Blackboxing Banham

Taking its title from Reyner Banham's final, posthumously published article, Blackboxing Banham is a 5-day symposium beginning with a keynote by Anthony Vidler.


Feb 24, 2021–Mar 6, 2021


Consider the mysterious case of Reyner Banham. After more than three decades of staunch criticism of the status quo, Banham, on his death bed, penned “A Black Box: The Secret Profession of Architecture,” in which he succumbed to a view of architecture as improbably autonomous and possibly impenetrable, largely because it continued to live on despite numerous attacks by himself and others.

Three decades after his untimely death, Banham’s words live on too, and for equally mysterious reasons. Is it the style that remains so difficult to emulate? Is it the perceptive critical glance, always halting in its clarity? Or is it simply our continued interest in black-boxing something—something like “architecture” or “critique”—in order to consider again our collective faith in its inscrutable power?


Wednesday, February 24

5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
Anthony Vidler
followed by a conversation with Todd Gannon, Dora Epstein Jones, and Lydia Kallipoliti.

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Thursday, February 25

3:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Panel 1
Todd Gannon, introduction
John Davis, Lydia Kallipoliti, Hadas Steiner
Benjy Flowers, moderator

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Saturday, February 27

1 – 2:30 p.m.
Panel 2
Michael Osman, introduction
Forrest Meggers, Kiel Moe, Claire Zimmerman
Lucia Allais, moderator

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Thursday, March 4

3 – 4:30 p.m.
Panel 3
Joe Day
Sarah Deyong
Whitney Moon
Dora Epstein Jones, moderator

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Saturday, March 6

1 – 2:30 p.m.
Panel 4
Todd Gannon, introduction
Daniel Barber, Andrew Cruse, Janette Kim
Felicity Scott, moderator

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2:30 – 3:15 p.m.
Closing Comments
Michael Osman
followed by a conversation with Lucia Allais, Felicity Scott, and Anthony Vidler

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About the Panelists

Lucia Allais is an architectural historian and critic who writes about architecture as it interacts with the global culture industry, international politics, the history of techniques. She also writes on the history of architectural theory. Her first book is Designs of Destruction: The Making of Monuments in the 20th Century. She is Associate Professor at Columbia University, a member of the Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative, and an editor of Grey Room.

Daniel A. Barber is an architectural historian and theorist. He is Associate Professor and Chair of the PhD Program in Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. His most recent book is Modern Architecture and Climate: Design before Air Conditioning (Princeton UP, 2020); an article “Active Passive: Heat Storage and the Solar Imaginary” was just published in South Atlantic Quarterly (vol. 120, no. 1, 1 January 2021). His research, teaching, lectures, and exhibitions narrate environmentalist histories of architecture and prospect in the eco-critical future. He is the topic director (2020-2021) on “Transition/Transformation” for the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities.

Andrew Cruse is an assistant professor of architecture at The Ohio State University and a registered architect. His academic work focuses on the evolution of human comfort and its impact on architectural design and energy use. He was recently a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Technology Sydney, in Australia. His project, Indoor Climate Change, examined the spatial and temporal aspects of mixed-mode buildings throughout the country. He has presented his work in many academic settings including most recently the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, the International Congress of Construction History, and the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism. His design practice, Good Form Studio, recently completed a project for Novartis Pharma in Basel, Switzerland that merges architectural and landscape design strategies.

Joe Day is an architect and critic based in Los Angeles. Day leads Deegan-Day Design & Architecture and teaches at the Southern California Institute of Architecture. He is the author of Corrections & Collections (Routledge, 2013), as well as a foreword for the latest edition of Reyner Banham's Los Angeles: Architecture of the Four Ecologies (UC Press, 2009).

John Davis is an environmental and architectural historian and assistant professor at the Knowlton School, where he teaches courses in landscape history. His primary research area is on technology, construction, and environment in the Americas in the modern era. Davis’s current book project is about military and civil engineering and environment in the U.S. South after the American Civil War, examining the physical processes of building that undergirded the central political metaphor of the Reconstruction Era. He is the coeditor of the forthcoming volume Military Landscapes, to be published by Dumbarton Oaks/Harvard University Press.

Sarah Deyong is an associate professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she served as program director of architecture in 2018-2020. She received her PhD from Princeton University and her BArch from the University of Toronto, and has served on the board of the JAE since 2016. With grants from the Graham Foundation and the Glasscock Center of the Humanities, she has published her research in the Journal of Architectural Education, the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Praxis, the Journal of Architecture, Architectural Design (AD), and the MoMA catalogue, The Changing of the Avant-Garde, among other venues. Her essay “The Legacy of the Sixties” garnered the ACSA/JAE Best Scholarship of Design Award in 2015.

