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Graduate student wins fellowship in architectural history

Kesha Green, News Bureau
(217) 333-1085;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A University of Illinois graduate student in landscape architecture has been awarded a fellowship sponsored by the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) and the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS).

Rachel Leibowitz, a first-year student in the UI Landscape History and Theory doctoral program, has won the Sally Kress Tompkins Fellowship, which is given annually to a promising graduate student in architectural history or related fields.

The fellowship gives the student professional experience during a 12-week HABS internship. During the internship, the fellow will provide historical documentation for a site that has insufficient funding to research its history.

The Northbrook, Ill., native will work as a historian for the HABS documentation team at the William Allen White House in Emporia, Kan. Leibowitz, 33, will receive a $8,800 stipend as she produces a written history of the site and its relationship to the Emporia community. The house, constructed in the 1880s, was previously the residence of White, an early-20th century journalist. It is now owned by the Kansas State Historical Society.

Leibowitz received her bachelor’s and master's degrees in photography in the early 1990s from Washington University and Tulane University, respectively. Her photography focused primarily on buildings, streets and landscapes. She worked in Chicago for two years as an intern architect on preservation projects, including Frank Lloyd Wright's Ward Willits House in Highland Park and the Lincoln Park Zoo bird sanctuary "Rookery," designed by Alfred Caldwell.

"But I found in practice that I really missed studying the history of places, the reasons why people build what they build as much as how they did it," Leibowitz said. "I found that I liked researching and writing reports more than I liked designing people’s kitchens, so I decided to return to school."

Leibowitz's background of photography, architecture and architectural history appealed to HABS.

"We also felt that her work sample combined well the critical analysis of architecture and good historical context – including local input and a national context," said HABS historian Catherine Lavoie.

The Society of Architectural Historians will present Leibowitz with a certificate in honor of her fellowship at its annual meeting April 18. The fellowship was created in memory of Tompkins, the former deputy chief of the HABS and the initiator of the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) maritime documentation program.

HABS and HAER are sponsored by the National Park Service to archive American architecture and engineering through measured drawings, large-format photographs and written history. Most of this documentation is created through the programs' summer internships and is available to the public through the Library of Congress Web site).