Sarah Lopez is a built environment historian, as well as a migration scholar. Lopez' research focuses on material histories of US-Mexico migration. Her first book, The Remittance Landscape: The Spaces of Migration in Rural Mexico and Urban USA , explores the impact of migrant remittances—dollars earned in the U.S. and sent to families and communities in Mexico—on the architecture and landscape of "rural" Mexico and "urban" USA. Published by the University of Chicago Press in 2015, The Remittance Landscape won the 2017 Kostof Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians. Her 2015 book chapter, "Putting Vista Hermosa on the Map: Migrant Boosterism in Distant Homelands," won the 2017 Bishir Article Prize from the Vernacular Architecture Forum.
Lopez is currently working on two book projects. The first examines the long history of migrant incarceration in the U.S. from the docks of Ellis Island to the privately run mega-detention facilities in rural Texas. The project commenced in partnership with the Humanities Action Lab (HAL) in 2015 when with a team of students, Lopez researched Texas detention centers. Oral and spatial histories resulted in Spatial Stories of Migration and Detention, which contributed to HAL’s national-exhibit. An American Quarterly article, "From Penal to "Civil:" A Legacy of Private Prison Policy in a Landscape of Migrant Detention" builds off this research.
The second book project tracks the development over the last fifty years of a network of Mexican stonemasons, quarry workers, homebuilders, architects, and businessmen who primarily provide services to Mexican and Mexican-American clientele in the American Southwest. A binational construction industry has emerged around the excavation, transportation, distribution, and installation of cantera stone, a type of limestone found in approximately ten states. Since at least the 1970s, Mexicans resettling in the north have been implementing ways to bring it to the US. Cantera networks and related construction practices and knowledge reposition “migrants” as drivers of a Mexican construction industry in the US that is reshaping Mexican and Mexican-American structural relationship to places.
Lopez’ teaching ranges from public history to digital humanities to scholarly methods for built environment scholars. Broadly speaking, she teaches about U.S. cultural landscapes, the interface between migration, architecture, and cities, the use of interdisciplinary methods (including ethnography) to study space and society, and pre-modern global architectural histories. She received the 2015 Outstanding Teaching award from LLILAS, and the 2016 Outstanding Teaching Award from the School of Architecture. In 2017, Lopez was a Princeton-Mellon Fellow in Architecture, Urbanism, & the Humanities. In 2021, Lopez is a Mellon Fellow in Urban Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard.
- B.A., University of California, Berkeley, 2001
- M.S., University of California, Berkeley, 2006
- Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2011
- U.S. and Mexican cultural landscapes
- vernacular architecture
- Latin American remittance development
- U.S. nineteenth and twentieth-century built environment history
- multidisciplinary methods for architectural historians