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Empiricism in Architectural Research

Georges Reverdy, The Architect, etching, ca. 1529–1557, 7.8 x 11.1 cm, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1964, 64.568.10

Research Theme

Project and Publications

An emerging area of my research explores how architecture has engaged philosophies of empiricism, or the idea that knowledge arises from sensory experience. I’m invested in expanding the conversation on this topic to more fully account for the roles of non-European and Indigenous ways of knowing in global architectural culture and the new sciences.

Together with with my historian of science colleague, Richard J. Oosterhoff, I have co-developed a major grant project on the theme of empiricism in architecture research. Empiricism and Early Modern Architecture (EEMA) will expose the origins of the modern architecture-science rapport by scrutinizing how architects and natural philosophers collaborated across early modern Europe and colonial Latin America.


The project will synthesize textual and visual analysis with digital humanities tools to create an unprecedented online environment, Rivius, for digital scholarly editions of early modern architecture and science texts from both continents. In exposing the links between architecture, science, and colonial early modernity, EEMA will deliver benefits to researchers, students, and the public. For historians, EEMA will offer vital models for narrating the global and colonial history of early modern architecture-science interplay. For students, the project will provide a toolkit for learning to conduct primary source research on architecture-science relationships in colonial early modernity. For public audiences, EEMA’s digital resources will offer perspectives on the historical and colonial origins of contemporary architecture-science interactions that can constructively inform today's collaborations between architects, scientists, and the many affected by their work.


In addition to EEMA, I have explored the subject of empiricism in architecture research in articles for the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes (article link) and 21: Inquiries into Art, History, and the Visual Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte und visuellen Kultur (article link).

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