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Elliott Sturtevant is a PhD Candidate in Architecture at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University. His dissertation, “Empire’s Stores,” seeks to understand the architecture, infrastructure, and visual culture of American business as key sites and agents of the United States’ territorial and economic expansion during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, through the study of four firms anchored in US port cities. His research has been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Buell Center at Columbia University, the Wolfsonian–FIU, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, and the Hagley Museum & Library. Elliott completed his MArch at the University of Toronto and previously worked as editor and researcher at the Buell Center in New York and Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. He is currently Managing Editor of the Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative’s online platform

Traveling the Heat Line:

The "Great White Fleet" as Climatic Media


Beginning in the late nineteenth century, the United Fruit Company (UFC) convinced tens of thousands of passengers a year to tour the Caribbean aboard their “Great White Fleet.” Many were awed by the ships’ pristine white hulls, lush interiors, surprisingly cool cabins, and on-deck swimming pools—each means of both enjoying and mitigating the effects of the tropics.


The fleet, along with the company’s two hotels in Jamaica, augured a new era of leisurely travel in the Americas, but few grasped the extent to which their stays and the environments they experienced were shaped and conditioned by the preceding infrastructures of imperialist enterprise. Using literature published by UFC and its subsidiary, Fruit Dispatch, along with travelogues, photographs, and technical reports, this paper looks at the distribution networks used by UFC to ferry tourists to the Caribbean and “exotic” produce back. It traces at the movements of people and goods on- and offshore and reveals the technologies that connected the comfort of passengers above deck to the health of freight below and the company’s architectures of leisure to the infrastructures and violence of extractive industry

His dissertation, “Empire’s Stores,” seeks to understand the imperial formations of corporate capitalism in the Americas during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by studying the architecture, urbanism, and organizational structure of four firms anchored in US port cities. Working against accounts that privilege the nineteenth century’s technological annihilation of space and time, the project foregrounds media practices and physical infrastructures operationalized by the modern business enterprise to take advantage of their unevenness.

In addition, Sturtevant is currently leading a yearlong research project, “Beyond the Built: Rethinking Archival and Research Practices in Architecture,” alongside Pamela Casey, Architecture Archivist at Avery Drawings & Archives, with support from the Center for Science and Society at Columbia University.“

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