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Michael Allen

Michael R. Allen’s work encompasses architectural history, cultural geography, historic preservation, and political activism. His scholarly work seeks to reveal the ways in which the built environment encodes hegemonic and oppositional power relationships (political and aesthetic), economic histories, and granular imposition of statecraft. Additionally, Allen practices critical heritage conservation, documenting buildings and cultural landscapes as possible clues to a collective future and reminders of an unresolved past. Both practices are committed to decoding architecture’s relationship to systemic oppression, colonialism and dispossession.

Allen currently holds appointments as senior lecturer in architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design in the Sam Fox School and as lecturer in American Culture Studies in Arts & Sciences. At the Sam Fox School, Allen teaches graduate elective seminars that explore the historic contexts, political constitutions, and embodied impacts of design practices. One major current research project interrogates the parallel histories of postwar mass housing projects in the United States and Yugoslavia.

Allen’s critical and scholarly writing has appeared in ArchDaily, Buildings and Landscapes, CityLab, CTheory, Disegno, Next City, Temporary Art Review, Preservation Leadership Forum, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and other outlets. Recently he has contributed chapters to Midwest Architectural Journeys (2019; Zach Mortice, editor) and Bending the Future: 50 Ideas for the Next Fifty Years of Historic Preservation in the United States (2016; Max Page and Marla Miller, editors).

Allen also directs the Preservation Research Office, a heritage consultancy that works nationally, and frequently guides critical geographic and architectural tours in and around St. Louis.

Work by Michael Allen

People attending a yoga class in a grassy lot next to a building.

Building as Body, 2016

Architectural yoga practice on a vacant lot, sponsored by the Pulizter Arts Foundation.
Abandoned house with a large red heart nailed over the boarded up door that reads "Call Me" with a phone number.

Valentines for Vacants, 2015

Gravois Park neighborhood, St. Louis.
Corner of a concrete and brick building with an overhung walkway around the side.

Recordation of the last public housing tower standing in St. Louis.
Small shared brick storefront for "Dolly's Beauty Supply Store" and "Barbacar African Hair Braiding."

Architectural survey of The Ville neighborhood in St. Louis.