Architectural History and Theory

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Introduction

We can be skeptical about how this sudden and immense increase of our digital presence will play out against physical experience in the near future. Yet, the digitisation and exhibition of so much material is not from a want to live online; rather, it speaks of our nostalgia for life and work as they were before isolation, and of our desire to have back as much as possible of them, in any form.

This year, the essays and dissertations from Critical and Contextual Studies are exhibited together with work from the postgraduate History and Theory modules. We have held conversations about the resonant issues of the past few months, from Black Lives Matter, to the future of the physical classroom, and have included provocations by writers, artists, architects and alumni for contextualization, dialogue and expansion. The work is organized in seven thematic sections, which speak to recent events, home and migration, place, digital experience, learning, proto-modern architecture, and memory. There is a perceptible progression from topical issues towards writing that allows time to expand in the mind of the reader — how else to approach the task of thinking about space from confinement?


Tutors

Ektoras Arkomanis

Edwina Attlee

Matthew Barac

Aleks Catina

Joseph Kohlmaier

I. Revaluations

Wildfires in Australia amid the climate emergency; riots in Hong Kong; a pandemic and lockdowns; Black Lives Matter demonstrations and statues falling – 2020 calls for meaningful revaluations.

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Constance Chung – Kids in the Polis

“The ‘verbal accompaniment’ discloses the actors’ intention, and thus gives meaning to the action. Without words, the deed of the actor can come across as brute.”

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Karolina Banasik – Rebellion

“I spoke to the minister. He's not entirely happy with your efforts. These priests are inciting thousands of people to rebellion! What do you do about it, captain?” (Agnieszka Holland, To Kill a Priest)

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Julia Wladysiak – The Reason for Change

“If we find a connection between power, oppression and daily life then we can experience mixed emotions and the resistance, which battle for regaining the old life.”

Julia Wladysiak talks to Rose Frawley about her travel to Palestine, which informed her dissertation, and about checkpoints between Palestine and Israel

Conversations on Racism; a MASS publication, edited by Lucia Medina and James Thormod

Provocations

Aracelis Girmay, From Woe to Wonder (2020)

“For every sorrow I write, also I press my forehead to the ground. Also I wash the feet of our beloveds, if only in my mind, in the waters of the petals of the flowers.’ read more

Paul Gilroy, A London Sumting Dis… (1999)

"The post-colonial character of contemporary London has a simple facticity which leaves it not really amenable to debate.” read more

Ryszard Kapuściński, The Wrecker of Monuments (excerpt from the Shah of Shahs, 1982)

“You’ve won a certain popularity in your neighborhood, Golan, as a man who pulls down monuments. You’re even regarded as a sort of veteran in the field” read more

A series of dialogues about current issues — in the first episode, we discuss the recent toppling of Colston's statue in Bristol.

Contributors in the series: Hanan Abdulamir, Rita Adamo, Ektoras Arkomanis, Michela De Santes, Rose Frawley, Max McColl, Francesca Miles

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Hanan Abdulamir – The History of British-Iraqi Relations in Three Cuneiform Tablets

“A standard has been set, and the violence in its act has not been acknowledged, allowing for a repeat of the colonization to occur in the future.”

Nomination, Best MArch Architecture Essay 2020

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MA Architectural History, Research and Writing

If you like the work on this page and would like to start a Masters Degree in Architectural History, Research and Writing, click here to read more about the modules, the tutors, enrolment and fees.

This course is ideal for those who want to continue into a PhD, pursue a career in journalism, enhance the research element in their architectural practice, or simply learn more about architecture, its settings, rituals and allied arts.

Applications are still open for September 2020 read more

Provocations: Ibrahim Mahama, How to Build a Parliament with a Literal Pool of Ideas

“The Parliament of Ghosts is a place of many gatherings using the failures of history as a starting point of artistic production.”

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Laura Pascu – The Case of the Benin Bronzes

“Temporary loans, especially in the case of the Benin bronzes, are just a method for European nations to regain their appearance as just societies, while they maintain their position of power and take turns in exercising control.”

Provocations: Dr Denis Maeder – On Progress

Where to go with the idea of progress? The lecture proposes five ways in which we could look at progress anew, without losing hope in one of the central, but also heavily attacked ideas of the Enlightenment.

