RESEARCH

RESEARCH

PhD Programme

http://www.openresearchwestminster.org/ 

The department of architecture fosters a strong and diverse approach to teaching, research and practice. It has an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research, for attracting award-winning staff and students, and for a wide range of scholarly activities. As contributors to the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment’s submission to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, our research was placed in the top 50% of the 45 submissions in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning. 20% of our publications and research effort were deemed to be ‘world leading’ (4*) and 45% ‘internationally excellent (3*). The four case studies of our research impact also scored very highly. This significant endorsement of our research capability has provided the foundation for expanding and enhancing our UK and international role since.

Research in the department is organised around five distinct themes, translated into five research groups:

  • Architectural History and Theory
  • Environment and Technology
  • Expanded Territories
  • Experimental Practice (EXP)
  • Representation, Fabrication and Computing

Architecture and Cities

Architecture and Cities is a research umbrella covering the strong and diverse research, scholarship, teaching and practice undertaken in the Department of Architecture at the University of Westminster. This structure encourages research through historical and socio-cultural research, design, practice and consultancy. It is organised into five distinct research groups:

Architectural History and Theory: This group engages in a wide range of research in architectural history and theory, cultural studies, urbanism and heritage, exploring the ‘what, why, how and for whom?’ of architectural and building custom and practice and the changing meanings and interpretations which have been placed upon them. The approach is not tied to any particular school of thought or methodology – the catholicity of approaches reflects the breadth and depth of the subjects. It is this academic broad-mindedness which attracts scholars and students and enables them to conduct ground-breaking research, resulting in numerous contributions to books and journals, the organising of conferences, symposia and exhibitions, bringing international recognition. Academic Staff: John Bold (Co-ordinator), Harry Charrington, Dusan Decermic, Davide Deriu, Richard Difford, Jon Goodbun, Constance Lau, Samir Pandya, Andrew Peckham, Shahed Saleem, Christine Wall, Victoria Watson, Julian Williams

Environment and Technology: Environment and Technology draws together two related strands of research in the Department of Architecture: environmental and ecological design, and practice driven research into the history and technological development of architecture. Specific areas of interest include a-typical construction technologies, the innovative and efficient use of materials, human comfort, building performance and passive methods for the heating, cooling and lighting of buildings. Research outputs include authored and edited books, regular journal/magazine articles and blogs, organizing and contributing to conferences/ symposia and PhD supervision. Academic Staff: Nasser Golzari, Jon Goodbun, Will McLean, Rosa Schiano-Phan, Pete Silver

Expanded Territories: Expanded Territories was set up in 2012 as an umbrella for a group of researchers, scholars and designers working on architecture in an expanded field. It is intellectually ambitious, innovative, and forward looking; it evokes a cultural project rather than merely a research field. It was formed to bring into dialogue the work of those probing sites and practices previously considered outside the realm of architecture – global mobilities, rurality, resource extraction sites, energy infrastructures, the underground, the ocean, the atmosphere etc. This work is framed by an emerging awareness of the planetary scale of urbanism, the trans-national scope of culture, by the discovery of the anthropocene and by the ethical imperative to work with the agency and rights of human and non-human actants (animals, plants, minerals) in the shaping of built environments. The group seeks to find new ways to conceptualise, speak about, represent and design architecture and cities in line with these conditions and objectives. Currently its work is focused around three themes: monsoon urbanisms, rurality and landscape. Academic Staff: Lindsay Bremner (Co-ordinator), Clare Carter, Corinna Dean, Krystallia Kamvasinou, Natalie Newey, Duarte Santo, Ben Stringer

Experimental Practice (EXP): The Experimental Practice research group (EXP) supports and promotes research in innovatory and experimental architecture. Set up in 2003 by Professor Kester Rattenbury, it explores the experimental projects – buildings, books, art works, imaginary, ‘paper’ and teaching projects – which act as a ‘laboratory’ for the architectural profession. Its inaugural projects were the Supercrit series, www. supercrits.com where world-class architects come ‘back to school’ to be ‘critted’ on a famous project, and the AHRC ‘Oustanding’-ranked Archigram Archival Project, http://archigram.westminster.ac.uk which made the work of this seminal architectural group available online. Academic Staff: Alessandro Ayuso, Peter Barber (Reader), Roberto Botazzi, Anthony Boulanger, Nasser Golzari, Prof Sean Griffiths, Eric Guibert (ADAPT-r Fellow, KU Leuven), Prof Katherine Heron, Gillian Lambert, Andrei Martin, Stuart Piercy, Shahed Saleem, Jane Tankard, Maria Veltcheva (Experienced Researcher, ADAPT-r) Filip Visnjic, Camilla Wilkinson, Julian Williams, Andrew Yau

