Stella Nair

A photo of Stella Nair
E-mail: Phone: 310-825-8232 Office: Dodd Hall 212C


Fields of Interest: Indigenous Arts of the Americas, Gender, Construction Technology, Spatial Theory, Landscape Transformations, Cross-Cultural Exchange, Hemispheric Networks


Stella Nair’s scholarship focuses on the built environment of indigenous communities in the Americas and is shaped by her interests in gender, construction technology, spatial theory, material culture studies, landscape transformations, cross-cultural exchange, and hemispheric networks. Trained as an architect and architectural historian, Nair has conducted fieldwork in Bolivia, Mexico, Peru, and the United States, with ongoing projects in the South Central Andes.

Nair’s publications explore a range of subjects and regions such as colonial Andean paintings, the design of Inca royal estates, Tiahuanaco lithic technology, eighteenth century woven roofs, and Brazilian urbanism. Nair’s current book project, “Inca Architecture: Chapters in the History of a (Gendered) Profession,” offers new perspectives on the Inca built environment by highlighting the profound ways in which women designed, constructed, used, and gave meaning to Inca spaces and places. Nair’s previous book, At Home with the Sapa Inca: Architecture, Space, and Legacy at Chinchero (University of Texas, 2015), examines the sophisticated ways in which the Inca manipulated space and architecture to impose their authority. Nair has also published (with Jean-Pierre Protzen) a book entitled The Stones of Tiahuanaco: A Study of Architecture and Construction (Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, 2013), which explores one of the world’s most artful and sophisticated carving traditions. Nair’s article “Localizing Sacredness, Difference, and Yachacuscamcani in a Colonial Andean Painting” was honored by its selection as one of thirty-two “greatest hits” articles published in the last hundred years of the Art Bulletin.

Nair has received numerous research grants and fellowships, such as from the American Academy of Rome, the American Philosophical Association, the Center for the Study of the Visual Arts (National Gallery of Art), Dumbarton Oaks, the Fulbright Institute, the Getty Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the John Carter Brown Library. Most recently, Nair received the “Research Excellent Award” from the UCLA Center for the Study of Women in support of her book manuscript on Inca architecture and women.

Currently, Senior Fellow of Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks Museum and Library (Harvard University). She is also a member of “Sound, Space, and the Aesthetic of the Sublime”, a multi-year, interdisciplinary research project funded by the Templeton Religious Trust (P.I. Jonathan Berger, Stanford University). Nair and Paul Neill (Florida State University) are 2022-2023 Clark Professors, co-directing the year long, international, and interdisciplinary Core Foundation Program, “The Forgotten Canopy: Ecology, Ephemeral Architecture, and Imperialism in the Caribbean, South American, and Transatlantic World” at the Clark Library/Center for 17th and 18th Century Studies at UCLA. In addition, Nair and Neill are co-organizing with Shannon Speed, Director of the American Indian Studies Center and Special Advisor to the Chancellor on Native American and Indigenous Affairs, a series of workshops funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art which focus on Indigenous and African diasporic architecture.

Nair directs the Andean Laboratory and the Architecture laboratory at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, both of which foster research for students (graduate and undergraduate) as well as affiliated researchers working on Andean and Architectural topics at UCLA. In addition, Nair advises the Andean Working Group, which brings together Andean specialists in the greater Los Angeles region to share research and the Architecture Working Group, which welcomes all scholars interested in architecture, especially of the Indigenous Americas and African diaspora. With Kevin Terraciano, Nair co-founded the Indigenous Material and Visual Culture Reading Group, which brings together students and faculty across campus who work on indigenous material culture A.D 1450-1850.

Stella Nair is an Associate Professor in the Department of Art History and Director of Graduate Studies. She is also Core Faculty in the American Indian Studies Interdepartmental Program, the Archaeology Interdepartmental Program and the Center for 17th and 18th Century Studies at UCLA. In addition, Nair is Affiliated Faculty with the American Indian Studies Center, the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and the Latin American Institute.


