My area of specialization is the social history of architecture in 19th- and 20th-century Britain and the United States. I am the author of three monographs, each one a social history of a single building type. In April 2020, I was elected as Second Vice President of the Society of Architectural Historians. My approach to architectural history falls between vernacular architectural studies and the study of works by known architects. I am less interested "great men" than I am in the meanings people in history made from the buildings they lived with. Living on Campus: An Architectural History of the American Dormitory (University of Minnesota Press, 2019) examines the dwellings of college students set against the backdrop of massive shifts in higher education and proposes that residence halls manifest ideas about student life, education, class, gender, race, and citizenship. https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/living-on-campus
For a video interview with me, follow this link: https://higheredlive.com/living-on-campus/
For a radio interview, follow this link: https://www.wpr.org/listen/1450306
In my second book, 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 http://www.upress.umn.edu/Books/Y/yanni_architecture.html), 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; indeed, some doctors argued that the buildings could 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, and the book was awarded a subvention grant from the Graham Foundation.
In Nature's Museums: Victorian Science and the Architecture of Display (Princeton Architectural Press, 2005; Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000), 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.
A starting hypothesis for my work is that large, publicly 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. I was honored that the SSRC would sponsor “The Spaces of Inquiry” as an important emerging field.
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.
Living on Campus: An Architectural History of the American Dormitory (University of Minnesota Press, 2019)
The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States. 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).
Nature's Museums: Victorian Science and the Architecture of Display (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000).
"The Coed's Predicament: The Martha Cook Building at the University of Michigan" Buildings & Landscapes, 2017
“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, 2014.
"Campus History at the Crossroads: Three Divergent Methods," 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 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:
--Introduction to Architecture: Building the Future SAS CORE CC-o 1 and AHP
--Cinema and the City SAS CORE AHP
--Exploring the University: American Collegiate Architecture (honors, capstone, and other formats)
--Rethinking Nineteenth-Century American Architecture (Honors Seminar, SAS Honors Program)
--History of Rutgers (co-taught with Paul Clemens, History)
Graduate Classes Taught:
--Constructing the Victorian City: New York and London
--Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Public Architecture in the USA
--The City in Britain (co-taught with Seth Koven, History)