Joanna Merwood-Salisbury is an architectural historian specializing in nineteenth and early-twentieth-century architecture and urban design in the United States, with a special interest in issues of race and labour. She also has an interest in the history and theory of interior design. Joanna’s work integrates architectural and urban history with political and cultural history. She received her PhD from Princeton University and her M.Arch from McGill University. She is a former Book Review Editor (Americas) for the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians and member of the editorial board of AA Files. Joanna has authored books on early Chicago skyscrapers, the history of public space in the United States, and is an editor of an anthology about interior design theory. Joanna’s work has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Graham Foundation and the J. M. Kaplan Fund.


Princeton University, PhD, 2003

McGill University, M.Arch, 1994

Victoria University of Wellington, B.Arch, 1992



Joanna Merwood-Salisbury, Barbarian Architecture: Thorstein Veblen’s Chicago, MIT Press, 2024

Joanna Merwood-Salisbury, Design for the Crowd: Patriotism and Protest in Union Square, University of Chicago Press, 2019

Kent Kleinman, Joanna Merwood-Salisbury and Lois Weinthal Eds., After Taste: Expanded Practice in Interior Design, Princeton Architectural Press, 2012

Joanna Merwood-Salisbury, Chicago 1890: The Skyscraper and the Modern City, University of Chicago Press, 2009

Book chapters and articles

“The Architecture of the Leisure Class: Thorstein Veblen and the University of Chicago,” Journal

of the Society of Architectural Historians 82, no. 1 (March 2023), 7–22, ISSN 0037-9808, electronic ISSN 2150-5926

“Stones and Slaves: Labour, race and spatial exclusion in colonial Santo Domingo,” Urban

History (2021), 1–25 [with José R. Núñez Collado]

“On the Architecture of the Late Capitalist Museum: The Museum of Modern Art and the

Demolition of the American Folk Art Museum,” in Valuing Architecture: Heritage and the Economics of Culture, Ashley Paine, John Macarthur, Susan Holden Eds. (Amsterdam: Valiz, 2020)

“A Journey to the Experimental Nation: Henry Demarest Lloyd and the Search for Industrial

Democracy in New Zealand,” Fabrications vol. 3, no. 3 (November 2020)

“Architecture as Model and Standard: Modern Liberalism and Tenement House Reform in New

York City at the Turn of the Twentieth Century,” Architectural Theory Review (January 2020)

“‘The New Birth of Freedom’: The Gothic Revival of the Aesthetics of Abolitionism,” in Race and

Modern Architecture: A Critical History from the Enlightenment to the Present, Irene Cheng, Charles L. Davis II, and Mabel O. Wilson Eds. (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020)

This is not a skyscraper: Helmut Jahn’s late, late entry to the Chicago Tribune Tower

competition,” AA Files (December 2017), 132-149

“Exterior Interiors: The Urban Living Room and Beyond,” (with Vanessa Coxhead) in Deborah

Schneiderman and Amy Campos Eds., Interiors Beyond Architecture (London: Routledge, 2017)

“Louis Sullivan’s Carson Pirie Scott Building,” in David Leatherbarrow and Alexander

Eisenschmidt Eds., Modern Architecture, vol. VI Wiley-Blackwell Companion to the

History of Architecture (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017), 1-10

“The Gothic Revival and the Chicago School,” in Kevin Murphy and Lisa Reilly Eds., Skyscraper

Gothic: Medieval Style and Modernist Buildings (Charlottesville VA: University of Virginia Press, 2017)

“American Modern: The Chicago School and the International Style at the Museum of Modern

Art,” in Alexander Eisenschmidt and Jonathan Mekinda Eds. Chicagoisms: The City as Catalyst for Architectural Speculation (Chicago: Park Books/University of Chicago Press, 2014)

“The First Chicago School and the Ideology of the Skyscraper,” in Peggy Deamer Ed. Architecture

and Capitalism: 1845 to the Present (London: Routledge, 2013)

“Patriotism and Protest: Union Square as Public Space, 1832-1932,” Journal of the Society of
Architectural Historians vol. 68 no. 4 (December 2009), 540-559

“On Luxury,” AA Files, vol. 58  (2009), 20-27

“Western Architecture: Regionalism and Race in the Inland Architect,” in Katarina Ruedi-Ray

and Charles Waldheim Eds., Chicago Architecture: Histories, Revisions, Alternatives (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005)

“The Mechanization of Cladding: The Reliance Building and Narratives of Modern Architecture,” Grey Room, vol. 4 (Summer 2001), 52–69


Blog Posts


    My latest project is a book, Barbarian Architecture: Thorstein Veblen’s Chicago, to be published by MIT Press in April 2024. An important critic of modern culture, American economist Thorstein Veblen is best known for the concept of “conspicuous consumption,” the ostentatious and wasteful display of goods in the service of social status—a term he coined in his 1899 classic The Theory of the Leisure Class. In the field of architectural history, scholars have employed Veblen in support of a wide range of arguments about modern architecture, but never has he attracted a comprehensive and critical treatment from the viewpoint of architectural history. In this book, I aim to correct this omission by reexamining Veblen’s famous book as an original theory of modernity and situating it in a particular place and time—Chicago in the 1890s.

    Upcoming Talks and Conferences

    “Barbarian Architecture: Thorstein Veblen’s Chicago,” Buell Dissertation Colloquium Keynote, Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, Columbia University, New York, April 2023

    “Louis Sullivan’s Architecture and Chicago’s Labor Movement,” Driehaus Museum, Chicago, March, 2023

    ‘Work in Progress; Construction History in New York and Chicago, 1870-1930,’ Skyscraper Museum, New York, April to June 2022

    ‘Race and the Historiography of American Architecture,’ SAH Connects, July 28, 2021 (with Charles L. Davis and Kathryn Holliday)

    “Skyscraper Labor and Places of Labor Protest,” Skyscraper Museum, New York, November 2020

    “‘The Art and Craft of the Machine’: Staging Modern Architecture in Chicago,” Society of Architectural Historians Annual Conference, Seattle, April 2020


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