Fall Research Expo 2020

Architecture, Environment, and Territory: Essential Writings since 1850

The goal of this project is to construct a volume that examines architecture and environmentalism (with adjacent fields such as urbanism and planning) through the collation of texts from multiple backgrounds regarding environmental issues. Coming into the project, I was to transcribe the selected texts and format them according to publication guidelines. I spent most of my time split between two windows: the blank abyss that is Microsoft Word, and the text I was transcribing. If not split between the two windows, the rest of my time I spent reading through the text for errors and adding places to indicate where an image or table should be inserted, as per publication guidelines.

In a broad sense of the research project, I discovered that I might be interested in architectural academia, which I had not previously considered. Being able to create publications such as this is incredibly important, especially with regards to history. Creating an expansive canon that better reflects the diversity of scholars in the past strengthens and enriches an academic community. In the research experience itself, I had little exposure to the process of publication beforehand, so it was startling for me to read through all the publication guidelines and understand the standardization of books. Some highlights of this experience include reading about aliens with microscopic eyes discussing Earth, and reading the following quotation: “Few self-respecting children will even play in a playground.” (Christopher Alexander, A City Is Not A Tree). As an architecture major, this research project was a great opportunity to expand my knowledge of architectural history and environmentalism. 


PURM - Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program
College of Arts & Sciences 2023
Join Favor for a virtual discussion
PURM - Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program
College of Arts & Sciences 2023


This is a fascinating collection of texts! I'm wondering if you've visited any of the Frank Lloyd Wright houses in the Philly area - they are an example of architectural design and certain ideas of environment coming together. Did this project illuminate any present-day tacit beliefs about the "environment" as a concept that we see in common discourse or in conversations architects and designers are having (or that you have seen in the classroom)?

Great job, Favor. I am wondering about the periods from which you pulled works. Was there a hard starting date from when you could use literature (eg no pre-industrial revolution texts) or was there no such cap, if so, when was your earliest text written?

I really enjoyed learning about your project! As someone not very well acquainted with architecture, not to mention architectural academia, it was fascinating to consider the history of architecture, its intersection with the environment, and the significance of a volume such as the one you described. Definitely interested in learning more about the field!

Hi Flavor, 

This is very interesting research. I did not know that there is such a field called architectural academia. I laughed at the quote about no self-respecting child will play in a playground. With the way our cities are planned out, especially in urban areas, it is quite inevitable that spaces are designated that way. Anyway, good stuff. 

I haven't gotten to visit any of the Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Philly yet, but I will certainly be on the lookout! As for ideas about the environment, I'd say one thing I picked up on in the various texts I read was the idea of a "spaceship Earth" or a closed-system Earth. This is the idea of Earth's environment being self-sustaining, and was popular in the mid-60s, so that was a view of the Earth/environment that has definitely evolved. As for present day beliefs, most if not all of the texts I was transcribing was not "present-day," so I'm not sure what the current literature suggests about the environment. However, (as I understand it) "environment" is becoming a broader term, and include many things that aren't strictly nature: people, buildings, etc. New understandings of the environment are probably emerging to account for the new ways humans can interact with and change nature. 

The earliest text I worked on was from 1869! To my knowledge, there was no hard starting cap/date for text selections.

I was particularly fascinated by the first section you transcribed dealing with human-nature relationships. I was wondering which of the sections interested you most and if you plan to continue research on Architectural texts?