Vittoria Di Palma, Ph.D.

Associate Professor


B.A., University of California, Berkeley M.A., M. Phil., Ph.D., Columbia University

Vittoria Di Palma is Associate Professor of Architectural History and Theory in the School of Architecture at USC. She specializes in modern European architectural history and theory, with particular concentrations in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century architecture, early modern land use and landscape, and contemporary landscape theory and design. Her research in architectural history is centrally concerned with how visuality and aesthetics inform the design, representation, and experience of buildings and environments, while her work in the environmental humanities focuses on the ways in which conceptions and images of landscape operate in the collective imaginary.

Before joining the University of Southern California in 2012, she taught in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, in the Department of Art History at Rice University, and in the Histories and Theories of Architecture graduate program of the Architectural Association in London, for which she served as co-Director. She has held visiting positions at the University of Calgary and The Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO), and has been the recipient of fellowships from the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Dumbarton Oaks, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, and The Huntington Library.

Di Palma is the author of Wasteland, A History (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2014), a study of early modern British conceptions of hostile territories that aims to provide a prehistory of current attitudes toward toxic and derelict postindustrial sites. By focusing on commons, swamps, mountains, and forests, the book argues that these kinds of resistant landscapes are united not by any essential physical characteristics, but rather by the aversive reactions they inspired. Wasteland was awarded the 2016 Herbert Baxter Adams Prize by the American Historical Association for the best book in European history from ancient times to 1815, the 2016 Elisabeth Blair MacDougall Book Award by the Society of Architectural Historians for the most distinguished work of scholarship in the history of landscape architecture, the 2015 Louis Gottschalk Prize by the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies for the most outstanding historical or critical study on the eighteenth century, a 2015 John Brinckerhoff Jackson Book Prize by The Foundation for Landscape Studies, and a 2015 PROSE Award (American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence, Honorable Mention in Architecture and Urban Planning). She also co-edited (with Diana Periton and Marina Lathouri) Intimate Metropolis: Urban Subjects in the Modern City (London: Routledge, 2009). Vittoria Di Palma teaches courses in the history and theory of architecture (historical and contemporary) and in the environmental humanities.


ARCH 314: Architectural Theory Since 1960

ARCH 414: Perspectives in History and Theory in Architecture

ARCH 432: Architecture of the Public Realm

ARCH 441: History of Architectural Theory: Renaissance to Modern

ARCH 465: The Landscape Imaginary

ARCH 563: Contemporary Architectural Theory

ARCH 606: Advanced Architectural Theory


Books Wasteland, A History (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2014)

Intimate Metropolis: Urban Subjects in the Modern City, edited by Vittoria Di Palma, Diana Periton, and Marina Lathouri (London: Routledge, 2009)

Articles and Book Chapters

"Willful Waters: The Los Angeles River," (with Alexander Robinson) River Cities: Historical and Contemporary, edited by Thaïsa Way and John Beardsley (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library/Harvard University Press, forthcoming 2017)

"In the Mood for Landscape," Thinking the Contemporary Landscape, edited by Christophe Girot and Dora Imhof (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2017): 15-29

"A Natural History of Ornament," Histories of Ornament: From Global to Local, edited by Gülru Necipoğlu and Alina Payne (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016): 20-33

"Is Landscape Painting?" Is Landscape...?: Essays on the Identity of Landscape, edited by Gareth Doherty and Charles Waldheim (London: Routledge, 2016): 44-70

"Empire Gastronomy," AA Files 68 (Spring 2014): 114-124

"Flow: Rivers, Roads, Routes, and Cartographies of Leisure," Routes, Roads and Landscapes, edited by Mari Hvattum, Brita Brenna, Beate Elvebakk, and Janike Kampevold Larsen (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2011): 27-43

"Zoom: Google Earth and Global Intimacy," Intimate Metropolis: Urban Subjects in the Modern City, edited by Vittoria Di Palma, Diana Periton, and Marina Lathouri (London: Routledge, 2009): 239-270

"Blurs, Blots, and Clouds: Architecture and the Dissolution of the Surface," AA Files 54 (Summer 2006): 24-35

"Fragmentation, Multiplication, Permutation: Natural Histories and Sylvan Aesthetics from Bacon to Evelyn," Fragments: Architecture and the Unfinished: Essays Presented to Robin Middleton. Edited by Barry Bergdoll and Werner Oechslin (London: Thames and Hudson, 2006): 233-244

"Architecture and the Organic Metaphor," Journal of Architecture 11:4 (September 2006): 1-6

"Drinking Cider in Paradise: Science, Improvement, and the Politics of Fruit Trees," A Pleasing Sinne: Drink and Conviviality in Early Modern England, edited by Adam Smyth (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer: 2004): 161-177

"Architecture, Environment, and Emotion: Quatremère de Quincy and the Concept of Character," AA Files 47 (September 2002): 45-56

Currently Teaching
  • 414
    Perspectives in History and Theory of Architecture - Landscape Imaginary
    Perspectives in History and Theory of Architecture - Landscape Imaginary
    This seminar offers a cross-cultural introduction to ideas of nature, landscape, and the environment. By focusing on “the landscape imaginary,” this course is primarily interested in excavating the mental constructs and cognitive mappings that have shaped attitudes toward the environment in a variety of cultures at a number of discrete historical moments, from antiquity to the present. The seminar makes use of primary sources (both written and visual) to analyze, compare, and contrast an array of key concepts including arcadia, paradise, forest, mountain, villa, landscape, wilderness, land, system, ecology, wasteland, and matter. Our aim will be to develop a critical understanding of categories that have shaped and continue to shape the ways in which we perceive, understand, react to, picture, and design our surroundings at a variety of scales, from the local to the global (and beyond).
  • 414
    Perspectives in the History and Theory of Architecture - Modern Architecture in Theory
    Perspectives in the History and Theory of Architecture - Modern Architecture in Theory

    This course examines and interrogates the concept of Modernism by focusing on a select number of key texts. Rather than offering a survey of the Modern Movement, this course looks closely at the writings produced by some of its central figures, including Adolf Loos, Antonio Sant'Elia, Bruno Taut, Walter Gropius, and Le Corbusier, as well as some of its earliest challengers. Themes and topics addressed include definitions of modernism and avant-garde; art, craft, and industry; new materials such as iron, glass, and concrete; the question of ornament; the modern metropolis; and the modern landscape.

Related News
USC Architecture Professors Vittoria Di Palma and Alexander Robinson recently published “Willful Waters” in Places Journal. The article, which tracks the sometimes tumultuous ...
Professor Vittoria Di Palma will receive the 2016 Herbert Baxter Adams Prize for her book, Wasteland: A History. The American Historical Association (AHA) awards the prize ...
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