Representation, Fabrication and Computing: This research group sets out to explore the nature of drawing and making in its broadest sense – both as a tool for research and as the vehicle for creative practice. Intended to cut across disciplinary boundaries, the work of the group encompasses a range of activities from historical analysis and the science of visual perception, to design-based research and the exploration of innovative new fabrication technologies. Research outputs including publications, conference papers, exhibitions and festivals. This work is organised through three sub-groups:

  • Body, Space and Representation
  • Design Through Fabrication
  • Spatial Interface

Academic Staff: Alessandro Ayuso, Roberto Bottazzi, Toby Burgess, Richard Difford, Steve Jensen, Arthur Mamou-Mani, Natalie Newey, Stuart Piercy, Kester Rattenbury, Paul Richens, David Scott, Ro Spankie, Allan Sylvester, Filip Visnjic, Richard Watson, Victoria Watson, Fiona Zisch

These are loose alignments of staff, research students, designers and practicing architects who undertake joint research initiatives and organise events of common interest. The Architectural History and Theory Group is made up of scholars and research students who conduct historical and theoretical research, consult on heritage matters, host symposia and conferences, write and edit books, journals and journal articles and curate exhibitions. Environment and Technology brings together two overlapping fields of research in the Department – environmental design and practice-driven research into the history and ongoing technological development of architecture. Expanded Territories brings together the work of a number of scholars critically probing sites and practices previously considered outside the realm of architecture as valid sites for architectural research and speculation. Experimental Practice (EXP) supports, documents and generates experimental design projects that have acted or act as laboratories for the architectural profession, including built and un-built design projects, books, exhibitions and other forms of practice. Representation, Fabrication and Computing explores the nature of drawing and making as tools for research and as the vehicles for creative practice.

For further details, visit our web pages here: https://www.westminster.ac.uk/architecture-and-cities

Architecture and Cities is represented at ARENA, a new European-wide Architectural Research Network by Kate Heron and Ben Stringer: http://www.arena-architecture.eu

PhD Students

The department accepts candidates who qualify for PhD research in fields in which its staff have expertise. For information of how to apply for a PhD at the University of Westminster, please visit:

www.westminster.ac.uk/courses/research-degrees/phd-study

In 2016/2017, a number of outstanding PhD candidates successfully defended their theses:

Samra Kahn – The Sethi merchants’ havelis in Peshawar, 1800-1910: form, identity and status. Supervisors: John Bold, Davide Deriu

Sarah Milne – Merchants of the City: Situating the London estate of the Drapers’ Company, c.1540-1640, Supervisors: John Bold, Lindsay Bremner

John Walter – Alien Sex Club: Educating audiences about continuing rates of HIV transmission using art and design, Supervisors: Linday Bremner, Victoria Watson, Francis White

Noha Alahmadi and Lilit Mnatsakanyan were awarded MPhil degrees.

Architectural Research Forum

The Architecture Department holds a bi-weekly research forum. This is an opportunity for staff and visiting fellows to present their work-in-progress to stimulate discussion and critical debate about their research. Seminars are open to all staff and students. During 2016/17, the programme was:

Victoria Watson: Rurality and Minimal Architecture: An Enquiry into the Genealogy of Tate Modern’s Bankside Gallery Spaces

Lindsay Bremner, Samir Pandya & Ben Stringer: Panel Discussion on Field Trips

Zhenzhou Weng: An e-Learning Tool for Environmental Design

John Bold: The Politics of Heritage Regeneration in South-East Europe

Alastair Blyth: Measuring the Effectiveness of School Design

Katharine Heron: Practice-based Research in the Context of the ADAPTr Exhibition

Julian Williams: Collaborative Research: Reporting from the Estate.

Joana Goncalves: The Environmental Quality of Brazilian Modernism

Nancy Stevenson & Roberto Bottazzi: Taking a Hike

Camilla Wilkinson: Dazzle

Davide Deriu: The Vertigo Project

In addition to this, a new series of department-focused research development workshops was inaugurated in 2016 and delivered by Christine Wall and Katherine Hammersley. Three workshops have been run to date: an overview of the research landscape and internal mechanisms and processes for making funding applications; a session on choosing a conference to attend and writing a successful conference abstract, and a session on making successful bids for internal and external funding

Research Projects

ADAPT-r: Practice-based research

University of Westminster leader: Professor Katharine Heron

The ADAPT-r project concluded in December 2016 after four years of intense work from the seven international partners including Westminster whose contribution was led by Professor Katharine Heron. In this time over 40 fellows were employed, we engaged in 8 training conferences known as Practice Research Symposia, delivered two research conferences, held a major exhibition in Ambika P3, and completed three key books.

