Shantel Blakely is an architectural historian with strong interests in architecture and philosophy. Through a scholarly engagement with architecture she has sought to understand and explain forms of monumentality and configuration that have motivated architects since antiquity and also to bring to light other aesthetic values that might be traces of transient cultural moments or architects’ responses to imperatives from outside the discipline.
Blakely’s research in her principal subject area of architecture after World War II focuses on an Italian neo-avantgarde that espoused ideals of prewar modern architecture in the situation of recovery and industrialization. A current project is a monographic study of Marco Zanuso, an architect in Milan and a long-term collaborator of Olivetti, the multinational typewriter-maker and patron of the arts. Examining Zanuso’s designs for modular buildings and mass-produced furniture, the monograph considers his professional ethos—including minutely coordinated projects with artists, industrialists, and technical specialists—as a reflection on local history, a response to the still-influential Bauhaus, and a mode of resistance to systemic economic pressure in Italy toward an isolating professional specialization.
A second project studies humanistic claims that were tacit assumptions in prominent projects and critiques of architecture at mid-century. With support from the Richard Rogers Fellowship, Henry Moore Institute, and Paul Mellon Centre, Blakely’s work on Sir Herbert Read (1893–1968) examines Read’s contention that architecture and design promote social harmony, in light of his friendships with artists and his part in a broader exploration of phenomenological values and non-Western influences on European art.
Blakely has previously taught courses in architectural history, theory, and urban design at Columbia University GSAPP, Barnard College, and Parsons School of Design, and worked at Roger Hirsch Architects and Maryann Thompson Architects. For five years she was public programs manager at Harvard Graduate School of Design, where she organized lectures and conferences and cocurated the exhibition Happening Now: Historiography in the Making (2016). Her essays and translations have been published in AA Files, Avery Review, PLOT, Log, and other journals. She holds a PhD in the history and theory of architecture from Columbia University, an MArch from Princeton University, and an MA in Philosophy from Tufts University.