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William Chew – In Search of a Meaningful Place

“A deliveryman said he was waiting next to a huge Chinese building, which led to some misunderstanding. I found his lorry in the end, parked on this street. For a while, I was confused as to where this huge Chinese building is.”

First thoughts after the announcement that 'Sir John Cass' is removed from the name of the School of Art, Architecture and Design.

II. Elsewhere, within here

Tales of migration and refugeeism are set off against versions of domesticity. Both speak to shifting notions of ‘home’. The narrators/subjects have to “constantly negotiate between home and abroad, native culture and adopted culture, or more creatively speaking, between a here, a there, and an elsewhere.” (Trinh T. Minh-ha, Elsewhere, Within Here)

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Rose Frawley – Digitally Man Dwells

“The importance of this research lies in a better understanding of the core prerequisites to dwell and to find new processes for a healthy symbiosis between virtual and physical dwelling.”

Nomination, Best Architecture Dissertation 2020

Excerpt read by Rose Frawley
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Michela De Santes – Migration and Integration in Venice

“While the city and its non-transparent politics do not welcome immigrants, immigrant artists are invited to talk about it. Venice is prepared to be the cultural stage for immigrants’ stories, but not a paradigm of integration.”

Nomination, Best Architecture Dissertation 2020

Excerpt read by Michela De Santes

Provocations:

Caroline Bergvall, Drift (2014)

“The fog was so dense that they lost all sense of direction and lost their course at sea . . ." read more

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Francesca Miles – The Power of Narrative in the Context of Migration

Let me speak my true journeys own true songs

I can make my sorry tale right soggy through

sothgied sodsgate some serious wrecan my ship

(Caroline Bergvall, Drift)

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Soroush Haghighat – A Persian Evening

“So when he returned from the capital, with the fish wrapped in newspaper, the smell of parsley would enter the living room with him and we all knew Eid had finally arrived.”

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Katarzyna Nowak – Shifting Notions of Home in Two Modern Chinese Films

“‘If you move there, you’ll meet lots of people. You can go dancing and watch movies every day.’ The woman turns away and simply replies ‘I don’t think about these things.’”

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Ciara Tobin – Letter to a Friend

“To push the concept of domesticity in the nineteenth-century, it was necessary for the Dutch nation to believe that all was well on the seventeenth-century home front as "proven" by the uncluttered, tidy interiors . . .”

Winner, Best MArch Architecture Essay 2020

Tutor: Edwina Attlee

Provocations

bell hooks, Homeplace: A site of resistance (1990)

“Historically, African-American people believed that the construction of a homeplace, however fragile and tenuous (the slave hut, the wooden shack), had a radical political dimension . . ." read more

Provocations: Ayan Bisi Adeleke – Master Talking Drummer
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Olatide Elizabeth Olowu – On the Theme of form and Emotions

“The Talking Drum rises and falls in tone to mimic human speech. It speaks words of comfort and freedom, rhythmic words encrypted in the tonal pitch of the beats that it produces, woven in with culture and wisdom …”

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Francesca Miles – Presentations of Domestic Space

"Precariously stacked plastic food containers sit on the highest shelves; empty biscuit and cake tins occupy the middle ground; while clingfilm and foil dispensers reside on lower shelves, continuing a theme of prospective food containment."

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Arbana Berdynaj – The Limits of Authenticity

“Antoinette was known for playing the roles of shepherdess and milkmaid. She had farm animals, and hired people to live and work on the land to complete the fantasy.”

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Raffaela Swoboda – Between Room and City

“Give yourselves an applause. Let’s all start a romantic relationship with the city we are living in.” (from Land of Many Palaces, 2014, dir. Ting Song and Adam James Smith)

III. Postcards

Journeys and perambulations, from ancient Rome to Detroit, and from twentieth-century Damascus to rural Sardinia — these are records tied to specific locales, and which describe place in its real or imagined constituents.

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Roua Aljammal – Extinct Objects

“I am a Gramophone... I am one of the antiques that still have pleasant memories of those who used to own me, especially the owner of this memory, who once, in a moment of madness, carried me on the back of a donkey...”

Nomination, Best Architecture Dissertation 2020

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Luca Puzzoni – The Unaware Sculptor

“Sardinia lies in the Mediterranean Sea like a block of clay.”

