John Archer

Coming from a background of architectural history, my recent and current work focuses on spatial, ideological, cultural, and aesthetic dimensions of suburbia. The critical issues on which my teaching and writing focus have included the role of built space in the production of identity, the complex and various functions of dwellings in human cultures, and the role of ideology, media, and cultural practices in the formation of present-day suburbia. My book Architecture and Suburbia (University of Minnesota Press, 2005) examines the history of suburbia from its genesis in late seventeenth-century Enlightenment England to its manifestation as the ideal of the American dream. The book traces the genesis of the single nuclear family detached house from early eighteenth century Britain, to nineteenth-century domestic landscapes of repose and pastoral plenty, to twentieth-century American nationalist politics that promoted universal private home ownership. The book was awarded the 2007 Alice Davis Hitchcock Award by the Society of Architectural Historians. I have also written on British architectural literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, colonial planning in Calcutta, colonial suburbs in India and Indonesia, British eighteenth-century landscape gardens, British and American nineteenth-century suburban planning, and spatial theory.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • Ph.D.: Art History, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 1977.
  • M.A.: Art History, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 1969.
  • B.A.: Art History, Yale University, New Haven, CT, 1968.

Curriculum Vitae


  • Suburbanization
  • Space, in theory and in art
  • The American dream and suburbia
  • Suburban media and the single-family Home
  • Urban space, place, and history
  • Architecture and identity
  • Architecture and landscape in 18th and 19th century Britain, America, and India
Courses Taught
  • CSCL 5256 - Suburbia
  • CSCL 3910H - Suburbia and the Media
  • ArtH 5546 - American Architecture, 1840-1914
  • CSCL 5154 - Theoretical Constructions of Space
Research & Professional Activities

Professional Activities

  • Chair, Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, U of M: 2007 - 2013
  • Committee on the Press, University of Minnesota Press: 2007 - 2012


  • Theories, questions, and practices of space and place, in social and art theory, and in artistic practice:


  • Interviewed for: Mary Jane Smetanka, "Edina Teardowns: When the New Dwarfs the Old," 12 December 2012.:
  • Interviewed for: Mary Jane Smetanka, “Sidewalks? Too Pedestrian for Some. In Suburbs, Sidewalks Can Divide. Some Say They Encroach on Privacy. For Others, They Bring Safety and a Sense of Connection.“ Star Tribune, 19 August 2007, A1, A14, A15.:
  • Interviewed on: “Willie & Jay“ program, KSTP-AM 1500, 22 August 2007, 8:35-8:45 am.: Discussion of sidewalks in the suburbs,
  • Interviewed for: Bob Shaw, “New Parks Give Boomers Room to Roam,“ St. Paul Pioneer Press, 1 July 2007.:
  • Interviewed for: "The Hot New Trend: Meeting the Neighbors": St. Paul Pioneer Press, 21 August 2006
  • Interviewed for: "Burbs Find Place in Higher Ed": St Paul Pioneer Press, 19 March 2006
  • Interviewed for: "The Rise of Suburbia": Star Tribune, 12 March 2006
  • Interviewed for: Clayton Collins, “Americans Dream of Ever-Grander Homes,“: Christian Science Monitor, 3 August 2005
  • Interviewed for: “Heaven Can Wait: I Want to Give West Des Moines a Chance First“: The Des Moines Register, 12 September 2004
  • Interviewed for: “Focusing on the “˜Burbs: Academics, Filmmakers Begin to See Complexity of Suburbs“: The Sunday Republican (Waterbury, CT), 8 December 2002
  • Featured guest, "Film Forum: The Suburbs": Odyssey, WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, 22 February 2002
  • Consultant, "Dwellings" (television series): KTCA-TV St. Paul, 1998
  • Making Suburbia, ed. John Archer, Paul Sandul, and Katherine Solomonson. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.
  • “Suburbia as the Fabric of Place, Property, and People.” Interview with Jiri Flajsar in Jiri Flajsar and Pavlina Flajsarova, ed., Cultural Studies Alive: Conversations with Inkultus Scholars (Olomouc, Czech Republic: Univerzita Palackeho v Olomouci, 2015), pp. 207-229.
  • “The Resilience of Myth: The Politics of the American Dream,”Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review 25:2 (Spring 2014), 7-21.
  • “Suburbia.” Chapter 27 in Tridib Banerjee and Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, ed., Companion to Urban Design. London: Routledge, 2011. Pp. 356-368.
  • Archer, John. “Representing Suburbia: From Little Boxes to Everyday Practices.“ Forthcoming in Daniel Rubey and Christopher W. Niedt, ed., Representations of Suburbia. Hempstead, NY: Hofstra University, forthcoming . Download
  • Archer, John. “Everyday Suburbia: Lives and Practices,“Public: Art Culture Ideas. 43 (2011), 21-30. Download
  • Archer, John. "The Place We Love to Hate: The Critics Confront Suburbia, 1920-1960." In Klaus Stierstorfer, ed., Constructions of Home: Interdisciplinary Studies in Architecture, Law, and Literature (New York: AMS Press, 2010), 45-82. Download
  • Archer, John. Architecture and Suburbia: From English Villa to American Dream House, 1690-2000. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005.
  • Archer, John. The Literature of British Domestic Architecture, 1715-1842. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985.
  • Archer, John. "Suburban Aesthetics is Not an Oxymoron." In Andrew Blauvelt, ed., Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2008), 129-146. Download
  • Archer, John. "Learning from Social Theory of Space: Architecture and the Production of Self, Culture, and Society." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 64:4 (December 2005): 430-433. Download
  • Archer, John. "Country and City in the American Romantic Suburb." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 42:2 (May 1983): 139-156. Download
  • Archer, John. "Ideology and Aspiration: Individualism, the Middle Class, and the Genesis of the Anglo-American Suburb." Journal of Urban History 14(2) (1988): 214-253.
  • Archer, John. "Paras, Palaces, Pathogens: Frameworks for the Growth of Calcutta, 1800-1850." City & Society 12(2) (2000): 19-54. Download
  • Archer, John. "Colonial Suburbs in South Asia, 1700-1850." In Roger Silverstone, ed. Visions of Suburbia (London: Routledge, 1997), 26-54. Download
  • Archer, John. "Landscape and Identity: Baby Talk at the Leasowes, 1760." Cultural Critique 51 (Spring 2002): 143-185. Download
  • Alice Davis Hitchcock Award for most distinguished book, Society of Architectural Historians, 2007
  • Scholar of the College, College of Liberal Arts, U of M, 2007 - 2010
  • Faculty Fellow, Metropolitan Design Center, University of Minnesota, 2003 - 2004
  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 1987 - 1988
  • College of Liberal Arts "Red" Motley Teaching Award, University of Minnesota, 1999
  • First Annual Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Writing, Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Writing, 1998
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for Independent Study and Research, 1983 - 1984
  • Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, Visiting Scholar, 1991
  • McKnight Arts and Humanities Research Award, University of Minnesota, 2004 - 2007
  • American Institute of Indian Studies Fellowship, 1987 - 1988