Sara is an architectural and urban historian whose research focuses on the link between architecture and capital. She writes about the relationship between real estate developers and architects in the twentieth century, uncovering how money has shaped cities.

Sara’s first book was Developing Expertise: Architecture and Real Estate in Metropolitan America (2016, Yale University Press). Organized in two parts, it studies early suburbs and the profession of real estate development as well as postwar urban renewal in American city centres. Developing Expertise argues that real estate developers influenced public policy through their professional organizations, used design to promote investment security, and employed new financing techniques and sources of capital that avoided risk.

Sara was awarded a 2019 Research Fellowship with the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) that supports her second book project, titled Building Capital. The book focuses on large, urban redevelopment projects to understand, amid the deregulation and financialization of the 1970s-80s, the contingent relationships between financing, professional practice, and design.

Recently, Sara has completed two edited volumes, one a journal and another a book. She co-edited with Joy Knoblauch a themed issue of the Journal of Architectural Education on the topic of “Health” (76:1, 2022). Sara also co-edited a book called The Evolving Project: The Journal of Architectural Education and the Expansion of Scholarship, with Igor Marjanović and Marc Neveu (ORO Editions, 2021), on the journal’s 75-year history. She serves on the editorial board for the MIT journal Thresholds and for a book series titled “Exploring Architecture” by Birkhäuser. She is on the Board of Directors of the Vancouver Urbanarium Society, where she recently co-chaired an international ideas competition called “The Mixing Middle” (2022) that asked for design proposals that challenge single-use zoning in residential areas.

Before coming to UBC, Sara taught in the schools of architecture at Rice, Columbia, Princeton, and Yale. She was Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities Research Center at Rice University. The Graham Foundation, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Mellon Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and the Fellowship of Woodrow Wilson Scholars have supported Sara’s research. With a professional degree in architecture, she has also worked at architecture offices in Houston and New York.


PhD, Princeton University
MED, Yale University
B.Arch, Rice University
BA, Rice University

Select publications

Sara Stevens and Joy Knoblauch, theme editors, “Health,” Journal of Architectural Education 76:1, Spring 2022.

Igor Marjanović, Marc J. Neveu, and Sara Stevens, eds., The Evolving Project: The Journal of Architectural Education and the Expansion of Scholarship, (San Francisco, CA: ORO Editions, 2021).

Sara Stevens, “‘Visually Stunning’ While Financially Safe: Neoliberalism and Financialization at Canary Wharf,” in Ardeth (Architecture Design Theory) #06: Contingency, eds. Dana Cuff and Will Davis (November 2020), 79–99.

Sara Stevens, “Just So Stories in Real Estate History, or, How the Apartment Tower Got Its Glass Skin,” The Aggregate website, ed. Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative (peer reviewed), Volume 5, September 2019.

Sara Stevens, “Speculative: Design and Capital as Conflict of Interest in the Work of Gerald Hines” ARPA Journal (Applied Research Practices in Architecture) no. 5, May 2018.

Sara Stevens, Developing Expertise: Architecture and Real Estate in Metropolitan America (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016).