Allen curates Pulitzer Arts Foundation exhibition

'Urban Archaeology: Lost Buildings of St. Louis' opens Sept. 8

Unglazed terra cotta panels on display at the National Building Arts Center, 2021, Collection of the National Building Arts Center. (Photo: Viginia Harold, courtesy of Pulitzer Arts Foundation)

“Urban Archaeology: Lost Buildings of St. Louis,” a new exhibition curated by Washington University in St. Louis faculty member Michael Allen, will open Sept. 8 at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.

Drawn from the collection of the National Building Arts Center, which Allen directs, “Urban Archaeology” brings together salvaged architectural elements from landmark buildings, residential homes and neighborhood institutions built in St. Louis between 1840 and 1950. These artifacts represent important histories of labor and material innovation while shedding light on the complicated legacies of power, wealth and neglect that have shaped St. Louis as well as our experience of the built environment.

The National Building Arts Center, located in Sauget, Ill., emerged in response to the rapid economic decline and widespread demolition that St. Louis experienced beginning in the 1950s. Over the last four decades, the center has worked to salvage and preserve significant parts of condemned buildings that would otherwise be completely lost, amassing one of the nation’s largest and most diversified collection of building artifacts. “Urban Archaeology” is the most extensive public presentation of this collection to date.

Allen — a lecturer in American culture studies in Arts & Sciences and a senior lecturer in architecture, landscape architecture and urban design in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts — organized “Urban Archaeology” in collaboration with Pulitzer Arts Foundation curator Stephanie Weissberg and curatorial assistant Molly Moog. The exhibition will remain on view through Feb. 4. The Pulitzer Arts Foundation is located at 3716 Washington Blvd. For more information, visit

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