Winner, Best Architecture Dissertation 2020

Tutor: Joseph Kohlmaier

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Harry Hughes – Documenting Detroit

“Depictions of ruined landscapes remind the viewer of a historical moment of failure, yet they also engender a kind of photographic perversion.”

Provocations: Franz Kafka's America (About Buildings + Cities podcast)

Franz Kafka’s first, and least-finished, novel is an imaginary journey around the USA (a country he never visited). Written in 1912, it’s a fantasy of America at a time when seemed, to Europeans at least, to be the most futuristic (and mysterious) place on Earth.

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Riccardo Bela – In and Out of the Closet

“Nonetheless, they were very porous spaces, where guests were welcomed together with their families, servants and goods, where the chatter of curious passers-by standing beyond the gates would create a constant soundtrack...”

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Cosmin Chirpac – The Myth of Pompeii as a ‘Living Antiquity’

“The mirror metaphor alludes to the idea of a theatre play, where an animated version of Pompeii’s history is being watched.”

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Gustaf Hedberg – Journeys to Italy

“It seems that Lewerentz was not interested in the classical canon of ‘The Grand Tour’. None of the most renowned buildings appear in his photos as the main subject; rather he aimed the camera away from the centre, towards the particular.”

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Joshua Bristow – Classicism Redrawn

“The drawing is described as containing the effects of ‘three seemingly contradictory actions - destruction, restoration and reconstruction’ within one representation.”

Nomination, Best MArch Architecture Essay 2020

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James Higgins – The Modern City as Museum

“The modern-rendered city blocks are repeated down Via Delle Botteghe Oscure until its meeting with Via Florida, in which the built-up urban grain of the city reveals itself as an expanse of space...”

Provocations

Edwina Attlee, ‘Answer on a postcard: Footprints in time and space’ (2020)

“All postcards are from the same place, they are from ‘away’.” read

Mike Pearson, Wrights and Sites (2018)

“Some ‘walks’ offer specific routes, others imaginative games or provocations: ‘loiter without intent’. In An Exeter Mis-Guide the city is revealed through oblique engagements, with proposals such as ‘Borrow a dog from a friend. Let it take you for a walk’.” read more

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Francesca Tattershall – External and Internal Legibility

Look, touch, draw, listen – a walker's guide to mono and poly-culture forests.

Celia Tam – A Journey of Fish

Bream, carp, perch, pike - a journey with fish through London's fishy east end.

Samuel Napleton – A Walk through Green Spaces

A walk to unpick the term 'green spaces' – a rambling architect's guide to ancient forests, commonland and royal parks.

James Thormod – The Harvest: The Price of Control

A walk from the sky to the city allotment - listen to a guided walk that asks, in the context of land scarcity and food poverty, what is the price of controlling the harvest?

IV. World via laptop

Writing about space from confinement has meant having to write about physical boundaries from memory and, in some cases, spending more hours watching TV for inspiration. The absence of sensory experience has led to new observations and discoveries.

Provocations

Susan Warlow – Same Storm, Different Boat

Sitting room Denise bedroom late teens marriage painted ceiling rose lost detail

French enamel chandelier flowers striped awning colours Camden Passage read more

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Dylan Luke – The Places

“Life plays out on the backdrop of places. These scenes may take on the form of characters in their own right.”

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Francesca Miles – Bitter Tears

"There is movement from behind the staircase where the shapes of cats are doing something. It is too dark to tell.”

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James Jackson – An Adult's Tears

“The balding man with portobello ears and juicy lobes. Filled out jowls and a fine moustache."

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Naomi Cohen – Motherhood

“Another interview over webcam. Mr Rafael Bangod this time, Healthcare Advisor of Barack Obama.”

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Kay Razak – London's Last Tram

“At the hub of South London the famous inn sign still stands high above the traffic.”

In this episode we discuss information and 'distancelessness', the digital classroom, the discriminatory virus and other things we've learnt while in isolation.

V. Learning space

Notes on learning, from childhood to higher education; conversations about architectural education and practice, the role of narrative in education, the physical classroom and online learning.

