The Birds, Alfred Hitchcock, 1963.

Sandy Isenstadt will deliver The Paul and Irene Hollister Lecture on Glass on Tuesday, April 2, at 6 pm. His talk is entitled “Glass House Horror: Modernism’s Haunted Landscapes.”

The single-family house, the most intimate setting for American everyday life, has long been the primary spatial resource for the articulation of individual, family, and even national identity. Consonant with this role, its meaning has changed as ideas of character have changed. In the nineteenth century, character was part of the physical fabric of the house and represented the occupants’ integrity to the outside world. With modernism, however, and especially with its large windows, a home’s character could be measured by its openness to the surrounding landscape. As the glass-walled house came to be a source of private visual pleasure more than an expression of personal virtue, the locus for judging character shifted the outside looking in to a point inside the house looking outward. In this talk, the shift in the nature, purpose, and location of character is seen through the lens of haunted house stories, a literature that arises in tandem with professional attention to single-family houses and that similarly presumes the reciprocity of building and self.


Sandy Isenstadt teaches the history of modern architecture at the University of Delaware. He has published essays on modern architecture and American material culture. His most recent book, Electric Light: An Architectural History (MIT Press, 2018), looks at electric light as a new kind of building material. His 2008 book, The Modern American House: Spaciousness and Middle Class Identity (Cambridge University Press), centers on the ways that architects and landscape and interior designers shaped spatial perception in domestic settings. He has co-edited two volumes: Modernism and the Middle East: Politics of the Built Environment, published in Fall, 2008, the first book-length treatment of modern architecture in the Middle East, and Cities of Light: Two Centuries of Urban Illumination, the first global overview of urban lighting, published in January 2015. His work has been recognized with fellowships from a number of national institutions.


This event will be livestreamed. Please check back the day of the event for a link to the video. To watch videos of past events please visit our YouTube page.