Speaking of Buildings: Oral History in Architectural Research

A new book providing the first comprehensive account, and theorization, of oral history as a method in architectural research.

Investigators

  • Professor Naomi Stead
    Monash Art, Design and Architecture
  • Dr Janina Gosseye
    ETH Zurich
  • Dr Deborah van der Platt
    University of Queensland

Funded by

  • The Graham Foundation

By and large, architectural historians use texts, drawings, and photographs to craft their narratives. Oral testimony from those who actually occupy or construct buildings is rarely taken as seriously.

Speaking of Buildings offers a rebuttal, theorizing the radical potential of a methodology that has historically been cast as unreliable.

Essays by an international group of scholars look at varied topics, from the role of gossip in undermining masculine narratives in architecture to workers' accounts of building with cement in midcentury London to a sound art piece created by oral testimonies from Los Angeles public housing residents. In sum, the authors call for a renewed form of listening to enrich our understanding of what buildings are, what they do, and what they mean to people.

Speaking of Buildings has been shortlisted by the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain (SAHGB) for their 2020 Colvin Prize.