All of this is available on the website: http://adapt-r.eu

Funded by the EU and Marie Curie, the training network expanded the ground-breaking PhD by Practice model developed and established at RMIT. The researchers (Creative Practitioners at varying stages of development of their PhD research) developed new research and exchange their findings across the partnership guided by the partners’ Scientific Committee. PhD by Practice assumes creative practitioners have a pre-existing body of mature work.

Participants shared intense public supervisory sessions at twice yearly Practice Research Symposia (PRS). They investigate their own research, within past and current practice, that is transformative of future practice. These generously open events are attended by over 100 practitioners and the work is presented for critique to supervisory panels with peers and external critics. The PhD examination is held in public, and during the course of ADAPT-r, nine candidates satisfactorily completed their defence, eight fellows were Senior researchers with PhD completed.

Monsoon Assemblages

Principal Investigator: Professor Lindsay Bremner

Research Associates: Dr Beth Cullen (anthropologist), Christina Geros (architect, landscape architect and urban designer)

PhD: Harshavardhan Bhat (political scientist) and Anthony Powis (architect)

MArch Studio DS18: Aligned with the project 2016-2019

Monsoon Assemblages is funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant Agreement no. 679873).

Monsoon Assemblages (MONASS) is a five-year research project funded by the European Research Council undertaking interdisciplinary, design-driven enquiries into relations between changing monsoon climates and urban development in three of South Asia’s largest cities: Chennai, Delhi and Dhaka.

The project is being undertaken at a time when extreme weather events converge with neo-liberal urban policies and rapid urban growth to produce fragile futures for urban survival. In this context, it adopts a novel approach, treating the monsoon not as an external threat, but as an organising principle of urban life and urban environments as more-than-human, monsoonal assemblages that operate across multiple scales and through media that are indivisibly natural, social, political and technological. It aims to produce knowledge of and design strategies for these environments and to assess the potential impact of this approach for the cities studied, the spatial design disciplines and the environmental humanities more generally.

In April 2017, MONASS hosted Monsoon [+other] Airs, the first of three annual symposia structured around the monsoon’s three material elements: air, water and ground. This was an interdisciplinary symposium that brought together scholars, journalists, designers and artists of monsoon science, air, politics, practices and risks. Sean Lally of Chicago based Weathers Architects was the keynote speaker.

For further information, visit the project’s web site: www.monass.org

Open Gaza

Co-ordinators:

  • Nasser Golzari, Yara Sharif (UK)
  • Professor Michael Sorkin, Vyjayanthi Rao, Quilian Riano (USA)

THE DEPARTMENT OF ARCHITECTURE, led by Nasser Golzari and Yara Sharif and MArch Design Studio DS22, are participating in a collaborative venture with Terreform Office in New York and the Palestine Regeneration Team (PART) called Open Gaza. Spearheaded by Professor Michael Sorkin, this is a project to explore how design, planning and technology can aid in advancing Gaza as a more resilient and sustainable city. Participants include practicing architects, urban designers, academics and social scientists. In November 2015, a conference hosted by the University of Westminster brought together a number of these participants. Further events are planned, to culminate in an exhibition and a book to be published by UR Books in 2017, with contributions from the UK, USA, India, Latin America and Palestine.

This extends an on-going research by design project by Golzari and Sharif to explore spatial possibilities in Palestine. Stemming from the urgent need for an alternative practice able to heal and nourish physical space as well as the space of imagination, they have been looking at responsive design interventions to rebuild Gaza, while also thinking about creative forms to reconstruct and stitch the fragmented landscape. One of the key outcomes is the ‘Green Learning Room.’ This prototype was developed with alternative construction techniques in mind to re-read and re-inhabit the city of Gaza. Oscillating between the scale of 1:1 and the scale of 1:10,000, it is seen as a way to rethink domesticity in a city that is no longer lived in in a conventional sense. Where the relationship between the street, the room, the internal and the external is blurred, it is seen as a way to trigger possibilities for dwelling, stitching and empowering.

ProBE

Prof Linda Clarke (WBS) is co-director of ProBE, Professor of European Industrial Relations in Westminster Business School, and president of the European Institute of Construction Labour Research, based in Brussels.

Colin Gleeson is deputy director of ProBE, Reader in fABE and chartered building services engineer with a doctorate in energy and buildings.

Christine Wall is co-director of ProBE, and Reader in Architectural and Construction History, fABE.

Research Fellow: Dr Melahat Sahin-Dikmen

PhD student: Denise Bowes

Resident visitors: PhD student Michael Mulvey (Maynooth University)

Visiting Scholars: Dr Valerie Francis (University of Melbourne), Dr Richard Clark (Birkbeck) and Prof Kazuhiko Asami (Senshu University, Japan)

The Centre for Research into the Production of the Built Environment (ProBE) is a cross-faculty centre spanning fABE and WBS. It is committed to a multi-disciplinary approach to investigating the planning, production, and social processes creating the structures and spaces that constitute our urban and rural built environments. The Centre consists of three joint Directors: Prof. Linda Clarke (WBS) and Readers, Christine Wall and Colin Gleeson (fABE) with Research Fellow Dr Melahat Sahin-Dikmen, full-time PhD students, Visiting Scholars and an external Advisory Board.

