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Architect, historian Michelangelo Sabatino to speak at Iowa State March 30

March 14, 2016


Michelangelo Sabatino

AMES, Iowa — Michelangelo Sabatino, an architect and historian whose research broadly addresses intersections between culture, technology and design in the built environment, will speak at Iowa State University Wednesday, March 30.

Sabatino will present "Avant-garde in the Cornfields: Modern Architecture, Landscape and Preservation in New Harmony" at 5:30 p.m. in Kocimski Auditorium, room 0101 College of Design. Part of the ISU Department of Architecture's Architecture Advisory Council Lecture Series, the lecture is free and open to the public.

Sabatino's talk will center on research he conducted for the book Forms of Spirituality: Modern Architecture, Landscape, and Preservation in New Harmony (forthcoming in 2016 from University of Chicago Press), co-edited by Ben Nicholson.

Roofless Church, New Harmony, Indiana.

Since the founding of New Harmony in 1814 on the Wabash River in Indiana, the town has been the epicenter of experiments in communal living, education, religion and science, Sabatino says.

"Seeking to reconcile the radical religious and secular attitudes of the two founding communities that first shaped New Harmony—the German Harmonists (1814-1824) and the Owenites (1824-1829)—Jane Blaffer Owen commissioned architecture, art, gardens and landscape while actively participating in the cultural life of the town," he said.

An arts patron, social activist and preservationist, Owen (1915-2010) was the wife of Kenneth Owen, whose ancestor, Robert Owen, helped build a utopian society in New Harmony in the first quarter of the 19th century. She split her time between homes in Houston, Texas, and New Harmony.

"Throughout the six-decades-long project Jane Blaffer Owen challenged artists, architects and landscape architects to engage New Harmony's natural and built heritage by conceiving provocative works that conflate cosmopolitan creativity with agrarian genius loci," Sabatino said.

While at Iowa State, Sabatino also will co-lead an architecture graduate seminar on "Twentieth-Century Architecture and the Vernacular" with Tom Leslie, ISU Pickard Chilton Professor in Architecture.

About the speaker
Sabatino is a professor and director of the PhD program in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture in Chicago. He previously was an associate professor and coordinator of the history, theory and criticism program at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, University of Houston, and a lecturer at Yale University School of Architecture.

From his research on preindustrial vernacular traditions and their influence on modern architectures of the Mediterranean region to his current project, which looks at the transnational forces that have shaped the architecture, infrastructure and landscape of the Americas over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, Sabatino has trained new light on larger patterns of architectural discourse and production.

Sabatino received a Laurea in Architecture at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia, Venice, Italy, in 1998 and a PhD in art and architectural history from the University of Toronto in 2005 and pursued a postdoctoral fellowship in art and architectural history at Harvard University. He has been a research fellow at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montréal, the MacDowell Colony, the Georgia O'Keefe Museum Research Center and the Wolfsonian at Florida International University. He lectures widely in Europe and the Americas, participates in juries and serves on a number of editorial boards, including Architectural Histories, journal of the European Architectural History Network.

Sabatino publishes regularly in scholarly journals and anthologies. His monograph Pride in Modesty: Modernist Architecture and the Vernacular Tradition in Italy (2011) was recognized with multiple awards, including the Modern Language Association's Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Italian Studies, the Society of Architectural Historians' Alice Davis Hitchcock Award and the American Association of Italian Studies' Best Book Award, 20th and 21st Centuries. A multi-author volume on Modern Architecture and the Mediterranean: Vernacular Dialogues and Contested Identities (2010), co-edited with Jean-François Lejeune, received a Commendation award from the International Committee of Architectural Critics.

James Spiller, Architecture Lectures Committee,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,