U.Va. Architecture Professors Win Prestigious Society of Architectural Historians Awards

In a rare feat, University of Virginia architectural historians Daniel Bluestone and Sheila Crane were both honored with Society of Architectural Historians awards for their respective scholarly books – and neither knew the other had won until the awards ceremony.

Every year the Society of Architectural Historians presents six awards to honor the most distinguished publications in architectural history, urban history, landscape history, preservation and architectural exhibition catalogs. According to the society’s records, it is unusual for two members of the same institution, let alone the same department, to win book awards from the society in the same year.

"It’s very exciting to have two recipients of these prestigious Society of Architectural History awards given to faculty in the same university, from the same department, in the same year,” said Kim Tanzer, dean of the U.Va. School of Architecture and Edward E. Elson professor of architecture. “These awards make clear the strength of our architectural history program.”

Bluestone, professor of architectural history and director of U.Va.’s historic preservation program, received the Antoinette Forrester Downing Award, given to the outstanding publication devoted to historical issues in the preservation field, for his 2011 book “Buildings, Landscapes, and Memory: Case Studies in Historic Preservation,” published by W.W. Norton & Company Press. 

“In the end, Bluestone’s book stands as a superior work of architectural history scholarship as well as a strong statement about the ethics and politics of preservation as contemporary practice,” states the award citation for Bluestone’s book.

“Receiving the Downing Award is very gratifying,” Bluestone said. “It suggests that, even as an older scholar, my scholarship continues to emerge.

“In my book proposal to my editor at Norton, I had suggested that I had in hand a manuscript that had a chance to win the Downing Award. I was certainly heartened that others agreed.”

Crane, assistant professor of architectural history, received the Spiro Kostof Book Award – presented for the work that, focusing on urbanism and architecture, provides the greatest contribution to the understanding of historical development and change – for her 2011 book, “Mediterranean Crossroads: Marseille and Modern Architecture,” published by University of Minnesota Press.

The award citation for her reads: “Sheila Crane has provided architectural historians and urbanists with a model analysis of the interweaving agencies and agendas that shape a city, its buildings, and its mythologies.”

“Receiving the 2013 Spiro Kostof Book Award has been an extraordinary honor,” Crane said. “I am especially gratified to join the impressive group of scholars who have achieved the honor.”

“Sheila’s and Daniel’s books demonstrate leading-edge approaches to scholarship – the use of unusual interdisciplinary primary sources and the power of persuasive narratives – to communicate new knowledge,” Tanzer said.

Bluestone and Crane received their awards April 11 during the Society of Architectural Historians’ annual conference in Buffalo, N.Y.

Both professors were informed that they had won in January, but were sworn to secrecy by the society until the award was officially announced later in the year. Neither knew the other had won, and keeping the secret proved to be a challenge since Bluestone and Crane occupy adjacent offices.

“It’s amusing that Sheila and I were sworn to secrecy when we received word of our awards early in the year,” Bluestone said. “You can just imagine both of us cowering on either side of the common wall between our offices in Campbell Hall trying to keep our big secret.”

(Tanzer knew that both professors would win awards, but she, too, kept the secret.)

The venue for the award ceremony was in the city council chamber on the 13th floor  of Buffalo City Ha?ll, a 32-story art deco building constructed in 1931 and designed by architect John Wade, that looms over the east end of Lake Erie.

“The council chamber is topped by this amazing sunburst stained-glass window showing the alignment of the planets on the day of the original dedication of the city hall building,” Bluestone said. “In as sense, there is a sort of planetary alignment, too, in the society’s awards coming this year to two folks in the same department at the U.Va. School of Architecture.”

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Robert Hull

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