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Yanni, Carla

Position: Professor
Phone: (848) 932-1250
Office Hours: Mondays 2:00-3:00 and by appointment
Office Location: 60 College Ave., Rm 202

Architecture in Europe and the United States from the 19th century to the present

Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Biographical Information:

My area of specialization is the history of architecture in 19th- and 20th-century Britain and the United States.  I am a social historian of architecture.  For me, architectural history is not the study of great monuments or styles;  it also embraces the intellectual, social, and cultural meanings of buildings.  I promote the study of architectural history as a way of understanding a society’s values.  In particular, my scholarship has focused on the relationship between architecture and the fields of science and medicine.  A starting hypothesis for my work is that large, publically-funded buildings serve to legitimate ideas.  In this way, architecture participates in the social construction of knowledge.  In 2012, I served as co-director, with Stuart W. Leslie, (History of Science, Johns Hopkins University) for the Social Sciences Research Council Dissertation Proposal Development Workshop on the intersection of architecture and science.  This opportunity marked one of the highlights of my career, and I was honored that the SSRC would sponsor “The Spaces of Inquiry” as an important emerging field.  Currently I am conducting research for a book on the architecture of dormitories and residence halls on college campuses; in this work, I propose that residence halls manifest ideas about student life, education, class, gender, race, and citizenship.

In The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States, published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2007, in the series Architecture, Landscape, and American Culture (see, I looked at the architecture of psychiatric hospitals in nineteenth-century America to investigate a building type in which the patrons believed that architecture influenced behavior, and could even cure mental illness.  I was supported by a generous fellowship from the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (Washington, DC) while I wrote that book.

In Nature's Museums: Victorian Science and the Architecture of Display (Princeton Architectural Press, 2005; Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000, Athlone, 1999), I explored the presentation of nineteenth-century natural science in Britain through public museums.  I argued that conflicting definitions of nature, from God’s second book to economic resource for exploitation by the empire, could be read in the architecture and display strategies of natural history museums.

Recently, I have been honored to serve on the board of the Rutgers British Studies Center.  In that capacity, I co-taught a graduate seminar called “The City in Britain” with Seth Koven (Rutgers,  History Department) and I hosted a conference, “Concrete City: Brutalism and Preservation” (Spring 2011). 

From 2003 to 2007 I served on the Board of Directors of the Society of Architectural Historians, and I am currently serving on the Board of Directors of the Vernacular Architecture Forum.  I enjoy interacting with recently-trained scholars, especially those who are interested in the social history of building types, and I do my best to serve as an informal mentor to students whose academic interests overlap with my own.  

I received my doctorate in art history from the University of Pennsylvania in 1994; I graduated from Wesleyan University in Connecticut with B.A. in 1987.  I was fortunate to receive outstanding mentoring from Joseph Siry at Wesleyan and David Brownlee at Penn, and I remain appreciative of the guidance and continuing friendship of these fine scholars.  I am particularly grateful for the fellowships that allowed me to study at Penn.




The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2007. Now in its third Printing.  (Selected as a 2007 “Book of Critical Interest” by the journal Critical Inquiry 34.1, 2007).

Selected Publications

“Design, Display and Development: Evolution in British Victorian Architecture”, invited publication for a peer-reviewed anthology, Evolution and Victorian Culture, to be published by Cambridge University Press, edited by Bernard Lightman and Bennett Zon, forthcoming, 2013.

"Campus History at the Crossroads: Three Divergent Methods," The Journal of Planning History, November 2012, 11:4, 348-351.

 “The Richardson Memorial: Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer’s Henry Hobson Richardson and His Works,” Nineteenth Century Magazine, December 2007.

“Learning from the History and Sociology of Science: Interrogating the Spaces of Knowledge,” invited essay in a series of methodological articles, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, December 2005, 64:4, 423-425.

“The Linear Plan for Insane Asylums in the United States to 1866” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, March 2003.

Nature's Museums: Victorian Science and the Architecture of Display. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2000 and London: Athlone, 1999, and Princeton Architectural Press, 2005.

“Nature and Nomenclature: William Whewell and the Production of Architectural Knowledge of Early Victorian Britain” Architectural History (UK) September 1997. 

“Divine Display or Secular Science: Defining Nature at the Natural History Museum in London,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 55, no. 3, September 1996 (Winner of the Founders' Award from the Society of Architectural Historians).

Current Interests & Research:

--The architecture of dormitories and residence halls
--British Victorian architecture and evolution
--The architecture of insane asylums and its relationship to Victorian psychiatry
--The social, intellectual, and architectural history of museums
--The sociology of science in relation to architectural history

Undergraduate Classes Taught:

--Nineteenth-century Architecture
--Twentieth-century Architecture
--Exploring the University: American Collegiate Architecture (Byrne First Year Seminar)
--Rethinking Nineteenth-Century American Architecture (Honors Seminar, SAS Honors Program)
--The Architecture of Colleges and Universities
--The Spaces Between: Architecture and Urbanism
--Destination Culture: Museums, Architecture, and Heritage

Graduate Classes Taught:

--Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Public Architecture in the USA
--The City in Britain

Long List of Pulication

Upcoming Events

Wed Sep 05 @10:00AM - 12:00PM
Faculty Meeting
Wed Sep 05 @ 4:00PM - 6:00PM
Welcome Reception
Wed Oct 03 @10:00AM - 12:00PM
Faculty Meeting
Mon Oct 29 @ 4:30PM - 6:00PM
Lecture - Robin Fleming
Wed Nov 07 @10:00AM - 12:00PM
Faculty Meeting
Tue Nov 13 @ 4:30PM - 6:00PM
Annual Sydney Leon Jacobs Lecture
Wed Dec 05 @10:00AM - 12:00PM
Faculty Meeting
Wed Jan 23 @10:00AM - 12:00PM
Faculty Meeting
Wed Feb 06 @10:00AM - 12:00PM
Faculty Meeting
Wed Mar 06 @10:00AM - 12:00PM
Faculty Meeting
Thu Mar 28 @12:00AM
Developing Room Symposium: Photography and Display
Wed Apr 03 @10:00AM - 12:00PM
Faculty Meeting
Fri Apr 12 @10:00AM - 5:00PM
The 2nd Annual Developing Room Graduate Student Colloquium
Thu May 16 @10:00AM - 12:00PM
Faculty Meeting


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