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  • 05 Oct 2016 5:00 PM | Christine R Henry

    This Fall issue of VAN includes announcements for many great opportunities including conferences and scholarships across the many disciplines that VAF members represent.  We also have calls for VAF award nominations and papers for the upcoming annual conference in Salt Lake to be held in the summer of 2017.  The member news section is packed with updates from members about the great work they have been doing in the field and classroom.  Finally, the three featured essays in this issue are from 2016 awardees reflecting on their experiences in Durham . 

    These essays have inspired me to reflect on my experiences with VAF.  As I prepared to start my second year of teaching I worked to develop an upper level undergraduate seminar on vernacular architecture and was reminded of my first introduction to vernacular studies.  It was just over 15 years ago that I attended the Poplar Forest Field School, taught by long-time VAF member Travis McDonald where my interest and enthusiasm for fieldwork was kindled.  This transformative experience gave me not only the opportunity to see the ongoing work of restoration at Poplar Forest, but to get hands-on experience in the field measuring, analyzing, and documenting a building in Lynchburg.  As I designed my new course, I wanted to cultivate that same sense of excitement and awe I felt in delving deeply into the multiple layers of material and culture in a building.   I perused the VAF syllabus exchange to find readings and design projects that challenge my students to expand their skills and thinking.  I also reflected on the numerous informal conversations I have had with members over the years on bus rides to intriguing sites and over meals in inspiring spaces and was amazed by all of the generosity of the VAF community.  In the end, I designed a class that is both grounded in VAF and also my own personal approach to the topics that I hope will inspire my students to find and explore their own interests.  Thank you VAF for providing a place to challenge, inspire, and share.  I would love it if you would share your reflections on VAF experiences, either through the comments section below or by sending an essay to me at vaneditor@vaf.web.  Hope you enjoy the issue! Christine

  • 05 Oct 2016 4:40 PM | Christine R Henry

    It was a great honour to receive the VAF Buchanan Award 2016 for the Built Heritage and Cultural Landscapes Field School. Such heartfelt recognition from one’s peers and colleagues is certainly appreciated. However, I also wish to acknowledge the numerous collaborators who contribute to the success of the Field School, notably Nancy van Dolsen, John Wood, Jean-Benoit Saint-Laurent and Léïc Godbout who generously share their expertise in field documentation and restoration, the office of Gaspé-based Vachon Roy architects, professors at the Cégep (college), representatives of Parcs Canada, Percé and Gaspé municipal authorities and non-profit organisations who yearly participate in community workshops, the Musée de la Gaspésie and the Bibliothèque et archives nationales du Québec Gaspé for access to primary sources, engaged citizens in our host localities for their warm welcome, and of course the students who come from diverse horizons and enrich the whole experience with their disciplinary lenses.   

    Additionally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the VAF for its support through a fieldwork grant when I first started up the Field School and successive Orlando V. Ridout fellowships awarded to students enrolled in the Field School.

    The following link leads you to the English version of the course web site where you can learn more about the Field School.

    Thank you all.

    Tania Martin, Professor at Université Laval School of Architecture.

  • 05 Oct 2016 2:22 PM | Christine R Henry

    by Betty R. Torrell, 2016 VAF Access Awardee

    We hope once more to feel like a small group of intrepid fieldworkers, in it together to better understand what we love.  (Conference Program-Welcome to Durham) 

    There are several definitions for the colloquial expression “bring it home”. They are primarily concerned with emphasizing the delivery of a message or an outcome. Each of these defines an aspect of my experiences at the Durham conference:

    1. A positive encouraging and motivating phrase to get to the punch line.
    2. Encouraging to state the point.
    3. Please get to the climax.
    4. To return something to its rightful location (http://www.urbandictionary.com)

    1. “A Positive Encouraging and Motivating Phrase to get to the Punch Line”

    I applied for the Access Award as a Visiting Professor of Interior Design at Western Carolina University (WCU). Having moved to North Carolina from the Pacific Northwest, an awareness of the vernacular architecture and material culture of North Carolina became central to my personal education and my new role as an educator.

