JESSICA SEWELL

Associate Professor, Urban + Environmental Planning

Education: University of California, Berkeley, PhD; Parsons School of Design and the New School for Social Research, MA in Architecture and Design Criticism; Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges, BA


Jessica Sewell’s research focuses on the relationships between gender and architecture, urban space, and material culture. Her book Women and the Everyday City: Public Space in San Francisco, 1890-1915 (University of Minnesota, 2011) explores how gendered public spaces were imagined, built, and used between 1890 and 1915, making visible the interdependence between changes in the everyday lives of women, the urban cultural landscape, and gender ideology.  Her current research looks at the question of men in private space, focusing on the bachelor pad as a site of masculine fantasy and an urbanized counterpoint to the suburban home in the 1950s-60s United States. She is also author of the app Exploring Suzhou, which provides a cultural landscapes tour of the Chinese city of Suzhou. This app is being used to enrich the teaching in large-enrollment classes in Architecture and Urban Planning and Design at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University.  Her research has been supported by fellowships and grants from The Institute for Advanced Study, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, the Humanities Institute at Boston University, the Huntington Library, and the Bancroft Library of the University of California at Berkeley.


Jessica Sewell joined UVA in 2016 from Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou, China, where she served as Head of the Department of Urban Planning and Design and Chair of the Built Environment Cluster. As cluster chair, she oversaw collaboration between the Departments of Architecture, Civil Engineering, and Urban Planning and Design, led the team creating a new MSc in Urban Design, and spearheaded the creation of relationships with firms and universities in China and beyond.  Before moving to China, she held Assitsant Professor positions at Boston University in Art History and American Studies and at New York University in Interdisciplinary Studies, specializing in cities.

She has taught extensively on cities, urban design, architecture, material culture, and American Studies.  At UVA, she is teaching for the School of Architecture on the theory and practice of urban design, on the history of metropoli, and on gender and the built environment.  She also teaches in the American Studies program, where her classes include a lecture on material culture, a seminar on ideas of land in America, and a lecture on gender, difference, and material culture.