Michael R. Allen works as an academic researcher, historian, teacher, design critic, public artist, critical spatial tour guide, and heritage conservationist in private practice. Currently, he is a Senior Lecturer in Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Design at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, as well as a Lecturer in American Cultural Studies (AMCS), at Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as Coordinator of the AMCS Master of Arts degree from 2014-2018.
Allen’s university teaching has focused on interdisciplinary investigation of architectural history, cultural landscapes, the economics of real estate and the politics of urban planning. Additionally, since 2009, Allen has been Director of the Preservation Research Office, a heritage consultancy, and is a federally qualified architectural historian who has worked on numerous preservation projects across the United States. He contributed to the Mellon-funded Charting the American Bottom cultural landscape guide and, with Nora Wendl, managed the Pruitt Igoe Now ideas competition. In 2016, he was Urbanist-in-Residence at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation.
The binding ties in his research are investigation of the ideological and political constitution of architectural and infrastructural space, a commitment to studying material heritage and its conservation, and advocacy for the forms of liberatory agency that realize the potential of the modern metropolis to distribute wealth, knowledge, and shelter. Allen’s essays have appeared in a wide range of scholarly and popular sources, such as Buildings and Landscapes, CityLab, Disegno, Fort-Five Journal, Next City, Temporary Art Review, St. Louis American, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Studies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes. He had contributed chapters to Bending the Future: 50 Ideas About the Next 50 Years of Historic Preservation, Midwest Architectural Adventures and Buildings of Missouri.
In 2018, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named him to its “40 Under 40” list honoring young preservationists whose work is expanding the concept and practice of historic preservation in the United States. Allen’s preservation career started with tenures at the National Building Arts Center and the Landmarks Association of St. Louis, where he was Assistant Director.
Currently he is pursuing a Ph.D. in Cultural Heritage at the Ironbridge Institute for Cultural Heritage at the University of Birmingham, England. He holds a B.A. in English and History from The Union Institute.
Political economy of architecture; architectural and cultural theory; modernism in US and European city planning and architectural production; traditional settlement and vernacular architecture; public/social housing history, US and Europe; historic preservation; critical heritage study; metropolitan urbanism and the politics of inhabitation rights; modern segregation and the metropolis; “right-sizing” and shrinking cities theory; collective design practices; nationalism and spatial production.
Contested Modernization: Federal Housing Blocks in the US and Former Yugoslavia (dissertation)
Pruitt-Igoe: An Architectural History of Recurrent Modernism (book-length manuscript in progress)
A Field Guide to the Missing Places of St. Louis (book-length manuscript project)