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Denise Costanzo

Assistant Professor of Architecture
Denise Costanzo's head shot.

Denise Costanzo is an assistant professor of theory and criticism. An architectural historian with a background in architecture and art history, she explores architecture’s conceptual and cultural dimensions in ways that integrate the distinct languages of design, art history, and critical inquiry.

Her research centers on the exchange of American and European architectural ideas, with a focus on how references to Italy reveal the mechanics of architectural power during the 20th century. Her scholarly methods include visual, textual, and systems analysis, social and institutional critique, and historiography.

She has delivered invited lectures at Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Naples, and presented her work at meetings in the United States, Canada, Italy, France, Belgium, and Turkey.

Costanzo’s first book, What Architecture Means: Connecting Ideas and Design (Routledge, 2016), is a thematic introduction to theory. Her publications include essays in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, the Journal of Architecture, and the Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, as well as books on the history of architecture education in North America, baroque historiography, Renaissance cultural history, and architecture in popular culture.

Her current book project, for which she was awarded a Rome Prize fellowship from the American Academy in Rome for 2014-15, is titled Eternal City, New Lessons: Modern Architects and the Postwar Rome Prize. This multi-national, cross-institutional study investigates the intersection and mutual transformation of modernism and academic tradition after the Second World War.

  • Education
    • BED
    • MA
    • PhD
  • Courses Taught
    • Architecture and Ideas
    • Introduction to Architecture and Planning Theories
    • Architecture and Planning Theories
    • Analysis of Architectural Precedents: Ancient to Industrial Revolution
    • Analysis of Architectural Precedents: Modernism
    • Theoretical Perspectives in Architecture
    • Doctoral Research Theory
  • Honors & Awards


    • Marian and Andrew Heiskell Post-Doctoral Rome Prize Fellowship in Modern Italian Studies, American Academy in Rome


    • Visiting Scholar, American Academy in Rome (Summer)


    • Astorino Fellow, Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture
  • Exhibitions & Presentations


    • “Fascist Rome in the Cold War: Architecture of the Pax Americana,” in Cold War Architecture, Society of Architectural Historians 71st Annual Conference, St. Paul, Minnesota, 18–22 April.


    • “Building the Pax Americana: Postwar Architects, Rome and the Fascist Legacy” in Projecting Americanisms in Cold War Italy. American Academy in Rome. 27–28 February.


    • “Pre-Post-Modern Rome: Robert Venturi and Complexity and Contradiction’s Urban Roots,” in Beyond ‘Postmodern Urbanism’: Reconsidering the Forms and Politics of Twentieth-Century Urban Design, College Art Association 104th Annual Conference, Washington, D.C., 3–6 February.


    • “Il Grand Tour moderno e gli americani in Italia: l’esperienza di Robert Venturi” (delivered in Italian), at Architetti Stranieri in Italia: l’evoluzione del Grand Tour tra Ottocento e Novecento, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Naples, Italy, 29 May.
    • “Modernism, Architecture and the Rome Prize’s Postwar Transformation,” in Rebooting Rome’s Postwar Academies. Workshop sponsored by the American Academy in Rome, Swedish Institute in Rome, and the British School at Rome, Rome, 18 May.
    • “Modern Architects, National Academies and the Postwar Rome Prize,” presented to the Embassy of the United States of America in Italy, Villa Taverna, Rome, 8 April.
    • “Americans at the Postwar École des Beaux-Arts”, co-presented with Emmanuel Schwartz, Head Curator, Archives de l’École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, at “Ressourcer l’archive: L’exemple de l’art américain (1945–1980)”, Terra Foundation for American Art Colloquium, École national supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 2 April.


    • “Reworking the Rome Prize: American, French, British and Spanish Architects at Postwar Academies,” American Academy in Rome, 12 November.
    • “Eternal City to Open City: Rome’s Postwar Academies as Architecture’s First Global Programs,” in From Study Abroad to Global Programs: Beyond the Grand Tour, Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture 102nd Annual Meeting, Miami Beach, Florida, 10-12 April.


