Vernacular Architecture Forum
Contact UsJoin the VAF

Annual Conferences

VAF 2012

Nature + City: Vernacular Buildings & Landscapes
of the Upper Midwest
Madison, Wisconsin, June 6-10, 2012

Registration is open. Early registration deadline is now April 30.

>> See the Madison Conference Web site <<

[1] Paulson Farm, Dane County, Wisconsin (1908 dairy barn), photo by A. Andrzejewski; [2] Prairie Spring Hotel, Lafayette County, Wisconsin (1834), photo by A. Childers; [3] Klose Cottage, Madison, Wisconsin (c. 1870), photo by N. Schroeder and courtesy of the Friends of Historic Third Lake Ridge; [4] Walter and Mary Ellen Rudin House, Madison, Wisconsin (1959), photo by A. Childers.

With the theme "Nature + City: Vernacular Buildings & Landscapes of the Upper Midwest," VAF's 2012 conference will be based in Madison, Wisconsin—Wisconsin’s state capital and headquarters for its flagship university. Hosted at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the three-day conference will feature two days of field tours (Thursday and Friday, June 7 and 8) and a day of papers and roundtables (Saturday, June 9). William Cronon, Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas Research Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies will deliver the keynote address on the evening of Wednesday, June 6. Saturday’s conference banquet will be held in the Grand Ballroom at the University of Wisconsin’s Student Union, boasting an incredible view of Lake Mendota. The conference hotel will be the Madison Concourse, located just off Capitol Square (and site of 2011 protests over the state budget and union rights).

Field tours will tell the story of southwestern and south-central Wisconsin—a region that has linked the rural hinterlands to the city of Madison as its center over the past 180 years.

Thursday’s tour will take participants to rural southwestern Wisconsin to view the dairying landscape, remnants of the industrial landscape (centered on lead mining), and ethnic building types, techniques and landscapes. Highlights will include a self-guided walking tour of Mineral Point—the center of the lead mining region featuring hundreds of hand crafted limestone buildings erected by Cornish masons in the mid-nineteenth century; a stage coach inn dating to 1834; a dairy farm from the early twentieth century (the childhood home of "fighting" Bob Lafollette); and a "Swiss" dinner in "America’s little Switzerland," New Glarus.

Friday’s tour will focus on the city of Madison, seeking to further illuminate the economic and stylistic relationships between Madison and its surrounding region. Beginning in Madison's Third Lake Ridge neighborhood, which boasted industries such as agricultural implement manufacturing that were vital to the success of surrounding rural regions, participants will also visit a post-World War II neighborhood adjacent to Oscar Mayer's major meatpacking facility. At the agricultural campus at UW-Madison, participants will explore innovations that led to the success of dairying in the region. Finally, the tour will examine regional modernism with a visit to Madison’s westside suburbs, highlighting the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright on builders and developers who sought to forge a "Midwestern" style.

On Sunday (June 10), VAFers will have the choice to attend one of two optional all day tours: to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, or to explore the collections of the Kohler Foundation.

We hope to welcome you to Madison next year. We promise plenty of good cheese, lots of fresh beer, and (hopefully) no snow!


Questions? Contact Anna Vemer Andrzejewski, 2012 Conference Chair, at