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Dr Lorenzo Gatta

Visiting Research Fellow from February 2025 to February 2026

Lorenzo is a cultural historian with a keen interest in the architecture and material culture of the early modern period. Trained as an architect at the Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio and the KTH in Stockholm, he then completed an MA and a PhD in the history of art at The Courtauld Institute. His dissertation explored the intersections of ritual, space, and materiality in the confessionals of the seventeenth-century Southern Netherlands. Lorenzo’s work has been supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Nederlands Interuniversitair Kunsthistorisch Instituut in Florence. As a research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies, he will investigate the political resonance of Indigenous architecture in the early modern Atlantic World.

Indigenous Architecture and the Early Modern Political Imagination

This project seeks to recover the agency of Indigenous North American architecture in shaping alternative forms of social organisation across the early modern Atlantic. By examining a range of sixteenth- to eighteenth-century travel accounts, visual materials, and archival records related to Algonquian- and Iroquoian-speaking peoples in the North-eastern regions, it asks how the encounter with Indigenous urban configurations characterised by decentralisation, communal living, ecological integration, and gender equality might have prompted European audiences to call into question what was taking place back home: the centralisation of state power, the rise of commercial empires built on usury, slavery, and resource extraction, the proletarisation caused by the enclosure of commons, and dramatic shifts in the family and social reproduction. By incorporating Indigenous cosmologies, oral histories, mapping traditions, and the critiques of European societies articulated by figures such as the Huron chief Kondiaronk in the eighteenth century, this project aims to reposition Indigenous architecture within a global debate on governance, freedom, and social justice. It moves beyond the obsolete paradigms of the ‘primitive hut’ and the ‘noble savage’ to recast Indigenous architectural knowledge as a source of social creativity that inspired, and continues to inspire, radical political visions.