By the height of the Gilded Age, the process of drawing architectural expertise apart from its artisanal and industrial origins and toward creative professionalism was essentially complete. Kevin Block’s (Rhetoric) dissertation project, “Drawn Apart: Abstraction and the Formation of Architectural Expertise in Postbellum New York,” argues that after the Civil War a coalition of New York architects, architectural pedagogues, and critics determined what it meant for Americans to "know" architecture. This epistemic project, involving a dual process of aestheticizing the architectural object and psychologizing the architectural subject, preceded and made possible the professionalization of architecture. Block shows how this historical formation of architectural expertise continues to structure architectural education and practice by encouraging the conceptualization of architecture as immaterial labor, a touchpoint where the history and theory of architecture come into contact with some of the most pressing social issues of contemporary life.
Kevin Block is the 2016-17 Irving and Jean Stone Fellow and a Townsend-Global Urban Humanities Fellow.