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Certain rocks [are] old friends

Rhetorics of self-building in 20th-century America
Join us for a public lecture with Kevin D. Murphy, of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.

Event details

Tuesday 30 April
6 - 8pm
Lecture Theatre 1, The Wilkinson Building, University of Sydney
148 City Rd, Darlington


In the USA during the early to mid-twentieth century, self-building was promoted as a solution to housing shortages, but more importantly, as a means of bringing amateur builders into meaningful contact with their materials, with nature. This talk will focus on the "Flagg Method" of stone and concrete construction, developed and advocated for by skyscraper architect Ernest Flagg from the 1920s on. His followers, especially postwar "back-to-the-land" gurus Helen and Scott Nearing, drew on the rhetoric of Frank Lloyd Wright and other advocates for "organic" architecture to portray self-built masonry buildings as ethically necessary.

Kevin D. Murphy is Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Humanities, and Professor and Chair in the Department of History of Art at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of numerous books and articles on modern European and American architecture, most recently Skyscraper Gothic: Medieval Forms and Modernist Buildings (University of Virginia Press, 2017), co-edited with Lisa Reilly.