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Lucia Allais

Associate Professor, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University

Director, Buell Center, Columbia University

Governing Board Member, SOF/Heyman, Columbia University (2024–

email address [email protected] website Faculty Webpage
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Lucia Allais is an architectural historian of the modern period. She works on architecture and internationalism and institutions; the technical and philosophical history of materials; the participation of buildings and design actors in political culture and global governance; architecture’s historiography, and epistemologies of time. Her first book, Designs of Destruction: The Making of Monuments in the Twentieth Century (University of Chicago Press, 2018) described how a new definition of “the monument” arose from various plans within liberal internationalist organizations to protect and salvage famous building from destruction in the middle of the 20th Century. This includes the making of lists and maps of monuments “not to be bombed” by American art historians during World War II, the decolonization of museums in the global South at the hands of organizations from the League of Nations to UNESCO, and the salvage of massive building complexes, such as the temples of Abu Simbel, by global multidisciplinary consortia.

Allais has published a number of essays on related themes. “Architecture and Mediocracy at Unesco House” (in Marcel Breuer: Building Global Institutions, ed. Massey and Berdgoll, Lars Mueller, 2018) describes the fraught collaborative design of the UNESCO headquarter in Paris. “The Real and the Theoretical, 1968” (in Perspecta 42, 2010) uncovers a never-realized plan for a “Harlem school” produced by Peter Eisenman of the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies (IAUS) in collaboration with the New York Urban League. “Rendering: On Experience and Experiments” (in Design Technics, ed. May and Çelik Alexander, Minnesota: 2021) is an essay-length history of rendering informed by changing theories of experience, media and technology. She recently published an introduction to three translations of texts by Alois Riegl, “Mood for Modernists” (in Grey Room 80: Winter 2020).

Allais works across disciplines. She is co-director, with Forrest Meggers, of “The Concrete 100,” a project that brings together researchers from science and technology, with the arts and humanities, to address the historical and technical implications of reinforced concrete’s “carbonation equation”. Their co-authored paper, “Concrete is 100 Years Old: The Carbonation Equation and Narratives of Anthropocenic Change” is forthcoming in the volume Narrative, Evidence and Writing Architectural History (Pittsburg: 2022).

Allais is a member of the Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative, and an editor of the journal Grey Room. She also regularly writes about contemporary design, and has curated a number of exhibitions, including Legible Pompeii at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale and Mixed Being at the 2016 Istanbul Triennial.

Allais earned her B.S.E. in Architecture and Engineering from Princeton, her M.Arch from Harvard, and her PhD in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art from MIT. She has received a number of grants and fellowships for her work, including from the Graham Foundation, the CASVA, the Harvard Center for European Studies, and the Radcliffe Institute.

Before joining Columbia, Allais spent ten years at Princeton University, first as a Behrman-Cotsen Fellow in the Society of Fellows, then as an Assistant Professor, then Associate Professor with tenure, in the School of Architecture. While at Princeton, she was a member and director of the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities, IHUM. At Columbia she is a member of the Center for Comparative Media and the Director of the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture.