American Studies
American Studies

Sarah Lopez

Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley

Assistant Professor, Architecture
Sarah Lopez



* Lopez was awarded a Mellon-Fellowship in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities at Princeton University and is currently on leave. 

Sarah Lopez is a built environment historian, as well as a migration scholar. Lopez' research focuses on 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. By approaching architectural history within the context of migration, Lopez examines multiple sites across international borders, arguing that we must examine the spatial and built environment histories of discrete places simultaneously. Her book entitled, The Remittance Landscape: The Spaces of Migration in Rural Mexico and Urban USA was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2015.

Lopez is currently working on two projects. The first examines the architecture of immigrant detention facilities in Texas, a project commenced in partnership with the Humanities Action Lab (HAL) States of Incarceration national-exhibit. Her class contribution to the exhibition is titled Spatial Stories of Migration and Detention, and was recently exhibited at UT Austin. The second explores the overlap and evolving relationship between thirty years of continuous migration between Mexico and the US and the development of an informal binational construction industry.

Broadly speaking, she teaches about U.S. cultural landscapes, the interface between migration, architecture, and cities, the use of interdisciplinary methods to study space and society, and world architectural history. She also teaches about how to incorporate ethnographic methods into built environment research. 


  • B.A., University of California, Berkeley, 2001
  • M.S., University of California, Berkeley, 2006
  • Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2011



AMS 321 • Cultural Landscapes-Wb

31545 • Spring 2021
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM
Internet; Synchronous

Please check back for updates.

AMS 321 • Cultural Landscapes

31124 • Spring 2020
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM SUT 3.112

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AMS 391 • Migratory Urbanism

31228 • Spring 2020
Meets T 2:00PM-5:00PM BTL 101
(also listed as MAS 392)

Graduate standing required. Permission from instructor required.

AMS 391 • Cultl Lndscp And Ethnogr Meths

30660 • Fall 2019
Meets W 9:30AM-12:30PM WMB 5.102
(also listed as ARC 388R, CRP 388)

What is a cultural landscape and how can landscape and building elements narrate unique histories of people and place? This class is organized around the form, style, and context of buildings types and landscape elements—bungalows, shopping malls, libraries, courthouses, plazas, apartments, the grid—to examine 19th and 20th century U.S. built environment history, and provide students with a toolkit to conduct their own architectural and spatial analysis. We examine the American landscape as a composite of discrete building types and landscape elements that embody social, political, and cultural processes. Such examination allows us to explore the histories, identities, and cultural transformations of individuals who might not be included in canonical histories. This approach also spans multiple scales—from the assembling of the American grid to the building and inhabitation of individuals’ workers cottages. Students will be asked to use various cultural landscape methods to write a primary research paper on Austin’s built environment as text. Our methodological toolkit will include diagrams, architectural plans, town plats, aerial photographs, Sanborn maps, material analysis, city directories and interviewing.

UGS 302 • Ordinary Landscapes

60585 • Fall 2019
Meets MW 2:00PM-3:30PM BTL 101

The Signature Course (UGS 302 and 303) introduces first-year students to the university’s academic community through the exploration of new interests. The Signature Course is your opportunity to engage in college-level thinking and learning.

AMS 391 • Cultl Lndscp And Ethnogr Meths

31279 • Fall 2018
Meets TH 2:00PM-5:00PM BTL 101

Graduate standing required. Permission from instructor required.

AMS 391 • Migratory Urbanism

31284 • Fall 2018
Meets W 9:00AM-12:00PM SUT 2.110

Graduate standing required. Permission from instructor required.

ARC 388R • Bordrlnds/Mexcn Landscapes

00902 • Spring 2018
Meets TH 3:00PM-6:00PM SUT 3.112
(also listed as LAS 381, MAS 392)

This course is aimed at building a substantial body of knowledge about the built environment history and cultural landscapes of an extended U.S. – Mexico border region, with a focus on the corridor between Monterrey, Mexico and San Antonio, Texas. Students will be active curators of this history. A cultural landscape approach to the history of the U.S. is one that utilizes the built environment as a primary source of evidence of American culture and life. Cultural landscape scholars have typically focused on the built environment and history of the U.S., and this scholarly tradition has its origins in U.S. academic institutions. This course expands the scope of Cultural Landscape Studies and Built Environment History, turning its attention to Mexico, as well as the border region that is directly impacted by its proximity to Mexico. 

ARC 386M • Migratory Urbanism

01194 • Fall 2017
Meets W 9:00AM-12:00PM SUT 2.110
(also listed as CRP 388, LAS 388)

Migration is an inherently spatial phenomenon; the study of migration is the study of places, people, processes, and the state. This course addresses the history of 20th century international migration—with a focus on US-Mexico migration post WWII—through the lens of the built environment. The aim of this course is to bring migration theories and histories into the realm of architecture and planning to equip spatial practitioners with tools for thinking through how contemporary movement interfaces with the production of space. An interdisciplinary approach to the study of migration will incorporate urban and architectural histories, political economy, urban theory, ethnographies of individuals, families, and communities, material culture, and film to explore how North American cities and towns (including Mexico) and border regions are influenced by the continuous flow of people, ideas, dollars, and desire. We will engage concepts such as assimilation, transnationalism, diaspora, borderlands, and frontier. We will investigate international remittance development, multi-scalar migrant neighborhoods, and housing. Students will learn methods for conducting primary research on migration and places, and write short papers on contemporary or historical migration and Austin’s built environment.

ARC 386M • Migratory Urbanism

01138 • Spring 2016
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM SUT 2.112
(also listed as CRP 388, GRG 396T, LAS 388)

Prerequisite: Graduate standing; additional prerequisites vary with the topic and are given in the Course Schedule.

Restricted enrollment; contact the department for permission to register for this class. Course number may be repeated for credit when the topics vary.

Study of critical theories and practices that affect the built environment.


GRG 356T • Migratory Urbanism

37828 • Spring 2014
Meets MW 1:00PM-2:30PM SUT 2.110

Please check back for updates.

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