Niall Atkinson

Associate Professor of Art History, Romance Languages and Literatures, and the College; Chair of the Department of Art History
Cochrane-Woods Art Center 260 (On leave 2023-24)
PhD, Cornell University, 2009

Niall Atkinson received his PhD in the History of Architecture and Urbanism from the Department of Architecture at Cornell University in 2009.  After a year teaching at Texas Christian University he joined the faculty at the University of Chicago in 2010.

Atkinson’s research and teaching focus on the art and architecture of the Italian Renaissance, with a particular focus on the experience of artistic environments and urban spaces in late medieval and Renaissance Italy. These fields have led him into investigations of the soundscapes of Renaissance Florence and the role of the acoustic environment in the meaning of built space and the construction of social communities. Currently he is exploring ways of using new digital technologies to visualize these acoustic and spatial relationships. Two other long-term projects are now underway. The first involves a study of urban disorientation in the Renaissance city. This project comprises two trajectories, one being an analysis of the ways in which Italians encountered and navigated the topographies and monuments of foreign territories, the other a more locally based investigation of the multi-media strategies at work in the massive transformations planned for Renaissance Rome. The second project is a collaboration with Susanna Caviglia, entitled “Wandering in Rome,” which looks at the representation of the mental and physical experience representations of the city by French travelers to early modern Rome.

Atkinson is involved in two collaborative research projects supported by the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society: “Interwoven: Sonic, Visual and Textual Histories of the Indian Ocean World” with Philip Bohlman, James Nye, Laura Rings and Anna Seastrand; and “Visualizing the Changing Spatial and Social Ecology of Renaissance Florence” with John Padgett. Atkinson’s book The Noisy Renaissance was a finalist for the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award of the College Art Association. He has held residential fellowships at Harvard University’s Villa I Tatti and the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence.

Niall Atkinson is co-curating the U.S. Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. Follow the project on Twitter @uspavilion18 and Instagram @uspavilion18.

  • The Noisy Renaissance: Sound, Architecture, and Florentine Urban Life. Penn State University Press, 2016
  • “Getting Lost in the Italian Renaissance,” I Tatti Studies in the Renaissance19, 1 (2016)
  • “Seeing Sound: Mapping the Florentine Soundscape,” in Mapping Space, Sense, and Movement in Florence: Historical GIS and the Early Modem City, eds. Nicholas Terpstra, Colin Rose (Routledge, 2016)
  • “Thinking Through Noise, Building Toward Silence: Creating a Sound Mind and Sound Architecture in the Premodern City,” Grey Room 60 (2015)
  • “The Social Life of the Senses: Architecture, Food, and Manners in the Renaissance,” in A Cultural History Of The Senses, Vol. 3:  Renaissance, ed. Herman Roodenburg (London, New York: Bloomsbury, 2014)
  • “The Italian Piazza: From Gothic Footnote to Baroque Theater,” in A Companion to Renaissance and Baroque Art, ed. Babette Bohn and James M. Saslow (Chichester, West Sussex; Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2013)
  • “A Guide to Listening to Renaissance Florence,” in On Listening, ed. Angus Carlyle and Cathy Lane (London: RGAP, 2013)
  • “The Republic of Sound: Listening to Florence at the Threshold of the Renaissance,” I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance Vol. 16, No. 1/2 (September 2013)
  • “Sonic Armatures:  Constructing an Acoustic Regime in Renaissance Florence,” Senses and Society 7 no.1 (2012)
Recent Courses in RLL
  • RLLT 33020 Journeys Real and Virtual. Travel in the Pre-modern Mediterranean (Spring 2020)
Affiliated Departments and Centers: Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, Chicago Studies, Committee on Medieval Studies, Department of Art History
Subject Area: Italian Studies