Department of Art History
Fighting for the Children: Architecture and the Student Body, 1904-1940
My project studies the architectural characteristics of open-air education and how requirements for these classes could order or destabilize educators’ attempts to group students as based on physical condition. Educating children on semi-enclosed rooftops in the middle of winter to improve health may seem counterintuitive at best, yet this constituted part of the only known treatment for tuberculosis in the early twentieth century. Open-air classes began during a period when the public considered nature and the country the ideal environment, and classes attempted to access this by moving outside or above the polluted school interior or city. Whether in designing spaces or educational and health programs these professionals sought to remedy what they considered imperfections in schools, cities, and bodies through ordering, then perfecting the environment produced within the school facilities. I consider the expansion and contraction of these classes and regional differences as architects and educators sought new ways to control the world around them. These architectural spaces facilitated the segregation of students with certain physical conditions from their peers, and architectural accommodations and spaces considered essential in the modern school influenced which students could return to “typical” classrooms and which were further segregated, linking architecture to a process through which society defined disability.