Bryan E. Norwood

Bryan E. Norwood is a PhD candidate in the history and theory of architecture at Harvard University and a visiting assistant professor at the Mississippi State University School of Architecture. He was the 2016-2017 Charles E. Peterson Senior Fellow at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia. Bryan received a BA in philosophy and a BArch from Mississippi State University, an MA in philosophy from Boston University, and an AM in architecture from Harvard. He has taught at Harvard, Northeastern University, and Boston University. His work has appeared in Philosophical ForumHarvard Design MagazineCulture Machine, Log, and MONU, as well as several collected volumes.

Norwood’s current research focuses on the intellectual and institutional foundations of the professionalization of architecture. His dissertation, entitled “The Architect’s Knowledge: Imagining the Profession’s Historical Body, 1797-1877,” is a study of the way the professionalization of architecture occurred along the Atlantic Coast of the United States. It reveals how professional and educational institutions that took shape in cities like Philadelphia and New York intertwined architecture with issues of theology, class, and race. In particular, it explores the ways in which the intellectual project of these institutions established the knowledge of architecture’s own history as a fundamental requirement—indeed, as a virtue—of the professional architect. A companion project simultaneously in development is entitled Architecture’s Black Bodies: Race, Labor, and Imagined Pasts in the formation of an American Profession. In this work, I am studying the development of architectural education in the American South within the transition from the antebellum divisions of gentlemanly design and craft labor to the post-Reconstruction formation of professional identity. This second investigation situates architecture in relationship to themes of the hopes and limits of Reconstruction, the legacies of slavery and the plantation system, the mythology of the Old South, and the development of historic preservation.

One of his key theoretical and methodological tools for understanding the transition from the embodied knowledge of craft to the discursive knowledge of the profession is phenomenology—the study of the structures of human experience. Norwood has published several essays on phenomenology as a tool for studying architecture, and is guest editing a special issue of the architectural theory journal Log (volume 42, winter 2018) that focuses on the way phenomenology can be used to think about the role of race, gender, and dis/ability in architectural history and theory.