David Brownlee is a historian of modern architecture whose interests embrace a wide range of subjects in Europe and America, from the late eighteenth century to the present.
His scholarship has been recognized with three major publication prizes from the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH). He served the SAH as editor of its Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians in 2008-2011, when he oversaw the launch of JSAH online, the magazine’s multimedia online platform. The SAH named him a Fellow in 2015 and established the David B. Brownlee Dissertation Award in his honor in 2020.
Professor Brownlee has curated or co-curated several major exhibitions, including “Building the City Beautiful” (Philadelphia Museum of Art), “Louis I. Kahn” (Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art), and “Out of the Ordinary: Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Associates” (Philadelphia Museum of Art). His curatorial seminars have engaged students in these projects and also created several smaller exhibitions, including “Penn in the World,” co-curated with Ann Blair Brownlee (Penn Museum; tour here: https://www.penn.museum/collections/videos/video/1128
After chairing the committees that proposed the reshaping of the University of Pennsylvania's undergraduate residences in 1997, he directed the implementation of a comprehensive system of College Houses and served as Director of the Office of College Houses and Academic Services for four years. He is a recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Award of the College Alumni Society and the University's Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching.
Active in civic affairs, Professor Brownlee served for 16 years on the Philadelphia Historical Commission, and he serves on the boards of the Design Advocacy Group of Philadelphia, the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, the Beth Sholom Preservation Foundation, and the Global Philadelphia Association’s World Heritage City project. In recognition of public service, he received the Wyck Strickland Award and the "Globy" Lifetime Achievement Award of the Global Philadelphia Association.
Several of Professor Brownlee's lectures and films are viewable online:
“The Fall and Rise of the World Trade Center,” given at the Penn Museum on the tenth anniversary of 9/11: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnLqLDFquUo
"Philadelphia: Our Nation's First World Heritage City," produced and directed by Sam Katz, was made in 2016 to explain Philadelphia's new designation: https://youtu.be/Jktrd4I681Q
“PSFS Building: Fifty Year Timeless Award," made in 2019 for the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. (see below)
"Architectural Masterpieces at Penn: A Virtual Walking Tour with Professor David Brownlee," six videos filmed and edited by Thomas Stanley in 2019-2020: https://giving.upenn.edu/architectural-masterpieces-at-penn/
"Julian Francis Abele (1881-1950)," presented in March 2021 at the Weitzman School of Design to celebrate the achievements of the first African-American architecture graduate of the University of Pennsylvania: https://vimeo.com/525708852/2d3e0aafbf
"Building Monuments, Monumentalizing Buildings," a lecture on Independence Hall, Philadelphia City Hall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the National Assembly in Dhaka, Bangladesh, presented at the Penn Museum in June 2021: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-p03SVrDIU
His books include The Law Courts: The Architecture of George Edmund Street (1984), Louis I. Kahn: In the Realm of Architecture (with David G. De Long,1991, translated into four other languages), Making a Modern Classic: The Architecture of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1997), Building America's First University: An Historical and Architectural Guide to the University of Pennsylvania (with George Thomas, 2000), Out of the Ordinary: Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Associates: Architecture, Urbanism, Design (with David De Long and Kathryn Hiesinger, 2001), The Barnes Foundation: Two Buildings, One Mission (2012), and Building the City Beautiful: The Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (revised edition 2017).
(Professor Brownlee continues to teach two courses each year)
ARTH 303: Introduction to Museums (Fall 2022) co-taught with Prof. Ann Brownlee
ARTH 281: Modern Architecture II, 1890-present (Fall 2021)
ARTH 571: Modern Architectural Theory (Fall 2021)