This course provides an introduction to the intertwined histories of art and architecture. It will give you the tools to think about how sites and objects have participated in the construction of class, race, and gender in the modern era and will explore how objects and sites structure social relations and index broader networks of power, economy, and governance, as well as political conflicts and transformations.

Each week, we will explore the long history of a space that has been crucial to modern formations of gender, race, and class – the Plantation, the Colony, the Kitchen, the Closet, the Museum, and the School, among others. Our conversations will aim to bring to the surface the major debates and conflicts about what these spaces should be and should do—i.e. who they should serve—that have characterized their modern emergences.

We will examine how these spaces were shaped and represented not only by professional architects and artists, but also by women, enslaved peoples, and other subjects long excluded from the prerogative to shape space professionally.  Assignments will encourage you to use the concepts and frameworks of the course to analyze artworks and spaces on your campuses and in the cities and towns that you navigate in your daily life.

Readings by W.E.B. Du Bois, Michel Foucault, Saidiya Hartman, and Judith Butler, among others, will provide us with analytical tools and theoretical frameworks to address those actors excluded from history, problematizing agency and authorship in art and architecture.

The course will be taught simultaneously on three campuses–Bard College, MSU, and University of Michigan. This website will enable students from all three campuses to interact throughout the semester. We will culminate the course in a one-day symposium in Ann Arbor that will bring all three classes together, including Bard virtually, (December 3) to discuss our findings.

Contested Spaces was originally designed by FAAC, the Feminist Art and Architecture Collaborative. FAAC is Olga Touloumi, Martina Tanga, Tessa Paneth-Pollak, and Ana María León.

Meet your professors!

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Ana María León is Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, with a joint appointment in the History of Art and the Romance Languages and Literatures departments. Her research focuses on the intersection of modernity, pedagogy, and politics in art and architecture, with special emphasis on networks between the Americas and Europe. Her current project examines the housing projects of Catalan architect Antonio Bonet in Buenos Aires as mediators between the avant-garde’s fascination with the unconscious and the state’s mandate to control the crowds. She holds an architecture diploma from Universidad Católica de Santiago de Guayaquil, an M.Arch. from Georgia Tech, an M.Des.S. with distinction from Harvard University and a PhD in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture from MIT.


Tessa Paneth-Pollak is Assistant Professor of Art History at Michigan State University in the Department of Art, Art History, & Design. She received her PhD in modern & contemporary art history from Princeton University in June 2015 and began teaching at Michigan State in Fall of 2015, where she is also affiliated as a Core Faculty member with MSU’s Center for Gender in a Global Context (GenCen). Her research to this point has focused on  histories and theories of cutting and collage in European modernism. She is currently working on two book projects: “Definite Means: Modernism’s Cut-Outs,” on the cut-out practices of Auguste Rodin, Hans (Jean) Arp, and Henri Matisse; and “Cuts From Below,” which looks at the three living American artists’ engagements with the procedure of cutting–Kara Walker, Mark Bradford, and Robert Hodge–through the lens of spatial and racial division, violence, and resistance.


Olga Touloumi is Assistant Professor of Art History at Bard College. Her research explores the intersection of governmentality, modern architecture, and media technologies. Her book in progress interrogates the interiors where architects organized global governance, articulating new ideas about the public sphere, cosmopolitanism, and communication. Her research has been supported by Harvard University, the Canadian Center for Architecture, the Alexander Onassis Foundation, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. Her writing has appeared in the Journal of the Society of Architectural HistoriansBuildings & LandscapesCulture Machine, and Thresholds. She holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University and a M.Sc. from MIT.