Architectural Humanities

Architectural Humanities is one of five new research groups established by the School of Architecture and Cities in 2021. It focuses on the historical and cultural processes and practices of architecture. Founded on humanities-based methods and including interdisciplinary arts and social science approaches to research, our members address contemporary critical questions about architecture and its contexts. These include; archival and documentary analysis, oral histories, film and visual analysis, drawing, participatory research, installations and exhibitions.

Our members’ investigations and projects span the history of nineteenth and twentieth century architecture, modernism and landscape, the nature of spatial memory, the experience of vertigo, forms of architectural practice, women in architecture, religious architecture, social relations in the production of the built environment and the British New Left.  We also include a group of researchers dedicated to examining architectural pedagogy, diversity and inclusion, and the intersectional relationship between students, educators and the educational institution. Many of these themes and approaches overlap but, in all cases, we are committed to experimental, speculative, and tentative ways of exploring architecture through artefacts, sounds and film alongside conventional academic methods.

A number of broad themes cut across our research in architectural humanities: Architectural Pedagogies; Counter-narratives in architectural history; Heritage and Belonging; Modernism and Landscape; Religious Architecture. We welcome PhD researchers and scholars in these areas.

For more about the Architectural Humanities Research Group go here.

Swimming Pool Stories Symposium
27 February 2023
Architectural Association School of Architecture

A swimming pool is typically an occasion in a story but rarely its heroine. This is unsurprising because on the surface, it is a simple object. However, its shadowy depths reveal a powerful space of imagination where spatial, socio-political, physiological, and psychological constructs are framed.

Through a series of short essays, each of which is coupled with a single image, we are going to compose an incomplete mosaic that reasserts the protean quality of the space and its relevance in contemporary society, including and equally importantly, as a space of exchange, dialogue and narration that is underlined in the format of the event.

A symposium organised by Naina Gupta.

Davide Deriu from the School of Architecture + Cities is one of the participants.

Research Project
Moving pictures: reusing cinemas as places of worship in the diaspora
Kate Jordan and Julie Marsh

This project uses pioneering cross-disciplinary methods to examine the adaptive reuse of cinemas in London as places of worship. In doing so, the research will capture a vital snapshot of faith and diaspora in the contemporary urban landscape, which may be used to inform future heritage practices.

Prospettive del Made in Italy
27 October 2022
Iuav University of Venice

Davide Deriu has been invited to open the conference on ‘Made in Italy’ organised by the IR.IDE research infrastructure at the Iuav University of Venice. The event (in Italian) is the culmination of a 4-year project to which Davide previously contributed as Visiting Professor (2021-22).

Restoration, Expansion and the Building Art: Contemporary Issues in the Life of Mies van der Rohe’s Museum of Modern Art (New National Gallery) Berlin
Victoria Watson

Journal of Historic Buildings and Places, Volume 01, 2022, 113-124

This essay is a consideration of the very sensitive issues around the restoration and extension to the iconic modern masterpiece by Mies van der Rohe, the Neue Nationalgalerie (NNG) on the Kulturforum in Berlin. The NNG is important for the City of Berlin, not least because it is the only building realised by Mies in Europe after his emigration to the USA. But the importance of the NNG goes further than that. It is an icon of the history of twentieth century art and architecture, embodying the ideals of cosmopolitan modernism.

Architecture + Cities Research Seminar: On the Estate
3 October 2022, 13.00 – 14.00
M416 – hybrid

Between 1946 and 1951 the London County Council promoted their post-war re-construction efforts through the organization of visitors’ tours to their ‘Out-County’ estates, run in conjunction with the Ministry of Health in response to a UN proposal to co-ordinate knowledge sharing on housing production. In this presentation Julian Williams examines the LCC records of these tours and the rich insights they offer into the development of the estate as a concept for organizing housing provision in London and beyond.

Raymond Williams @100: A centenary conference
22-23 April 2022
Friends’ Meeting House, Manchester

At the conference, organised by the Raymond Williams Society to celebrate 100 years since the birth of socialist, cultural theorist and public intellectual Raymond Williams, Nick Beech presented a paper on the significance of William Morris in the formation of Williams’s thought. In ‘…no more than a kind of generalized swearing’: the positive valuation of William Morris by Raymond Williams’ Nick argues that ‘architecture’ – understood as a material cultural practice – illuminates Williams’s writings of the mid-1950s and early-1960s.

