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Sara Stevens

13 November 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Organized by: MIT Department of Architecture
Venue: MIT, Long Lounge/Room 7-429
MIT, 77 Massachusetts Avenue
Long Lounge/Room 7-429
Cambridge, MA 02139
Sara Stevens Assistant Professor, University of British Columbia Building Capital

Sara is an architectural and urban historian. Her interests include the history and theory of architecture and urban design, urban history, economic theory, and the history of infrastructure. Her research focuses on the relationship between architecture and capital, looking at American real estate developers of the twentieth century and exploring the cultural economy of architectural practice, risk, and expertise.


Before coming to UBC, Sara has taught in the schools of architecture at Rice, Columbia, Princeton, and Yale. In 2012/13 and 2013/14, she was Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities Research Center at Rice University. Previously, she taught in Columbia’s graduate urban design program for three years. She has co-organized conferences on the history of urban infrastructure at Princeton through the Center for Architecture, Urbanism, and Infrastructure.


Sara’s writing has been published in journals such as ThresholdsPidginConstructs, and the Journal of Architectural Education. Her book, “Developing expertise: Architecture and real estate in metropolitan America” (Yale University Press, 2016), studies real estate development in twentieth-century American cities, and how developers, investors, and architects worked together to build subdivisions and superblocks, cul-de-sacs, and towers. Connecting the split narratives of suburban and urban history, it argues that early twentieth century suburbs shaped downtowns during postwar urban renewal. “Developing expertise” uncovers the visions and ideals mid-century developers had for American cities, shedding light on how different threads of modernist architecture answered capitalism’s call.


Questions about the contemporary built world also spark Sara’s research. One such project, “Systems of retail: The bigger box,” studied contemporary big-box architectural formats of the suburban landscape and the underlying networks of business and finance that produced them. The Graham Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and the Fellowship of Woodrow Wilson Scholars have supported Sara’s research.


With a professional degree in architecture from Rice, she has also worked as an architect in Houston and New York.