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Michael Allen

Architectural and cultural historian Michael Allen has a practice that spans scholarly research, heritage conservation practice, creative social practice, and political activism. Since 2022, Allen has served as executive director of the National Building Arts Center, an emerging museum of the American built environment rooted in the largest collection of architectural artifacts in the U.S. well as a comprehensive research library on the U.S. built environment.

He also is a Senior Lecturer in Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Design at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, as well as a Lecturer in American Culture Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. At WashU, Allen has been the primary instructor at the Sumner StudioLab based at Sumner High School, the oldest historically Black high school west of the Mississippi River. Allen was director of the preservation research office from 2009 through 2022, where he worked on various historic preservation projects in fourteen U.S. states.

Most recently, Allen has been working on research projects around modernist mass housing, including his Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Birmingham (U.K.), and the collaborative research project Housing Blocs, which examines relationships between post–World War II mass housing programs in the U.S. and socialist Europe. Housing Blocs has convened events on both sides of the Atlantic and is culminating in an edited volume.

In 2018, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named him to its “40 Under 40” list honoring young preservationists whose work is expanding the concept and practice of historic preservation in the U.S. Since November 2021, he has been an appointed member of the Preservation Board of the City of St. Louis.

Allen’s scholarly and critical articles have appeared in a wide range of scholarly and popular sources, such as Buildings and Landscapes, CityLab, Disegno, Forty-Five Journal, Hyperallergic, Next City, Platform, Temporary Art Review, St. Louis American, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Studies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes. He has contributed chapters to Bending the Future: 50 Ideas About the Next 50 Years of Historic Preservation, Midwest Architecture Journeys, and Buildings of Missouri. Allen also has a past in experimental literary publishing, radical community theater, and public ecological education.

Personal website

Work by Michael Allen