Mission and History
The Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) was founded in 1940 to advance knowledge and understanding of the history of architecture, design, landscape, and urbanism worldwide. The Society serves scholars, professionals in allied fields (including architecture, historic preservation and planning), and the interested general public by:
- Sponsoring the pursuit and presentation of scholarly research;
- Sponsoring forums for the presentation of scholarly research and exchange of ideas through its annual scholarly conferences and occasional symposia;
- Providing publications that disseminate scholarly work, professional information, and general information related to the field and of interest to the public through its publications, JSAH, the SAH Newsletter and the Buildings of the United States series;
- Acknowledging outstanding scholarly accomplishments in the field through publication awards and fellowships;
- Fostering scholarship, research, and education about the history of the built environment;
- Organizing study tours of significant buildings and sites both in the United States and abroad;
- Supporting the preservation of historic places and cultural heritage.
Current SAH Publications
Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (JSAH) - The quarterly JSAH is the leading scholarly architectural journal published in the English language. Early issues containing articles on a wide variety of European and American subjects laid the foundation for much of the subsequent research in the field. Over the years the focus of JSAH has expanded to include articles addressing broader theoretical and critical issues related to the built environment, a wide variety of book reviews on American and international topics, exhibition reviews and multi-media/website reviews. Beginning in January 2004 back issues of JSAH became available electronically through JSTOR, the preeminent provider of scholarly journals online.
SAH Newsletter - In the 1940s and early 1950s, JSAH carried regular reports of the Society's activities. With the launch of the SAH Newsletter in 1957, the Society's time-sensitive announcements and general information were published there. Currently, the SAH Newsletter covers not only Society activities, but also outside events of essential interest to SAH members such as colloquia, symposia, fellowship programs, summer research programs, employment opportunities, activities of the SAH Local Chapters, and websites of architectural interest. The Newsletter is available both in print and online through the SAH website.
Buildings of the United States (BUS) - The United States is one of the few countries in the developed world without a comprehensive series of publications addressing its national architectural heritage. In 1979, the Society accepted the challenge laid by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, author of the seminal Buildings of England, to fill this void. In 1993 the Society published the first four Buildings of the United States books, the award-winning 60-volume series of guidebooks / encyclopedias documenting and interpreting American architecture state by state. The New York Times has called the series, the Society's major educational outreach initiative, "one of the most ambitious in publishing history." To date, eleven volumes have been published.
SAH Communities - SAH Communities is an online resource for SAH members and non members who want to connect with one another via discussion forums, interest groups, blogs, and an SAH calendar. The most popular function of SAH Communities is its "Opportunities" section--a place to post fellowships, calls for papers, grants, etc. The SAH Calendar can be used by anyone to post events and conferences.
Current SAH Programs and affiliated Organisations
Annual Conferences - Along with the quarterly JSAH, the Annual Conference, which was first organized in the late 1940s, serves as the cornerstone of the Society's efforts to advance the study of architectural history through the presentation and discussion of current scholarly research. Beginning in 1949, the Society met with the College Art Association, a practice that continued until 1973. That year, the Society collaborated with its corresponding society, SAH Great Britain, and held its annual conference in Cambridge, England. From then on, the Society established its own schedule, with the annual conference generally held in April. The five-day program features a Preservation Colloquium, twenty-five paper sessions in which scholarly research papers are delivered, an annual business meeting, an awards ceremony, extensive local architectural tours, and special workshops on topics such as the integration of computer and Internet technologies into architectural history curricula and techniques of architectural photography. Since 1998, the Annual Conference also includes a plenary talk by a distinguished scholar who is invited to speak on the study of the built environment.
Study Tours - Every year the Society organizes four domestic and international study tours, available to members and to the general public. The study tours, which are eligible for AIA Continuing Education Credits, focus on the architecture of a particular architect, period, region, or style. Domestic tours generally last approximately five to seven days, and international study tours run approximately two to three weeks.
SAH Chapters - The first Chapters of SAH were formed in the early 1940s, and by 1957 there were as many as ten. The Society currently has more than twenty Chapters across the country. The Chapters help the Society extend its educational mission to individuals throughout the U.S. who have a specific interest in the architecture of their region.
Corresponding and Affiliate Organizations - SAH has one corresponding society, SAH Great Britain, and several affiliates, including the ARLIS/NA, Census of Stained Glass, Decorative Arts Society, DOCOMOMO-US, Historians of Islamic Art, International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments, National Committee for the History of Art, and Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada. These organizations, whose educational missions parallel those of the Society, may sponsor sessions at the Society's annual conference.
The Charnley-Persky House - From the time the SAH was founded, its leaders hoped to have headquarters in a building of historical significance. For most of its existence, the Society was located in Pennsylvania, first in Media, at the home of the first executive secretary, Rosann Berry, and then in downtown Philadelphia. In 1995, Society board member Seymour H. Persky donated funds to the Society to purchase the landmark James Charnley House on Chicago's Gold Coast, to which the Society moved its headquarters in July of that year. Designed by Louis H. Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright in 1891, Charnley House has been called the first modern home in America. Mr. Persky's extraordinary generosity prompted the SAH board to rename the house the Charnley-Persky House. Although the building houses the offices for SAH and BUS staff, it is open to the public for free docent-led tours every Wednesday at noon. On Saturday mornings, docents lead tours of the Charnley-Persky House, the Albert Madlener House, and the architecturally rich Astor Street neighborhood.