Crafting Evidence of Architectural Heritage: Surveying Methods and Historical Projects in the U.S. and China, 1920s-1940s
Lori M. Gibbs
Lori M. Gibbs is a PhD Candidate in Architecture History and Theory at the University of Pennsylvania.
Architects, interlinked by transnational connections and influenced by economic and political crises in the 1930s, spearheaded the first nationally organized architectural surveys in the U.S. and China. Methods of documenting existing buildings circulated between France, the U.S. and China through journals, documents, pedagogies, and practices at this time. Three interrelated case studies trace this circulation across national boundaries, unveiling local adaptations, interpretive selections, and types of architectural knowledge distilled by each survey group. By analyzing the iterative and interpretive nature of survey drawing techniques, this dissertation reveals the essential but neglected dimensions of such records – commonly regarded as objective and factual evidence of historical buildings. The case studies demonstrate the emergence of international surveying projects prior to UNESCO’s World Heritage List and institutionalized conservation/preservation practices. These early activities established the foundation of today’s standards of recording the built environment as heritage. Collectively these case studies demonstrate representation’s role in crafting historical evidence.