Cover for Southern Built
Southern Built
American Architecture, Regional Practice
Catherine W. Bishir
subject:
awards:

Antoinette Forrester Downing Award, Society of Architectural Historians (2008)

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A leader in the fields of both regional architectural history and historic preservation, Catherine Bishir has collected essays covering three decades into one volume. Just as the subjects of her studies are at once regional and national, the essays included here seek to think globally while researching locally. What one observes in the architecture of the Upper South happens throughout the nation: national models, far from being slavishly adopted or—as some might suggest—misinterpreted through provincialism, are adapted to be locally useful and meaningful.

Recognizing that design is seldom an isolated act, the essays collected here explore the conditions of construction itself in shaping communities in the Upper South. Bishir examines the roles played by local economies and class structures as keys to understanding building practices and results. The builders themselves take a leading role in the story, and one of the great accomplishments of the book is revealing not only the importance but the often overlooked expertise of slave artisans in antebellum construction. Bishir also traces, with striking specificity, the pathways by which national ideas entered regional usage. The book provides illuminating case studies—from an antebellum builder’s adaptation of popular architectural books to an early twentieth century city’s cultivation of an architecture representing the Old South mythology. All of these illuminate the complex transformation of national ideas into forms that express and define a region.

The book concludes with a pair of essays that treat more recent developments to examine issues in historic preservation. Bishir considers how monumental works coexist with more commonplace architecture, the evolving and problematic role of preservation regulations, and the various groups that influence preservation issues.Eloquent and accessible enough to captivate the general reader, Catherine Bishir’s essays speak with equal fluency to both historians and preservation professionals and will be a permanent addition to the study of our nation’s uncommonly diverse architecture.

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