Mobs and Microbes: Market Halls, Civic Order and Public Health

72nd Annual International Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians: Call for Papers

Providence, Rhode Island, USA

April 24 2019 - April 29 2019

2019 marks fifty years since the central market of Paris was uprooted from Les Halles and transferred to Rungis in the city’s outskirts. By 1971, nearly all of Victor Baltard’s iconic pavilions were demolished. Les Halles, as well as many comparable covered market halls across Europe, North America, and beyond, became flashpoints of protest between urban reformers who argued for functionalism and architectural preservationists who championed the adaptation of historical structures. Despite their polarities, both sides presented the market buildings as artefacts of the Industrial Revolution. In particular, the portrayal of glass and iron markets as antiquated relics made it challenging to fathom how these places originally elicited awe and wonder at the time of their construction. Congestion, sanitation, and radical changes in the distribution of food supplies are typically cited as reasons for the demise of covered market buildings. Ironically, however, most of the halls were originally conceived to answer these very same factors. As such, this session will situate markets at the intersection of civic order and public health, focusing in particular on how these structures stood in reciprocity with changes in the conception of the public realm. Central to this discussion are two themes: innovations in design, which embodied authority or control; and advancements in sanitation and hygiene, such as the modernization of water systems and the inception of epidemiological and bacteriological research.

We invite proposals across a broad geographical area that investigate how covered market halls were radical interventions that mediated socio-political conflict and disorder. Papers exploring medical and environmental humanities perspectives are also welcome, and these might question how infrastructure, services, technologies, and materials helped facilitate improvements in urban health and food safety. Papers that consider how surviving covered markets contribute to debates surrounding sustainability and neighborhood regeneration are also of interest.

The 72nd Annual International Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians will take place on April 24-28, 2019 in Providence, Rhode Island. Applicants must submit a 300-word abstract and CV through the online portal of the Society of Architectural Historians ( ). Further details of the submission guidelines are available at Please do not send materials directly to the panel co-chairs. Submission of proposals to the SAH online portal closes at 11:59 on June 5, 2018 (Central Daylight Time).

Session Chairs: Samantha Martin-McAuliffe, University College Dublin, and Leila Marie Farah, Ryerson University