Undergraduate (Selected)

  • Architecture and Feminism (seminar)
  • Gender in Maya and Mexica Art (seminar)
  • Art, Architecture, and Urbanism of the Americas until 1450 A.D. (lecture)
  • Art, Architecture, and Urbanism of Latin America, 1450 A.D.–present (lecture)
  • Art Historical Theories and Methodologies (seminar)
  • Arts of the Andes (lecture)
  • Cuzco: A Journey into the Urban Unknown (seminar)
  • Inca Visual Culture (lecture)
  • Making Sacred Landscapes: Pilgrimage in the Medieval World (lecture)

Graduate (Selected)

  • Architecture Theory and Method: Treatise, Viva Voce, and Race (seminar)
  • Understanding Gender and Space Among the Ruins (seminar)
  • Architecture, Space, and Landscape in Colonial Encounters (seminar)
  • Art, Power, and the Sacred Capital: Tenochtitlan and Cuzco (seminar)
  • Gender, Archaeology, and Architecture (seminar)
  • Body, Gender, Place (seminar)
  • From Law of the Indies to Brasilia: Architecture and Urbanism in Latin America (Mexico, Peru, Brazil)(seminar)
  • Public Places, Private Spaces: Constructing Inca Royal Landscapes (seminar)
  • The Inca in the Early Modern World (seminar)

Selected Publications

  • “’Salones de vino’, conventos y otros espacios incas imaginados,” in Arte antes de la historia: para una historia del arte antiguo andino, (2020): 311-330. Edited by Marco Curratola, Cecile Murchard, Joanne Pillsbury, and Lisa Trever, Lima, Peru: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.
  • “The Lost Half of Andean Architecture: 18th Century Building Traditions and Environmental Use at Chinchero, Peru,” (with Sonia Archila and Christine Hastorf) in Latin American Antiquity 29, no. 2 (June 2018): 222-238.
  • At Home with the Sapa Inca: Architecture, Space, and Legacy at Chinchero. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015.
  • The Stones of Tiahuanaco: A Study of Architecture and Construction (with Jean-Pierre Protzen). Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, 2013.
  • Las piedras de Tiahuanaco: un estudio de arquitectura y construccion (with Jean-Pierre Protzen). Lima, Perú: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, (Spanish translation of The Stones of Tiahuanaco) 2016.
  • “The Lost Half of Andean Architecture: 18th Century Building Traditions and Environmental Use at Chinchero, Peru,” (with Sonia Archila and Christine Hastorf) in Latin American Antiquity 29, no. 2 (June 2018): 222-238.
  • “Time and Space in the Architecture of Inca Royal Estates,” in The Measure and Meaning of Time in Mesoamerica and the Andes, edited by Anthony Aveni. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press (2015): 119-139.
  • “Inca Built Environment: Architecture and Landscape: Variation, Technology and Symbolism” (with Jean Pierre Protzen), in インカ帝国:研究のフロンティア (Inka Empire: Research Frontiers), edited by Izumi Shimada and Ken-ichi Shinoda, 265–287. Tokyo: Tokai University Press, 2012.
  • “Inca Architecture and the Conquest of the Countryside,” in Architecture – Design Theory – Inca Structures, edited by Johanna Dehlinger and Hans Dehlinger, 114–125. Kassel: Kassel University Press, 2009.
  • “Witnessing the In-Visibility of Inca Architecture in Colonial Peru,” in Buildings and Landscapes 14, no. 2 (Fall 2007): 50–65.
  • “Localizing Sacredness, Difference, and Yachacuscamcani in a Colonial Andean Painting,” Art Bulletin 89, no. 2 (June 2007): 209–238.
  • “¿Neo inca o Colonial? La muerte de la arquitectura inca y otros paradigmas,” Identidad y transformación en el Tawantinsuyu y en los Andes coloniales. Perspectivas arqueológicas y etnohistóricas (segunda parte) 7 (2003): 113–131. Edited by Peter Kaulicke, PUCP Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima, Peru.