Osman’s research in architectural history focuses on the modern period with a particular emphasis on the buildings and cities of the United States. He seeks connections between the infrastructure that undergirds the process of modernization and the historiography of modernist architecture. Some topics of his writing include: the early formation of ecological science and its influence on theories of city growth, the study of the managerial instruments used for organizing and representing spaces for industrial production, and the architectural profession’s relation to modern construction processes. In this expanded view of modernism’s history, he identifies the contributions made by architects and urban thinkers to changes in the modes of life over the last two centuries. Osman’s book, Modernism’s Visible Hand: Architecture and Regulation in America (University of Minnesota Press), focuses on the history of environmental and economic systems of regulation in the United States. A number of his essays address critical problems in modernism’s historiography.
These include an examination of Reyner Banham’s use of the term “ecology” and an analysis of the metaphysical aspirations latent in some twentieth-century writings on concrete. In 2005, Osman was a founding member of Aggregate: The Architectural History Collaborative, a platform for exploring new methods in architectural history. His work has been supported by fellowships from the University of California Humanities Research Institute, the National Science Foundation and the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.