Cultural Studies in the Architecture School
14-16 September 2022
Online / University of Brighton

International conference ‘What’s Happening to Cultural Studies?’ is a three-day workshop designed to provide a focus for conversations about the shift in the role and capacities of cultural studies as an academic discipline in the twenty-first century. We stress the dual nature of the ‘discipline’: cultural studies is taught and cultural studies is researched. The relationship between these two aspects is one of the questions we hope this event will explore.

Urban churches in an infrasecular landscape: three case studies from Anglican Diocese of London
Kate Jordan

Kate Jordan (2022) Urban churches in an infrasecular landscape: three case studies from the Anglican Diocese of London, The Journal of Architecture, DOI: 10.1080/13602365.2022.2072933

Church architecture is an overlooked barometer of urban life. It holds up a unique mirror to economic models, demographics, cultural and ritual practices, and aesthetic movements in late modernity. In turn, the changing complexion of secular society has had a marked influence on the type and style of Christian architecture in the twenty-first century. This article explores the dialectical relationship between church architecture and secular society within recent critical frameworks, examining, in particular, the value of infrasecular geographies as an alternative to the post-secular lens.

Speaking Architect/ure
Friday, 17 June 2022, 19:00 – 21:30
Marylebone Campus, MG14

This round table will gather a panel of early career researchers, practitioners and academics to discuss concerns around democracy, protest, public engagement and empowerment, social stratification and elitism. The speakers – Professor Marion Roberts, Professor Pippa Catterall, Nayyar Hussain, Minerva Fadel, Dr Kate Jordan and Dr Maja Jović (chaired by Dr Adam Eldridge) will discuss their experiences of working with marginalised social groups, negotiation of power, agency and identity globally, soft spacial practices and ephemeral heritage, and recording oral histories.

This LFA event is free but ticketed. Please book via Eventbrite (URL below).

Research Project
“If I had a hammer”: feminist activism and the built environment 1975-2000.
Christine Wall

Professor Christine Wall has been awarded a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship (2022) (£21,730) for the project:

“If I had a hammer”: feminist activism and the built environment 1975-2000.

Using archive sources and oral history interviews, the project charts the origins and significance of key campaign groups which emerged during a period of optimism and dynamism in feminist, built environment activism. The research will document the working lives of many of the women who were involved, the policies they influenced, the the building work they completed and aims to situate and include feminist activism in the history of the twentieth century, built environment.

Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship (2022)
Addressing Dizziness Symposium
4-6 May 2022
Zentrum Fokus Forschung, University of Applied Arts, Vienna

Davide Deriu will give a lecture at the Addressing Dizziness symposium which takes place at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna, on 4-6 May, 2022. This process-oriented working symposium aims to discuss ways of localizing, recognizing, approaching, and countering dizziness at different scales and disciplines. Through the prisms of art, architecture, philosophy, somatics, post-colonial theory and remembrance cultures, the event aims to uncover various layers of physical and social dizziness. Curated by Ruth Anderwald + Leonhard Grond, artist-researchers and professors at the Zentrum Fokus Forschung, University of Applied Arts.

AHRA Research Student Symposium 2022
20 and 21 April 2022
University of Westminster, Marylebone Campus, 35 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5LS

The AHRA Research Student Symposium 2022, “Voices in Architecture”, considers voices in architectural research, posing the critical questions: who speaks and for whom? How do we give voice without assuming authority? How do we listen without judgment? How do we adjust the volume of our own voices? A key objective of the symposium will be to connect architectural research with wider political concerns around democracy, protest and populism and we are particularly attentive to processes of public engagement and empowerment, social stratification and elitism. The symposium also seeks to investigate diverse modes of production and their social worlds, explorations of vernacular traditions, informal settlements, transient and temporary architectures.

Falling Away
Ambika P3
22 October – 20 November 2021

The exhibition Falling Away brings together Catherine Yass’s vertiginous film installations at Ambika P3. The first retrospective of the artist’s extensive body of film work, it spans the past two decades and includes a new work made in response to the impact of COVID-19 and global warming. Ambika P3’s vast subterranean space engages audiences in the disorientating effects of Yass’s films, which portray architecture in a state of construction, abandonment or demolition. By engaging with our perception of verticality, these works address the relationship between material structures and the powers and institutions that embody them.