In February 1999, the Architectural History Department at SCAD sponsored the Savannah Symposium on the City Square, a three-day forum for scholarship and discussion about an important theme in architectural and urban history with direct relevance to the city of Savannah and to contemporary practice in the building arts. That symposium received the first outside humanities grants ever awarded to SCAD — from the Georgia Humanities Council and the Samuel Kress Foundation — and paved the way for many more grants and outside sponsorships awarded to the symposium series. The success of that event led to development of the symposium as a biennial event intended to stimulate interdisciplinary dialogue among scholars, urban designers, regional and local community leaders, faculty and students on a topic that has relevance both historically and in current affairs.
The Savannah Symposium on the City Square
Feb. 25-27, 1999
Directed by David Gobel, Ph.D., and Robin Williams, Ph.D.
- Marvin Trachtenberg, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
- Malcolm Bell III, CASVA
- Carroll William Westfall, University of Notre Dame
- Robert Glover, City of Toronto
- Stefanos Polyzoides, Moule & Polyzoides Architects
Public life in America at the end of the second millennium seems to be characterized increasingly by its placelessness. Automobiles, shopping malls, cellular phones and cyberspace seem to be heralding the extinction of urban space. Some would argue that city squares have no place in contemporary urban design. But to declare the traditional city square — which has served as the heart of urban design since antiquity — as obsolete seems premature. A stroll through any of the 18th- or 19th-century public squares in Savannah provides ample evidence of the viability of the city square today.
The 2nd Savannah Symposium: Authenticity in Architecture
Feb. 15-17, 2001
Directed by David Gobel, Ph.D., and Robin Williams, Ph.D.
- James Howard Kunstler, author of "The Geography of Nowhere"
Western society at the end of the 20th century is obsessed with authenticity. Ours is a "culture of authenticity," according to Charles Taylor. "To thine own self be true" has become the motto of a society in search of the authentic self. It is not surprising, therefore, to hear the incessant refrain of "authenticity" applied to contemporary architectural criticism. In the architecture columns of the New York Times, Boston Globe and Los Angeles Times, authenticity has replaced the Vitruvian triad of firmness, commodity and delight as the primary standard of judgment. Likewise, when debates arise regarding the appropriateness of a "modern" versus a "historical" building design for a community, the question often becomes, "Which is more authentic?"
3rd Savannah Symposium: Commemoration and the City
Feb. 20-22, 2003
Directed by David Gobel, Ph.D., and Daves Rossell, Ph.D.
- Catherine Bishir, senior architectural historian, Preservation North Carolina
- David Lowenthal, University College, London
- Dell Upton, University of Virginia
Acts of commemoration are fundamental to human experience and fundamental to the act of building. In fact, it can be argued that the building of cities itself is a radically commemorative activity. "Come let us make a name for ourselves," said the builders of Babel. Commemoration lies at the poetic, historiographic and social heart of human community. It is how societies define themselves. Individuals memorize, remember or ponder the past; communities commemorate. Collective memory is, however, an invitation to controversy and contention.
4th Savannah Symposium: Architecture and Regionalism
Feb. 24-26, 2005
Directed by Daves Rossell, Ph.D.; Thomas Gensheimer, Ph.D.; and Karl Schuler, Ph.D.
- Nezar AlSayyad, University of California, Berkeley
- Henry Glassie, Indiana University, Bloomington
We begin with the simple proposition that architecture is inevitably regional. While globalizing trends alter or create entirely new regions, regional identities remain. The symposium explored the ways in which regionalism has been — and continues to be — defined and redefined. What are regional architectural traditions and how are they defined? Can regions be defined through architecture? How do regional spaces shape social identity? What constitutes a regional boundary in space or time? How have popular adoptions of regional form muddied the understanding of region? Is there a regional and time-bound character to popular forms as well? What are some contested identities of regions? How have regional traditions of architecture and cultural landscape been interpreted by artists, authors and scholars?
5th Savannah Symposium: Building in the Public Realm
Feb. 8-10, 2007
Directed by David Gobel, Ph.D., and Celeste Guichard, Ph.D.
- Tom Hanchett, Levine Museum of the New South
- Christopher Mead, University of New Mexico
- Jo Noero, architect, Johannesburg, South Africa
The theme for this symposium allowed consideration not only of the various manners in which architecture and space are and have been constructed for use outside of private contexts, but also of how various "publics" are formed, transformed, sustained and even elided through public buildings.
6th Savannah Symposium: World Heritage and National Registers in Perspective
Feb. 19-21, 2009
Directed by Celeste Guichard, Ph.D. and Thomas Gensheimer, Ph.D.
- Zahi Hawass, renowned Egyptologist and Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt
- Ronald Lewcock, international conservator and professor at the University of Queensland
- Harold Kalman, prominent Canadian architectural historian and member of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada
The 2009 symposium explored the architectural and spatial elements of cultural properties on the World Heritage and National Register lists and topics related to heritage designations as a factor in furthering the study of the built environment globally and locally. This focus, tailored in response to requests to include issues related to National Registries, is supported by a Georgia Humanities Council grant.
7th Savannah Symposium: The Spirituality of Place
Feb. 17-19, 2011
Directed by Thomas Gensheimer and Jeff Eley
- Kenneth Foote, professor of cultural and historical geography at the University of Colorado at Boulder
- Louis Nelson, associate professor of early American architecture and chair of the department of architectural history at the University of Virginia
The 2011 symposium explored the role of spirituality as it relates to the development and shaping of architectural and urban forms. Paper sessions focused on the broadest context of spirituality as a significant factor in the study of the built environment globally, nationally and locally. Of particular interest are essays that provided a critical evaluation of the relationship or co-existence of sacred and secular spirituality in regards to the constructed world.