Dora Epstein Jones, PhD, is a theorist and teacher of architectural culture. Her work mainly focuses on the discipline of architecture and includes interrogations of the discipline’s boundaries and operations through examinations of tectonics, practice, and pedagogy, as well as (generally external) concerns such as gender, sex, mobility, and criticality. She has published in Log, Arch’it, ArcCa and ACSA, curated exhibitions at the A+D Museum, SCI-Arc and local galleries, as well as written essays for publications by J,P:A, Office dA, UCLA Architecture and anthologies on gender and sex in architecture.

Benjamin Flowers is a Professor of Architecture and the Associate Director of the Knowlton School. Prior to joining the Knowlton School in 2019, Dr. Flowers was a Professor of Architecture in the College of Design and an Associate Vice Provost at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is the author of several books including Beautiful Moves: Designing Stadia (LundHumphries, 2018), Sport and Architecture (Routledge, 2017) a global survey of the stadium and its socio-political significance, and Skyscraper: The Politics and Power of Building New York City in the Twentieth Century (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), named a 2010 Outstanding Academic Title in Architecture by Choice Magazine. He is also the editor of Architecture in an Age of Uncertainty (Ashgate Press, 2014), an examination of the political economy of architecture during the 2008 global recession. In addition, his articles include “Illuminating the Invisible: Race + Space in Architectural Pedagogy” (The Journal of History and Culture) and “Race, Space, and Architecture in Oakland Cemetery” (Scapes).

Todd Gannon is Robert S. Livesey Professor of Architecture and Head of the Architecture Section of the Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture. He is a graduate of the Knowlton School (BSArch '95, MArch '97) and holds a PhD from UCLA. A registered architect, Gannon has practiced with Acock Associates Architects in Columbus and was a senior associate Kovac Architects in Los Angeles. He taught at the Knowlton School from 1999–2004 and at Otis College of Art and Design, UCLA, and SCI-Arc before returning to the Knowlton School as section head in 2017. Gannon’s research focuses on the history and theory of late 20th-century and contemporary architecture. His published books include The Light Construction Reader (2002), Et in Suburbia Ego: José Oubrerie’s Miller House (2013), and monographs on the work of Peter Eisenman, Zaha Hadid, Steven Holl, Morphosis, Eric Owen Moss, Oyler Wu Collaborative, Mack Scogin/Merrill Elam, Bernard Tschumi, and UN Studio.

Lydia Kallipoliti is an architect, engineer, and scholar whose research focuses on the intersections of architecture, technology, and environmental politics. She is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the Cooper Union in New York. Previously she has taught at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she directed the MSArch program, Syracuse University, Columbia University, Pratt Institute, and the University of Technology Sydney; she was also a visiting fellow at the University of Queensland in Australia. Kallipoliti is the author of the book The Architecture of Closed Worlds, Or, What is the Power of Shit (Lars Muller/Storefront, 2018), as well as the History of Ecological Design for Oxford English Encyclopedia of Environmental Science. Her work has been exhibited in a number of international venues including the Venice Biennial, the Istanbul Design Biennial, the Shenzhen Biennial, the Oslo Trienalle, the London Design Museum, and the Storefront for Art and Architecture. Kallipoliti is the recipient of a Webby Award, grants from the Graham Foundation, and the New York State Council for the Arts, an Honorable Mention at the Shenzhen Biennial, a Fulbright scholarship, and the ACSA annual award for Creative Achievement. Kallipoliti holds a Diploma in Architecture and Engineering from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, a SMArchS from MIT, and a PhD from Princeton University. Recently, she has been appointed Chief Co-Curator of the Tallinn Architecture Biennale 2022.

Janette Kim is an architectural designer, researcher, and educator based in San Francisco whose work focuses on the intersection between ecology, social equity and the built environment. Janette is assistant professor and director of Urban Works Agency at California College of the Arts and founding principal of All of the Above. Janette is author of The Underdome Guide to Energy Reform and founding editor of ARPA Journal. Her projects include the Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge, the Win-Win board game series, a boutique hotel in Sichuan, Safari audio tours on urban ecology, Pinterest Headquarters, National AIDS Memorial, and the Fall Kill Creek Master Plan. Janette has worked in partnership with municipal agencies, such as the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York, and the City of Newark, as well as non-profit advocacy groups, such as the East Oakland Collective and the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.

Forrest Meggers is jointly appointed at Princeton in the School of Architecture and the Andlinger Center for Energy and Environment. He founded and directs CHAOS (Cooling and Heating for Architecturally Optimized systems) Lab where he and his research team investigate alternative thermal paradigms to engage architecture and maximize performance. He has been awarded funding at Princeton for several "Campus as a Lab" projects and for several technology innovations. He has grants fro NSF, DOE, and ARM, and he collaborates with industry. He has several patents and founded the spinoff Hearth Labs to develop his SMART sensor technology to improve thermal comfort. He was previously in Singapore as Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Architecture at the National University of Singapore. He has degrees from Mechanical Engineering (BSE), Environmental Engineering (MS), and Architecture (Dr sc.). His fields of knowledge include building systems design and integration; sustainable systems; renewable energy; radiant systems, desiccants, exergy analysis; geothermal; seasonal energy storage; building materials; thermodynamics and heat transfer; and heat pumps. He received his PhD in the Dept. of Architecture at the ETH Zurich. He also directed research on sustainable systems for the president of the ETH Board. Originally a native of Iowa, Forrest worked on many sustainability projects at the University of Iowa, and worked with Jim Hansen, renowned climatologist on US Building Stock CO2 emissions. Through all his international and research experiences he always prides himself as an Iowan and a bicycle mechanic.


