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Gabrielle Printz

PhD Candidate

Gabrielle Printz studies correspondences between architecture, capital, labor, and statemaking, with a focus on inter/national developments and expatriate work on the Arabian Peninsula / Persian Gulf in the second half of the twentieth century.

She has taught studios and seminars in architecture in the Advanced Architectural Design (AAD) Program at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) and as affiliated faculty at the Center for Architecture and Situated Technology (CAST) at the University at Buffalo. Outside of academia, she labors on behalf of feminist architecture collaborative (f-architecture), a spatial research practice and an alias shared with Virginia Black and Rosana Elkhatib. Among other things, f-architecture is a winner of the 2019 Architectural League Prize, a past artist-in-residence at the Lab at Darat al Funun, and a former member of the GSAPP Incubator at NEW INC. In addition to their promiscuous design efforts, f-architecture has written widely on matters of architecture, and also about blood, protest, and Princess Nokia. Gabrielle a co-editor of Beyond Patronage: Reconsidering Models of Practice (Actar, 2015) and an associate editor of Bodybuilding (Performa, 2019).

Her writing and work has appeared in The Journal for Architectural Education, The Avery Review, Harvard Design Magazine, Real Review, ED, e-flux Architecture, The Funambulist, Thresholds, and Log; and at venues including the Yale Center for British Art, the Swiss Institute, FRAC Centre, and VI PER Gallery.

Gabrielle is a graduate of Columbia University’s Master of Science in Critical, Curatorial, and Conceptual Practices in Architecture program (CCCP), and holds a Master of Architecture from the Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning.

Project Summary

Her dissertation “Contractor Kingdom: A History of Gulf Construction, Human Resource Development, and the International Project of Saudi Arabia in the Late Twentieth Century” pursues an alternative architectural history of the Arabian Peninsula in the late twentieth century by investigating the organizing forms and “human resources” of international construction contracting and contracted labor. Focusing on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s large-scale construction program in the 1960s-1980s, conducted through an expansive cohort of foreign contractors, private companies and international institutions, this research pursues the construction project as both an instance and mechanism of “Third World” development, distinct from prior decades of modernization and development policy and rhetoric delivered primarily from the United States outward, and consistent with the evolving geoeconomic relations of the 1970s (featuring rise of the multinational, an intensified neoliberal disposition toward “resources,” emerging networks of global political power at the intersection of OPEC and NAM, and new circulations of petrocapital). Evidence of the spatial and economic processes of building and its labor is garnered primarily from the archives of American firms active in this emerging international market, industry publications, and other construction sector ephemera which circulated alongside official government-issued contracts and state plans. Such a history negotiates the United States’ sphere of influence and claims to exceptionalism and it challenges the extent to which the “special relationship” between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, forged through oil, dominates this particular history of development from without. Rather, a more complex field of dealmaking and guestwork is revealed in the activities of large construction multinationals (including Morrison-Knudsen and Bechtel), a number of participating architecture and engineering firms which chart their expansion through high-value projects in the Middle East, and the US Army Corps of Engineers. The last of these middle-men of development acted as a decisive intermediary in this period of international contracting with the Saudi bureaucracy, charged with pre-selection, contract administration, and construction supervision for some of the largest building projects conducted in the latter half of the twentieth century. The concurrent internationalization of the construction industry shows not only the expansion of US firms, but a broadening and deepening field of multinationals from elsewhere in the world, who were simultaneously enlisted to train local manpower and recruit a much larger mass of workers from new labor sending countries to realize development goals.

Research Area Keywords

architectures of development, “Human Resources”, labor, expatriate work, international construction industry, capitalism and the built environment


Fall 2021
Advanced Design Studio: Conscious Skins
Abeer Seikaly, Gabrielle Printz