I am interested in the relation between the built environment and the social, economic, political, and cultural factors that shape it and in turn are shaped by it. My research explores three themes:
I am interested in understanding modern and contemporary religious architecture. In an American context, I study what happens when religious organizations act as real estate developers. Building on the work of scholars such as Sally Promey and Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, I have proposed the term "material disestablishment" to describe the effacement of religious symbols that often occurs in church-led development projects in large U.S. cities. I argue that material disestablishment, both as an aesthetic and as a procedural phenomenon, is a strategy many churches employ to function within the capitalist real estate market. This work has resulted in a symposium presentation, and I am developing it into a peer-reviewed journal article and a conference presentation. Another upcoming conference presentation focuses on the very visible religious strategy of skyscraper churches. Longer-term interests center on 20th- and 21st-century religious architecture in Germany. I am particularly interested in architecture in Cologne and North-Rhine Westphalia, including figures like Gottfried Böhm, Dominikus Böhm, Rudolf Schwarz, Helmut Goldschmidt, Willi Weyres, Hans Schilling, Heinz Bienefeld, Elisabeth Böhm, and Paul Böhm. I hope to link these designers' religious buildings with broader trends in German religion, architecture, and society.
My work also addresses historic preservation. My master's thesis analyzes the portrayal of museums in Die Denkmalpflege, the leading German historic preservation magazine, from its founding in 1899 until it changed its name in 1922. This lens allows me to analyze the growth of both museums and historic preservation, tie them to the emergence and separation of "history" and "heritage," and finally investigate notions of collective memory and invented traditions. With Volker Welter and Iain Boyd White, I am also co-editing a special issue of Art in Translation on Constructions and Reconstructions of History in Twentieth-Century German Architecture. This issue includes my translation of Hermann Muthesius's essay "The 'Restoration' of Our Old Buildings."
Finally, I think and write about architecture and landscape in the Western United States. I am interested in how architects, clients, and landscape architects helped create an image of the American West. Architecture could open up to or exclude the landscape, construct bucolic images or shelter from a dystopian fantasy. This landscape, in turn, often included or stood in for large-scale water management, social anxieties, and the erasure and/or romanticization of Indigenous peoples.