Kiel Moe is a practicing architect and the Gerald Sheff Professor of Architecture at McGill University. He has published ten books on architecture.

Whitney Moon is Assistant Professor of Architecture at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she teaches history, theory, and design. Her research interests reside in 20th and 21st century art and architecture, with an emphasis on theatricality, performance, and ephemeral works. Specifically, Moon examines architectural objects, installations, performances, and exhibitions and their relationship to the social, political, economic, and environmental conditions that shape them. Currently, she is working on a collection of essays about the rise and fall of pneumatic architecture in the 1960s and 70s entitled “Who Let the Air Out?” Moon’s recent writings have been published in e-flux, JAE, PRAXIS, Room One Thousand, The Other Architect, Possible Mediums, and Constructing Building Enclosures. A registered architect in California and Wisconsin, Moon earned her PhD in Architectural History & Theory from University of California, Los Angeles, and BArch from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Michael Osman’s research in architectural history focuses on the 19th and 20th centuries, with a particular emphasis on buildings and cities in the United States. He seeks connections between the infrastructure that undergirds the processes of modernization and the historiography of modernist architecture. The topics of his writing include: the influence of ecological science on theories of city growth, early instruments for remote sensing, and the architectural profession’s relation to modern construction processes. Osman is the author of Modernism’s Visible Hand: Architecture and Regulation in America (University of Minnesota Press, 2018), a book on the role buildings have played in developing systems for environmental and economic regulation. He also works on critical problems in modernism’s historiography such as his examination of Reyner Banham’s use of the term “ecology,” an analysis of the metaphysical aspirations latent in twentieth-century writings on concrete, and a forthcoming co-edited volume on the uses of evidence and narrative in architectural history. Osman is one of the founding members of Aggregate: The Architectural History Collaborative, a platform for exploring new methods in architectural history. He co-curated a portion of the exhibition “Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive” at the Museum of Modern Art. His research has been supported by fellowships from the University of California Humanities Research Institute, the National Science Foundation and the Fulbright Program. He currently directs the Department’s MA and PhD programs.

Felicity D. Scott is professor of architecture, director of the PhD program in Architecture (History and Theory), and co-director of the program in Critical, Curatorial and Conceptual Practices in Architecture (CCCP) at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University. Her books include Architecture or Techno-Utopia: Politics After Modernism (MIT Press, 2007), Ant Farm (ACTAR, 2008), Outlaw Territories: Environments of Insecurity/Architectures of Counter-Insurgency (Zone Books, 2016), and Disorientations: Bernard Rudofsky in the Empire of Signs (Sternberg Press, 2016).

Hadas A. Steiner is an Associate Professor at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, who researches cross-pollinations of technological, scientific and cultural aspects of architectural fabrication. She is at work on a manuscript, The Accidental Visitant, which studies the influence of the modern field of ornithology on architecture and the conceptualization of the built environment as an ecosystem. Steiner is the author of Beyond Archigram: The Technology of Circulation (Routledge) and her scholarship and reviews have been published in OCTOBERGrey RoomNew GeographiesJournal of the Society of Architectural HistoriansJournal of Architectural EducationJournal of Architecture, and arq.

Anthony Vidler is a historian and critic of modern and contemporary architecture. Professor of Architecture and former Dean of the Cooper Union, New York. His books include The Scenes of the Street and Other Essays (Monacelli Press, 2011), James Frazer Stirling: Notes from the Archive (Yale University Press, 2010), Histories of the Immediate Present: Inventing Architectural Modernism (MIT Press, 2008), Warped Space: Art, Architecture, and Anxiety in Modern Culture (MIT Press, 2000), The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely (MIT Press, 1992), and Claude-Nicolas Ledoux: Architecture and Social Reform at the End of the Ancien Régime (MIT Press, 1990), and The Writing of the Walls: Architectural Theory in the Late Enlightenment (Princeton Architectural Press, 1987).

Claire Zimmerman is associate professor of architectural history and theory. She teaches about the effects of mass production on architecture and the built environment, reading architectural photography and industrial building against prevailing narratives of the profession and the academy. Current research and teaching projects include a history of carceral architecture, a project on the absence of an economic architectural history, and intersections of class, race, and ethnicity in the industrialization of the world. Her current book explores the history of industrial architecture and infrastructure in the twentieth century, and its comparative absence from professional and academic thought. Living near Detroit has brought the concrete and steel frame factory to a position of central interest in current and future projects.