Joseph Clarke

Associate Professor

Joseph Clarke is an architectural historian focused on the modern period. His research and teaching revolve around the question of disciplinarity—that is, the theories, methods, and forms of representation that define architecture as a distinct field of knowledge and practice. His scholarship also frequently draws on media theory to explore how architectural ideas are represented and disseminated, and how buildings themselves facilitate communication.

His book Echo’s Chambers: Architecture and the Idea of Acoustic Space (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021) shows how efforts to control sound challenged Western systems of architectural thought from the early Enlightenment through the mid-twentieth century. Praised by a reviewer for its “elegant prose and astute analyses,” the book is the first major English-language study to explore how acoustic experimentation has been entangled with debates over typology, form, visualization techniques, and similar issues at the core of the discipline.

Currently, Professor Clarke’s main research project examines open-plan offices of the 1960s, investigating how their spatial planning, visual styling, and usage were shaped by debates over acoustics and communication in the context of a changing economy. For a parallel line of research, Clarke is studying expressions of the sacred in modern and contemporary architecture. Another current project revisits claims made in the 1970s and 80s for the autonomy of the architectural discipline, as expressing the liberal values of procedural rigour and skepticism of utopian visions.

Professor Clarke is a full-time faculty member at the University of Toronto Department of Art History, where he organizes the graduate Architectural History Working Group and co-organizes the project Canada Constructed: Architecture, Landscape, History. He holds a doctorate in architecture from Yale University. Before becoming a historian, he practiced architecture at Eisenman Architects and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.