Writing a dissertation podcast, by Henriette Desmoures and Phillipa Longson

Henriette Desmoures and Phillipa Longson received RIBA President’s Medals commendations for their dissertations in 2018 and 2016, respectively. In this podcast they discuss the process, their doubts, what got them through and what is the legacy of their dissertations

Provocations

Max McColl – Architects, Architecture, Architectural Education and Society

“Students should be encouraged to start theorising the value of what they are learning during the course and should be given help in doing this.” read more

Places Journal: Field Notes on Pandemic Teaching (series of co-authored articles) read

Sean Griffiths – It is emphatically not the job of architectural education to mimic practice (Dezeen, August 2019) read more

Reflections on learning, the social aspect of education, architectural education and practice.

Registering Traces – Material Evidence in Architectural Education

created by Lucia Medina Uriarte, Francesca Miles and Kay Razak

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Hannah O' Flaherty – Do as I Say, Not as I Do

"From chaotic interventions to reckless erasure, it is difficult to decipher where OMA position themselves in the preservation discourse."

Provocations

Ted Hughes – Myth and Education (1976)

“Somewhere in The Republic, where he describes the constitution of his ideal State, Plato writes a little about the education of the people who will live in it . . .” read more

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Riccardo Bela – Ode to Mythopia

“My first encounter with a mythical narration was at age fifteen. I was in a pale room, behind rows of small green desks sturdy like Titans lined up for battle.”

Provocations

Matthieu Tate (class of 2018-19), The Classroom: An Evolution in Learning

“The fifteenth century brought the structure of class to education; it characterizes the group of scholars, the period and the container in which teaching takes place." read more

Nicolo Spreafico (class of 2018-19), Aldo Van Eyck: A New Type of Modern Architecture

“Children return, for a few hours, sovereigns of the streets, which become spaces to play in freedom. It is a joyful, although temporary, break in the rhythm of the city.” read more

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Hosn Houssami – War and Wonder

“A child’s psychological ability to compartmentalise the horror surrounding warfare, is what allows childish wonder to inhabit the scenes of war.”

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Neringa Aliksandraviciute – Imaginary Play

“How long we can stay there? Ah, so many questions you want me to answer and it is just a start of it.”

VI. Dreaming in paintings, gardens and cities

First year students write about the Renaissance desire to reimagine and re-order the world, manifest in pictorial fantasies, landscape arrangements and urban plans of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

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Magdalena Solecka-Kowal – The Architecture of Banking in Renaissance Italy
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Marta Zemanek – Renaissance in Krakow in the Sixteenth Century
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Rory Farragher – Impact on the Viewer
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Iwona Debowska – Looking through an Open Window toward Infinity
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Karolina Miarka – Evolution of Formal Gardens in Italian Renaissance Villas
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Joanna Miesikowska – Ideal City and Society
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Oskar Goodwille – To what extent did the Renaissance Garden reflect a changing attitude in people’s relationship with Christianity at the turn of the 16th century?
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Hannah Bibby – From Temples to Piazzas

VII. Of time and memory

This small digital museum exhibits moments of silence, reflections on loss, layers of time in material culture, slow cinema, instances of remembrance through form, and memories of once-upon-a-time futures.

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Konstanze Martin – Working with Layers

“Along with the urge to create something permanent, we crave permanent solutions and frown upon the temporary intervention. Simultaneously, there is a tendency to take finished buildings too seriously . . .”

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Vittoria Rega – The Matter of Emptiness

“Pizzagalli underlines the narrative importance of voids. He draws the parallel between language and space (via cinema), in order to show that the city can be interpreted as an arrangement, a sequence, in which the void plays a fundamental role.”

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Francesca Miles – Secular Loss

“In contemporary secular society, death is treated as an emergency. Even in circumstances where fatality is expected and occurs within the private dwelling, its presence is quickly erased.”

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Karina Papianaite – Silences and Deconstructed Spaces

“In silence, the tea becomes an expression of communication, an unspoken message or even a signal.”

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Rebecca Woolman – The Future Isn’t what It Used to Be

“If you look carefully the skyline seems to quiver and crackle around these monoliths, like an old television changing channels between was is and what could have been.”

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Alessandra Catello – Architectural Forms of Holocaust Remembrance

“He inferred that persons desiring to train this faculty (of memory) must select places and form mental images of the things they wish to remember and store those images in the places. . . “ (Frances Yates, The Art of Memory)

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David Turner – The Existing Building Artistically Considered

“What exactly is the life of a building, and how is it significant?”