Abbott Lowell Cummings Prize


This years Cummings Prize is awarded to Christian Tagsold for his book: Spaces in Translation: Japanese Gardens in the West (Philadelphia: Penn Press, 2017)

The committee loved this book because it used vernacular buildings and landscapes to develop a strong analysis of the translation, dissemination, and appropriation of the Japanese garden in the United States and elsewhere. Tagsold combines reflective and engaging writing, sensitive analysis of sites, a strong theoretical framework, and expansive definition of the vernacular to make a significant contribution to global architectural and landscape studies. He uses Latour’s idea of translational chains to wonderful effect, showing how the exportation of the Japanese garden type around the world has itself created a reflexive process in which the “ideal” garden constantly changes. What is more, since there was no such a thing as a single Japanese garden in the first place, the “ideal” garden is itself the product of its dissemination to the West.  This is a book which transcends national fields of study and disciplinary boundaries to make a truly striking scholarly intervention, which nevertheless holds the principals of vernacular architecture study at its heart.


Call for Nominations: 

2020 Abbott Lowell Cummings Book Prize


The Abbott Lowell Cummings Prize, named after the founding president of the Vernacular Architecture Forum, is awarded annually to the publication that has made the most significant contribution to the study of vernacular architecture and cultural landscapes. In judging the nominated books, the jurors look for a publication that is:

  • based on primary research,
  •  emphasizes fieldwork that takes seriously the materiality of architecture and landscapes, and draws on particular elements of environments as evidence.
  • breaks new ground in interpretation or methodology, and
  • contributes generally to the intellectual vitality of vernacular studies in North America.

Entries may come from any discipline concerned with vernacular architecture studies. Books published from January 2018 through December 2019 are eligible for consideration. Edited collections of previously published materials are not eligible.

 The deadline for the 2020 Cummings Prize will be announced soon.


There is no application form, but a cover letter should include a complete mailing address, phone number and email address in order to notify the candidate should the nominated work receive the award.

Books should be sent directly to each of the three committee members for the Cummings Prize. Please contact the committee chair with any questions at


2019 Cummings Prize committee:

Dr. Emma Hart

School of History, University of St Andrews

St Katharine’s Lodge,

The Scores,

St Andrews, KY16 9BA

United Kingdom

*To avoid customs charges for the book recipients, please ensure the shippers pay all duties and taxes.  The parcels must arrive Delivered Duty Paid (DDP).

Dr. Erica Allen-Kim

University of Toronto

John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture Landscape, and Design

1 Spadina Crescent 

Toronto, ON M5S 2J5 Canada

*To avoid customs charges for the book recipients, please ensure the shippers pay all duties and taxes.  The parcels must arrive Delivered Duty Paid (DDP).

Bernard Herman 

George B. Tindal Distinguished Professor of Southern Studies and Folklore

Department of American Studies

204 Greenlaw Hall CB #3520

University of North Carolina

Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3520

Past Cummings Prize Winners

© Vernacular Architecture Forum

For more information or questions contact
the secretary or the webmaster.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software