Building Duke: The Architectural History of Duke Campus from 1924 to the Present (2019-2020)


Begun in 2018, Building Duke is a three-year initiative designed to explore the history of the conception, design and construction of Duke campus as well as its changes and expansions through time.

The project aims to offer a historical narrative of the physical environment that the Duke community inhabits and explore the desires and visions that have materialized in the making of Duke campus. This effort includes a close consideration of the ways in which the Duke community has imagined itself and the ways in which it has imprinted such visions on its physical environment. This project is especially relevant at a cultural and political moment when physical space and its historical connotations are at the center of heated public debate.

The three-year initiative will culminate in a relational database of textual and visual archival material on the architectural history of Duke campus; an interactive digital 3D model of campus developments since the 1920s; a series of multimedia thematic narratives on history of the campus; and a series of augmented reality tours.

Project Description

This Bass Connections project will combine historical research with digital technologies through two main components: 1) a chronological timeline of Duke’s buildings, landscape and infrastructure, which will explore the phases of development from conception to land acquisition, design and construction; and 2) a series of historical narratives along thematic axes such as patronage and financing, architectural and landscape design, techniques, materials and labor as well as around issues of identity, gender, class and race.

The project is being implemented in three phases. In its first year (2018-2019), the team focused on the collection, organization and digitization of textual and visual material from the University Archives.

In 2019-2020, the team will build on this work to focus on the identification, research and development of thematic analyses and historical narratives.

A few themes that may guide the project output could include the:

  • Decision-making procedure that resulted in the Trumbauer design and the alternative projects that were rejected in the process
  • Use of Ivy League campuses as models for the design of Duke
  • Project for the medical school and the use of Johns Hopkins as a model
  • Duke’s master plans and other design devices, such as construction materials and stylistic references, employed to maintain the campus’s visual identity through time
  • Olmsted archives and landscape architecture at Duke.

Research and data analysis will be conducted by team members in collaborative environments that include a 500-level research course (Building Duke Research Seminar 540SL), Research Independent Studies at all levels and laboratory time in the University Archives, Perkins Libraries and the Wired(!) Lab for Digital Art History and Visual Culture.

Anticipated Outputs

Enhanced relational database of archival data; series of historical narratives that follow team-selected thematic areas


Fall 2019 – Spring 2020

  • Fall 2019: Begin team meetings; begin orientation to primary source materials and databases compiled by 2018-2019 team; identify, research and develop thematic focuses and historical narratives
  • Spring 2020: Begin Building Duke Research Seminar; continue working on thematic and historical research; compile, curate and refine historical narrative series for digital publication

This Team in the News

Meet the Winners of the 2020 Bass Connections Student Research Awards

Doctoral Students Honored for Commitment to Outstanding Mentorship

See related teams, Building Duke: The Architectural History of Duke Campus (2020-2021) and Building Duke: The Architectural History of Duke Campus from 1924 to the Present (2018-2019).


Image: Courtesy of Duke University Archives

Courtesy of Duke University Archives.

Team Leaders

  • Sara Galletti, Arts & Sciences-Art, Art History, and Visual Studies
  • Valerie Gillispie, Duke Libraries
  • Kristin Huffman, Arts & Sciences-Art, Art History, and Visual Studies
  • Victoria Szabo, Arts & Sciences-Art, Art History, and Visual Studies

/graduate Team Members

  • Brittany Forniotis, Art and Art History-PHD
  • Dana Hogan, Art and Art History-PHD
  • Amanda Lazarus, Art and Art History-PHD
  • Clara Pinchbeck, Digital Art Hist/Comp Media-AM

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Rayhan Jhanji
  • Hojung Kwon, Computer Science (BS), Art History (AB2)
  • Kayla Marr, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Priya Parkash
  • Dryden Quigley, Int Comparative Studies (AB)
  • Kerry Rork, History (AB), Political Science (AB2)
  • Abigail Shlesinger
  • Holly Stam
  • Cassandra Stecker
  • Arial Strode
  • Valerie Tsao
  • Daphne Turan
  • Margaret Wang, Art History (AB), Sociology (AB2)
  • Daniella Welton

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Sheila Dillon, Arts & Sciences-Art, Art History, and Visual Studies
  • Hannah Jacobs, Arts & Sciences-Art, Art History, and Visual Studies
  • Paul Jaskot, Arts & Sciences-Art, Art History, and Visual Studies
  • Amy McDonald, Duke Libraries
  • Mark Olson, Arts & Sciences-Art, Art History, and Visual Studies
  • Ed Triplett, Arts & Sciences-Art, Art History, and Visual Studies

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Elizabeth Baltes, Coastal Carolina University
  • Luca Vascon, Officine Panottiche/Nuovostudio