Abbott Lowell Cummings Award


This years Cummings Award is awarded to Christian Tagsold for his book: Spaces in Translation: Japanese Gardens in the West (Philadelphia: Penn Press, 2017)

The committee loved this book because it used vernacular buildings and landscapes to develop a strong analysis of the translation, dissemination, and appropriation of the Japanese garden in the United States and elsewhere. Tagsold combines reflective and engaging writing, sensitive analysis of sites, a strong theoretical framework, and expansive definition of the vernacular to make a significant contribution to global architectural and landscape studies. He uses Latour’s idea of translational chains to wonderful effect, showing how the exportation of the Japanese garden type around the world has itself created a reflexive process in which the “ideal” garden constantly changes. What is more, since there was no such a thing as a single Japanese garden in the first place, the “ideal” garden is itself the product of its dissemination to the West.  This is a book which transcends national fields of study and disciplinary boundaries to make a truly striking scholarly intervention, which nevertheless holds the principals of vernacular architecture study at its heart.


The Vernacular Architecture Forum

Call for Nominations: 2020 Abbott Lowell Cummings Award

Due December 15, 2019


The Abbott Lowell Cummings Award, named after the founding president of the Vernacular Architecture Forum, is conferred annually upon the book that has made the most significant contribution to the study of vernacular architecture and cultural landscapes. In judging the nominated works, the jurors look for a publication that:

  •  is based on primary research;
  •  emphasizes fieldwork that takes seriously the materiality of architecture and landscapes, and draws on particular elements of   environments as evidence;
  •  breaks new ground in interpretation or methodology; and
  •  contributes generally to the intellectual vitality of vernacular studies in North America.

Entries may come from any discipline concerned with vernacular architecture studies. Books published from January 2018 through December 2019 are eligible for consideration. Edited collections of previously published materials are not eligible.

In the past ten years, the following books have received the Cummings Award:

  •        Spaces in Translation: Japanese Gardens in the West, by Christian Tagsold (Penn Press)
  •        California Mission Landscapes: Race, Memory, and the Politics of Heritage, by Elizabeth Kryder-Reid (University of              Minnesota Press)
  •        Architecture and Empire in Jamaica, by Louis Nelson (Yale University Press)
  •        Building Zion: The Material World of the Mormon Settlement, by Thomas Carter (University of Minnesota Press)
  •        The Social Project: Housing Postwar France, by Kenny Cupers (University of Minnesota Press)
  •        Meeting Houses of Early New England, by Peter Benes (University of Massachusetts Press)
  •        High Life: Condo Living in the Suburban Century, by Matthew Gordon Lasner (Yale University Press)
  •        At Home with Apartheid: The Hidden Landscapes of Domestic Service in Johannesburg, by Rebecca Ginsburg (University of Virginia Press)
  •        The Jeffersons at Shadwell, by Susan Kern (Yale University Press)
  •        Delirious New Orleans: Manifesto for an Extraordinary American City, by Stephen Verderber (University of Texas Press)


The deadline for the 2020 Cummings Award is December 15, 2019.

There is no application form, but a cover letter should include the author’s complete mailing address, phone number and email address to facilitate communication should the nominated work receive the award.

Books should be sent directly to each of the three Cummings Award Selection Committee members. Please contact the committee chair with any questions at

2020 Cummings Award Selection Committee:

Abigail A. Van Slyck (chair)

18 Bank Street

Mystic, CT 06355

Dr. Emma Hart

School of History, University of St Andrews

St Katharine’s Lodge

The Scores

St Andrews, KY16 9BA

United Kingdom

*To avoid customs charges for the book recipients, please ensure the shippers pay all duties and taxes.  The parcels must arrive Delivered Duty Paid (DDP).

Boyd Pratt

2551 Cattle Point Road

Friday Harbor, WA 98250

Past Cummings Award Winners

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