality (2015), a book that delves into the historical and conceptual relationship between real estate development and housing design, sold widely internationally and continues to be impactful today. The Center’s multi-year research project, Power: Infrastructure in America, challenges its participants to think about how infrastructure relates to life across a series of intersecting concerns, including democratic governance and climate justice. Additional projects include the exhibitions Public Matters: New York Architecture after 9/11 (2011), House Housing: An Untimely History of Architecture and Real Estate (2013–2016), and Living in America: Frank Lloyd Wright, Harlem, and Modern Housing (2017); the event The Green New Deal: A Public Assembly (2019) hosted at the Queens Museum in New York; the publication and research initiative The A&E System (2020); the Buell Dissertation Colloquium (2009–2021); and the Conferences on the History of Architecture (2010–2015). Martin is also the founding editor of the Buell Center Books in the History and Theory of American Architecture, and under his direction the Buell Center has offered significant support to GSAPP students, including the school-wide initiative Public Works for a Green New Deal (2019). The forthcoming publication Green Reconstruction, to be released this fall, offers a toolkit for focusing curricula of the built environment along two axes: the green axis of ecological transformation, and the gilded axis of material redistribution, or Reconstruction. Collectively, these projects produced with the Buell Center’s staff and numerous external collaborators reflect an enduring commitment to engaging diverse, interdisciplinary audiences comprising academics, practitioners, and members of the general public into conversations about critical issues of public concern.

“I eagerly anticipate the brilliant imagination that Lucia Allais will bring to the Buell Center,” Martin said, “and remain especially grateful to the countless collaborators who have helped make the institution what it is, most notably Jacob Moore and Jordan Steingard, and their predecessors Anna Kenoff and Diana Martinez.”