    “Bright Leaf Culture and Thomas Day Orange and Caswell Counties Tour”-Holderness House, Entry Stair, image © Betty R. TorrellOne of my classes is the History of Design, a survey of art, architecture and furniture from ancient times through the present day. Inspired by the rich local culture of the region, I added to the curriculum a unit focusing on North Carolina where the students’ individual research projects concentrated on the local vernacular both in terms of the built environment and material culture. This year’s theme for their research papers echoed the WCU campus theme of Africa, specifically exploring “Bright Leaf Culture and Thomas Day Orange and Caswell Counties Tour”-Holderness House, Dining Room Mantle image © Betty R. Torrellthe contribution of the African-American to the material culture of Appalachia. Coincidentally, the subject of one of the student research projects was the work of cabinet maker Thomas Day, whose work and workshop were included in the VAF conference Field Notes, “Bright Leaf Culture and Thomas Day”. More than a coincidence, this “punch line” to my conference experience reinforced my belief in the importance of the local vernacular to the appreciation of the history of design.

    2.  “Encouraging to State the Point”

    “Bright Leaf Culture and Thomas Day Orange and Caswell Counties Tour” Tobacco Barn at Captain John S Pope Farm - image © Betty R. TorrellThe second definition, “encouraging to state the point” was “brought home” in the conference Paper Sessions, particularly as a new VAF member and conference“Bright Leaf Culture and Thomas Day Orange and Caswell Counties Tour” Slave Quarters at Holderness House - image © Betty R. Torrell attendee in the session titled “User’s Guide to the VAF”. The new members who attended this sessions were invited to “get the most out of what VAF has to offer” by receiving information about participating in VAF conference paper presentations and publishing in the Journal of the VAF Forum or VAN, thus encouraging us to “state the point” by sharing our work with the VAF community.      

    3.  “Please get to the climax”

    John Larson explains roofing construction techniques. Post Conference Tour-“Behind the Scenes at Old Salem” image © Betty R. TorrellAs a new attendee to the conference the climax for me was the fieldtrips: both the All-Day Bus Tours and the Post-Conference Tours on Sunday. When registering for the tours, I found it difficult to select from the choices. All the John Larson explains roofing construction techniques. Post Conference Tour-“Behind the Scenes at Old Salem” image © Betty R. Torrellfieldtrips seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The preparation material in the booklets was exhaustive and thought-provoking. The significance of the often little known but extraordinary sites and the level of access to these sites was beyond expectation. The camaraderie and fellowship of the tour participants and leaders was inspiring, and the pride exhibited by the building and site caretakers was heartwarming. Of the four conference days the tours were truly the highpoint for me.

    3.  “To return to its rightful location”

    “Bright Leaf Culture and Thomas Day Orange and Caswell Counties Tour”-Horton Grove slave quarters. Image © Betty R. TorrellThe opportunity to participate in this year’s conference “brought home” to me not only the richness and diversity of North Carolina as expressed through its vernacular architecture, but reinforced the importance of the discourse on the vernacular and how this discourse occupies a “rightful location” in our scholarship and work. As Yuko Nakamura wrote in the Vernacular Architecture Newsletter (VAN) reflecting on the conference Field Notes sessions:

    This issue of definition, apparently so simple, has proven to be one of the most serious problems for advocates of vernacular architecture and landscapes research. ‘A straightforward, convincing, authoritative definition has not yet been offered,’ write architectural historians Dell Upton and John Michael Vlach, in the introduction of their 1986 edited volume ‘Common Places: Readings in American Vernacular Architecture.’ Thirty years have passed since this statement. I now look for VAF members’ help to better understand what we study.

    “Bright Leaf Culture and Thomas Day Orange and Caswell Counties Tour”-Horton Grove information sign. Image © Betty R. TorrellAs Nakamura’s question coming out of the conference seeks to define vernacular architecture, our answer will shape the outcome of our efforts and its impact on our communities.


