on the university: move over sputnik, admit hill-burton

I’m reading a book on the history of American research universities by Hugh Davis Graham and Nancy Diamond, and thinking about how architectural research was developed in the 1960s. Apparently, the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the US is the largest single source of research funding, hence universities with medical schools have had much larger budgets than those without.  These large research budgets trickle down to other departments and other shared amenities as those grants include a percentage for the general university. I became more aware of this when my own tiny NSF grant included some tinier bit for the Uni. Graham and Diamond speculate that the boom in American universities after World War II was due as much to the huge Hill-Burton hospital construction program that yielded new and larger medical schools as it was to Sputnik. Through the sixties, this was only augmented by the Great Society boosts to Medicare and Medicaid funding… though the authors aren’t as clear on how that meant increased research funding… just because the government had a greater stake in the game? 

Anyway, the proscription is hence rather dire if the public funding for medical research goes down… at least until some other avenue of funding is found.  And that may be the occasion for some other Unis to take over from American universities as they lose their postwar glory.

And for architects, there are a few questions. How might the discipline and / or the profession find funding sources, either from the NIH or private sources (Toll Brothers? Trump?) which can boost their standing as a discipline? Or do they need to, perhaps elite patronage is the key to their functioning? Would the discipline become more like engineering, more like material science, or more like the history of science if it were beholden to Toll Brothers, Hardi-Plank, the NIH, etc? Can you imagine Toll Brothers funding anthropological studies of the built environment and housing preferences? Would that be a good thing? What about Toyota, IBM, etc?

But most immediately for me, there is an historiographic question.  What sense does it make to ascribe the ’60s era attempts to coin and legitimate some kind of architectural research to the overall climate of health research funding?  From building science to social factors to pattern language, in what ways were these projects tied into the literal research economy?  In what ways were they just reflecting the fashionable glow of research that was funded by the NIH?  How would you make such an argument?

  1. reversealchemy posted this
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