Society of Architectural Historians 68th Annual Conference in Chicago, April 15-19, 2015.

As architectural history and theory move to encompass the built environment as a whole and a ‘global history of building practices’ gains pace, agents other than the architect become relevant, as do underground networks, border-crossing phenomena and transnational practices often tangential to the discipline of architecture; geographical and professional boundaries subside.

Transcontinental mass migration, an essential conduit of such practices, has been little considered in the history of modern architecture. With an enduring focus on the trail of interwar European émigrés and only sporadic attention to less-noted migrant architects, it needs to investigate other dimensions of migration, possibly in dialogue with the latest developments in social and labour histories. Mass-migrants as designers, builders and patrons, active in built environment production in their homeland and/or host lands, carrying their own technological and formal backgrounds and acquiring new skills, defined currents of knowledge circulation which run parallel to canonical dissemination circuits (media and education) involving other actors, processes, politics and circumstances.

This session welcomes papers that investigate alternative aspects of the relationship between transcontinental migration currents and built environment change, and the methodological challenges this brings to architectural history, in two essential moments of global redefinition: the turn-of-the-century ‘great migrations’ flow (1870-1914) and its resurgence between WWII and the 1970s (1945-1973). Subjects may include the agency of migrants in building practices of their native and settlement contexts, as professional and non-professional players; the impact of displacement and adjustment to a new context on these agents’ traditions, training and concerns; and the evidence of cross-cultural building practices at both ends of migration routes. Papers may deal with one or more moments and contexts, as the session wishes to explore potential geographical and diachronic parallels and variations.