Building Duke: The Architectural History of Duke Campus (2020-2021)


Begun in 2018, Building Duke is a three-year initiative that explores the history of the conception, design and construction of Duke University’s campus as well as its changes and expansions. 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.

Project Description

This project will combine historical research with digital technologies to create a chronological timeline of Duke’s buildings, landscape and infrastructure. A series of historical narratives will focus on patronage and financing, architectural and landscape design, materials and labor as well as issues of identity, gender, class and race. The team will publish these materials through a volume of collected essays written by the team members, a project team website, on-campus exhibits and a self-guided tour app.

In past years, this project team focused on collecting and digitizing textual and visual materials from the University Archives and developing the thematic analyses and historical narratives. This year’s project team will use digital and traditional media to design and implement the research findings in formats that will target different audiences, ranging from the scholarly community to the general public. Team members will complete the 3D model of campus developments, take panoramic photos, compose historical narratives, build the project website and the self-tour app as well as find a publisher for the materials to appear in a traditional scholarly format.

Anticipated Outputs

Database of textual and visual materials on the architectural history of Duke campus; interactive 3D model of campus developments; chronological timeline of Duke’s buildings and landscape; multimedia narratives on campus history; augmented reality tours of selected campus spaces; project website; on-campus exhibit


Fall 2020 – Spring 2021

  • Fall 2020: Work on completing 3D model and panoramic photos; compose historical narratives; develop project website; build self-tour app; seek publisher
  • Spring 2021: Complete activities from fall semester; submit manuscript for publication

See earlier related team, Building Duke: The Architectural History of Duke Campus from 1924 to the Present (2019-2020).


Image: The plaque making the Abele Quad on Duke's West Campus, by Megan Mendenhall/Duke University


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
  • Augustus Wendell, Arts & Sciences-Art, Art History, and Visual Studies

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Michael Cao
  • Alicia Wu

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • John H Edinger, Arts & Sciences-Art, Art History, and Visual Studies
  • Hannah Jacobs, Arts & Sciences-Art, Art History, and Visual Studies
  • Amy McDonald, Duke Libraries
  • John Taormina, Arts & Sciences-Art, Art History, and Visual Studies