This is the website of Bryan Norwood. I am a PhD candidate at Harvard in the History and Theory of Architecture and am the 2016-2017 Charles E. Peterson Senior Fellow at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.
My dissertation, entitled “The Architect’s Knowledge: Imagining the Profession’s Historical Body, 1797-1933,” is a comparative study of the beginnings of professional architectural education along the Atlantic Coast of America in the first-half of the nineteenth century and in the Deep South at the turn of the twentieth century. I explore the ways in which intellectual, cultural, and institutional conditions established the knowledge of architecture’s own history as a fundamental requirement—indeed, as a virtue—of the professional architect. In the first part of this study, I show how architectural history developed as a tool for mediating between the poles of understanding architectural expertise as a form of science and as a form of taste-making. This work expands existing scholarship by drawing attention to the ways Protestant theology and Scottish Enlightenment philosophy shaped the nationalistic vision of antebellum architectural practitioners and institutions. In the second part of the dissertation, I situate the formation of architectural education at the Tuskegee Institute and Tulane University within post-Reconstruction issues of labor, intellectual authority, and regional identity. This entails an investigation of the themes of the hopes and limits of Reconstruction, the legacies of the plantation system, the mythology of the Old South, and the development of historic documentation and preservation. My goal, in both parts, is to make explicit the unexpressed and tacit ways in which historical consciousness defines the character, limits, and ethics of professional architectural practice.
I previously received a BA in philosophy and a BArch from Mississippi State University, an MA in philosophy from Boston University, and an AM in architecture from Harvard. I have taught lecture and seminar courses in architectural history and theory at the GSD, Northeastern University, and Boston University. Other recent research includes the architectural implications of speculative realism and object-oriented ontology, the history of flood control on the Mississippi River, mid-century modern architecture in Boston, and the architectural historiography of plantation houses in the Lower Mississippi Valley. My writing has appeared in Philosophical Forum, Log, Harvard Design Magazine, and Culture Machine, as well as several collected volumes.
Contact Me: bnorwood [at] fas [dot] harvard [dot] edu