  • 05 Oct 2016 11:17 AM | Christine R Henry

    by ambassadors: Elizabeth Clappin (MFA –Architectural History) and Stephanie Heher (MFA Candidate – Historic Preservation)

    Professor E.G. Daves Rossell and Elizabeth Clappin

    It was a small group of student ambassadors from the Savannah College of Art and Design at the annual VAF conference but the experience was a very fruitful and enjoyable one nonetheless. Though the two of us attended the same tours, Piedmont Patchwork and Durham: City of the New South when the groups met at the end of the day we were able to share stories and learn about the highlights of the other tours we missed out on. As the focus of both our graduate work is American vernacular architecture it was perfectly suited to giving us both a taste of our specialties in a new setting. Perhaps the factor that stood out the most for both of us was the fact that as student ambassadors there was no barrier or distinction made to separate us from the group. We were openly and warmly accepted as members of an academic community, which personally leads us to desire to continue to work with the VAF for years to come. Graduate school often looks at the field abstractly however the opportunity to see just how many ways people are working towards documenting and preserving our architectural heritage made us only want to work as part of this community more. If we had to pick a favorite spot,  the Palmer Institute was incredible and the director a fantastic guide though we would have loved more time there! The diversity of talks allowed us to split up and attend lectures based on our own areas of study and the student chapter meeting was an excellent chance to network. Elizabeth was able to make connections that lead to a new job in Philadelphia starting this month.
  • 05 Oct 2016 11:10 AM | Christine R Henry

    The Vernacular Architecture Forum (www.vafweb.org) invites paper proposals for its 36th Annual Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, May 31-June 3, 2017.  Papers may address vernacular and everyday buildings, sites, or cultural landscapes worldwide. Submissions on all relevant topics are welcome but we encourage papers exploring western American themes, including ethnic settlement, landscapes of ranching, mining, and agriculture, urbanization, religious expression, Native American identity, and the creation of vacation and recreation landscapes.  Additionally, the VAF is launching a multi-year program of inquiry into the distinctiveness of the VAF and the vernacular architecture movement. To this end, we encourage papers that consider this field over time. How does the wide range of VAF projects (tours, guidebooks, book and article awards, field schools, annual conference papers, publications, etc.) demonstrate how our questions, concerns, and methods have changed and evolved?  Where do we see evidence of that history in our current work, and what might our future look like? Proposals might focus on a particular building type (i.e. houses, barns), a research strategy (fieldwork), political or theoretical convictions (Gender, Marxism, the Everyday, etc), or particular approaches to presenting our work and engaging colleagues and the public.

    Students and young professionals may also apply for the Pamela H. Simpson Presenter’s Fellowships offering support of up to $500 to presenting papers at VAF’s annual conference.


    Papers should be analytical rather than descriptive, and no more than twenty minutes in length. Proposals for complete sessions, roundtable discussions or other innovative means that facilitate scholarly discourse are especially encouraged.  At least one session will be devoted to Field Notes – shorter papers (five to eight minutes in length) that introduce new techniques, innovations, and discoveries in documenting vernacular buildings and landscapes.  Proposals should clearly state the argument of the paper and explain the methodology and content in fewer than 400 words.  Make sure to indicate if it is a regular paper proposal or a shorter fieldwork proposal.  Please include the paper title, author’s name, email address, a one-page c.v.  You may include up to two images with your submission. Note that presenters must deliver their papers in person and be VAF members at the time of the conference. Speakers who do not register for the conference by March 1, 2017, will be withdrawn. Please do not submit an abstract if you are not committed to attending the papers session on Saturday, June 3rd.

    THE DEADLINE FOR PROPOSALS IS OCTOBER 30, 2016. The abstracts and c.v. should be emailed as a PDF attachment to the VAF Papers Committee Chair, Daves Rossell, at papers@vafweb.org. For general information about the Salt Lake City conference, please visit the conference website here or contact Alison Flanders at saltlakecity@vafweb.org.