    • “The Palazzo Soprano, or: McMansion as Threat,” in Archi-Pop, Society of Architectural Historians 66th Annual Meeting, Buffalo, New York, 10-14 April.
    • “Redefining Rome’s Lessons: Architects at the American Academy,” Architecture Education Goes Outside Itself: Crossing Borders, Breaking Boundaries, Department of Architecture, PennDesign, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 8–9 February.


    • “Revisiting the Caput Mundi: Venturi’s Letters from Rome,” in Narratives of Travel Writing and Architectural History, NOMAD Seminar, Middle Eastern Technical University, Ankara, Turkey, 8–9 November.
    • “Baroque in Translation: Giedion’s History for Modern Architects,” in Postwar Instrumentalization of the Baroque in Europe and North America, 2nd Annual Meeting of the European Architectural History Association, Brussels, Belgium, 31 May–3 June.
    • “Giedion as Guide: Space, Time and Architecture and the Modernist Reception of Baroque Rome,” Invited symposium participant: The Baroque in Architectural Culture, 1880-1980, Academia Belgica, Rome, Italy, 20–22 February.


    • “A Modernist Academy: Rome, American Architects, and a Redefined Mission,” Invited talk, American Academy in Rome, Rome, Italy, 24 February.


    • “Rome, Philadelphians, and the Architectural Revival of the Postwar American Academy,” Invited talk, Philadelphia Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians, Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, November 3.


    • “Travel, Architects, and the Postwar ‘Grand Tour’” at “Constructing Identities,” the Graduate Union of the Students of Art Conference, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, January 17–18.


    • “The American Academy Renewed: Rome, Modernism, and U.S. Architects, 1947–1950,” 2007 Dissertation Colloquium, Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, Columbia University, New York, NY, April 20–21.


    • “Rome as Architectural Mirror of American Postwar Modernism,” Middle Atlantic Symposium on the History of Art, Washington, D.C., March 31–April 1.
  • Publications & Presentations



    • What Architecture Means: Connecting Ideas and Design (New York: Routledge, 2016; Chinese edition, 2017)


    • “Giedion as Guide: Space, Time and Architecture and the Modernist Reception of Baroque Rome,” in The Baroque in Architectural Culture, 1880–1980, ed. Andrew Leach, John MacArthur, and Maarten Delbeke (Farnham: Ashgate).
    • “The Medici McMansion?” in The Renaissance: Revised, Unexpurgated, Expanded, ed. D. Medina Lasansky (Pittsburgh: Periscope Press)


    • “The Palazzo Soprano,” in Archi.Pop: Mediating Architecture in Popular Culture, ed. D. Medina Lasansky (London: Bloomsbury).


    • “Tours, Trips and Foreign Study: Instructive Displacements” in Architecture School: Three Centuries of Educating Architects in North America, ed. Joan Ockman. ACSA Centennial publication. (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press).



    • “Learning from Venturi: ‘Complexity and Contradiction at 50,’ in arq: Architectural Research Quarterly 20, 4 (December): 293–296.
    • “‘I Will Try My Best to Make It Worth It’: Robert Venturi’s Road to Rome” Journal of Architectural Education 70, 2 (October): 88–102.


    • “‘A Truly Liberal Orientation’: Laurance Roberts, Modern Architecture, and the Postwar American Academy in Rome,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 74, 2 (June): 223–247.
    • Review of Paolo Scrivano, Building Transatlantic Italy: Architectural Dialogues with Postwar America (Ashgate: 2014), Planning Perspectives (8 April 2015).


    • “Text, Lies and Architecture: Colin Rowe, Robert Venturi and Mannerism,” Journal of Architecture 18, no. 4 (August): 455–473.


    • “Architectural Amnesia: George Howe, Mario De Renzi, and the U.S. Consulate in Naples,” Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome 56–57: 353–389.
    • “Venturi and Scott Brown as Functionalists: Venustas and the Decorated Shed,” Wolkenkuckucksheim—Cloud Cuckoo-Land: International Journal of Architectural Theory 17, no 1: 9-25. Special issue on “Function—Purpose—Use in Architecture and Urbanism.”


  • Service & Affiliations
    • PhD Committee
    • Graduate Affairs Committee
    • Stuckeman Council
    • General Education Committee, College of Arts and Architecture
    • Faculty Council, College of Arts and Architecture
    • Alumni Society Board, College of Arts and Architecture