    Pamela H. Simpson Presenter’s Fellowships:

    VAF’s Pamela H. Simpson Presenter’s Fellowships offer a limited amount of financial assistance to students and young professionals presenting papers at VAF’s annual conference. Awards are intended to offset travel and registration costs for students, and to attract developing scholars to the organization. Any person presenting a paper who is currently enrolled in a degree-granting program, or who has received a degree within one year of the annual conference is eligible to apply. Awards cannot exceed $500. Previous awardees are ineligible, even if their status has changed. Recipients are expected to participate fully in the conference, including tours and workshops.

    To apply, submit with your abstract a one-page attachment with "Simpson Presenter’s Fellowship" at the top and the following information: 1) name, 2) institution or former institution, 3) degree program, 4) date of degree (received or anticipated), 5) mailing address, 6) permanent email address, 7) telephone number, and 8) paper title.

  • 05 Oct 2016 8:38 AM | Christine R Henry

    Emerald Street, NE (between E/F and 13th/14th Streets) has a fascinating history.  In 1892, speculators transformed the square from empty space to 169 rowhouse lots and a new one-block street, today's Emerald Street.  Developers immediately bought lots and within a year were already building houses for Capitol Hill's growing middle-class market.  Emerald Street became a street of  Queen Anne houses.  Emerald Street's history reflects Washington's history - after a boom period as a middle-class neighborhood, disinvestment set in by the 1950s.  The riots after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968 devastated H Street, NE.  Emerald Street was included in the H Street Urban Renewal Area, and many houses were rehabilitated by DC Redevelopment Land Agency.  Today, Emerald Street is a vibrant community. 

     Image of 1300 Block of Emerald Street courtesy of Google.com

                Come on a free walking tour and learn about Emerald Street's interesting history.


    Saturday, October 8,  10 am

    Meet at 13th and Emerald Streets, NE

    Tours will go on rain or shine

    Free, open to the public

    For more details, or to RSVP (optional), contact the CHRS office at: caphrs@aol.com or (202) 543-0425.

  • 05 Oct 2016 8:35 AM | Christine R Henry

    Save the Date

    Another VAF-New England Field Trip!

    October 15, 2016

    Brattleboro, Vermont

    Please see the NE chapter section of the VAF website for details

  • 04 Oct 2016 6:25 PM | Christine R Henry

    Historic Ithaca is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and the graduate program in Historic Preservation Planning at Cornell University is celebrating its 40th anniversary by partnering to sponsor a preservation symposium at Cornell on October 14th and 15th.  All are welcome!  For more information, please see the conference website

  • 04 Oct 2016 6:10 PM | Christine R Henry

    Amber Bailey 2016 Thompkins Fellow at PasadenaAttention Student Architectural Historians!

    Spend your summer conducting research on a nationally significant U.S. building or site and preparing a history to become part of the permanent HABS collection. The HABS/SAH Sally Kress Tompkins Fellowship is a joint program of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) that permits a graduate student architectural historian to work on a 12-week HABS history project during the summer of 2017. The Fellow’s research interests and goals will inform the building or site selected for documentation by HABS staff. Applicants should be pursuing studies in U.S. architectural history or a related field.  The award consists of a $10,000 stipend, and SAH conference registration and travel expenses up to $1,000.

    Applications accepted September 1 – December 31, 2016.

    For more information visit the NPS website.

  • 04 Oct 2016 6:06 PM | Christine R Henry

    The Vernacular Architecture Forum seeks nominations or entries for the Abbott Lowell Cummings Book Prize. The Cummings Prize, named after the founding president of the VAF, 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 2015 through December 2016 are eligible for consideration. Edited collections of previously published materials are not eligible.

    The deadline for the 2017 Cummings Prize is December 15, 2016.

    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 cummingsprize@vafweb.org.

    2017 Cummings Prize committee:

    Ryan Smith, chair

    Department of History

    Virginia Commonwealth University

    811 S. Cathedral Place

    Richmond, VA 23284-9105

    Annmarie Adams

    School of Architecture

    McGill University

    815 Sherbrooke St. West 

    Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 0C2

    *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).

    Robert Saint-George

    History Department

    University of Pennsylvania

    1 College Hall, Room 208

    Philadelphia, PA 19104-6379

    For more information please see the awards section of the VAF website.

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