Our research spans contemporary issues such as the European Commission funded project Inclusive Vocational Education and Training for Low Energy Construction (€50,000). Prof Linda Clarke, Dr Colin Gleeson and Dr Melahat Sahin-Dikmen are external experts to 10 country partners. Clarke and Gleeson are also Co-Applicants on a Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Partnership Grant ($2,547,130.00) which funds the international project Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change: Canada in International Perspective (ACW) including the University of Westminster projects:

  • Green Transitions in the US and Europe: breadth, depth and worker agency, with Fred Steward (PSI)
  • Green Transitions in the Built Environment

The Centre also has a strong and active profile for research into architectural and construction history and has recently run two University of Westminster Strategic Research Funded Projects. Architecture and Building Labour: using oral and visual evidence to enrich policy and practice in the built environment (£23,750, 2016), with PI Dr Wall, and Co-Applicant Prof Clarke, catalogued and deposited the archive of the Constructing Post-War Britain oral history project at the Bishopsgate Library, produced a portable exhibition, and organised a symposium on Architecture and Building Labour.

The current project Housing and Labour: a pilot oral history of post-war council house building in England and Scotland (£23,750), with PI Dr Wall, Co-Applicant Prof Clarke and Research Fellow, Dr Melahat Sahin-Dikmen, prepares the groundwork for a major exploration of the role of local authority builders in post-war social house building. The Faculty also funded Dr Wall for Housing and Urban Change in London Fields: from gentlemen traders to feminist activists, a project using oral histories of former squatters and visual archive documents, to provide new insights into the origins of feminist architecture in London and wider processes of urban change.

Public Space and the Role of the Architect in London and São Paulo

Principal Investigator: Professor Susannah Hagan

Research Associates: Dann Jessen RIBA, Dr Neal Shasore, Professor Jose Lefèvre

Co Researchers: University of São Paulo: Professor Jose Lefèvre, Professor Monica Carmargo (Brazil)

Project Partners: British Council, Design Council, RIBA, RTPI, 20th Century Society (UK)

Funding bodies: AHRC (UK); FAPESP (Brazil)

This three-year research project is a collaboration between the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, University of Westminster, and the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, University of São Paulo. It takes advantage of the complex and often spectacular legacy of architectural Modernism in both London and São Paulo as a way of reflecting historically on contemporary public spaces in both cities, and on the changing role of the architect in their production.

The research is a response to a growing anxiety about the increasing privatisation of public space, and the demand for greater democratic authorship and ownership of it. This requires a wider and deeper examination of the neglected roles of the designer and design, which are as important to a discussion of the public realm as the debate about what constitutes ‘public’. In a contemporary social context of growing demand for greater democratic authorship and ownership of the built environment, in particular its public realm, the role of design needs to be understood by designers and their clients in a far more informed way. If public space is co-constituted, then attention needs to be paid to the space as well as to the public.

Today, there are marked similarities between London and São Paulo: they are both financial capitals, and they both have multicultural populations. They both suffer from a wide divide between rich and poor, and from chronic housing shortages. More importantly for this research, both tend to think about public space defensively, mirroring social segregation with spatial segregation. The emptiness of many public spaces in São Paulo, and its over-surveillance in London, are symptoms of urban dysfunction unanticipated by the optimistic public space agenda of architectural Modernism.

Vertigo in the City

Vertigo in the City is an exploratory research project led by Dr Davide Deriu in the Department of Architecture at the University of Westminster and in collaboration with Dr Josephine Kane (University of the Arts London). It has been funded by a Wellcome Trust Grant in the Medical Humanities. Prompted by the rapid growth of cities around the world, this project investigates the phenomenon of vertigo in relation to the urban environment. The term vertigo was often used to describe the maelstrom of the twentieth-century metropolis. What is its significance today? And how can this concept – with its inherent tension between thrill and anxiety – help us to interpret the contemporary urban experience?

These questions inform a series of meetings, field trips, and other activities conducted by a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, which comprises of Professor John Golding (Department of Psychology, University of Westminster) and Professor Brendan Walker (Horizon Centre for Digital Economy Research, University of Nottingham), alongside Dr Deriu and Dr Kane.The scoping phase of the project culminated in a two-day symposium that brought together scholars and practitioners from the sciences, arts and humanities to discuss how sensations of dizziness and disorientation are variously analysed, treated, evoked, induced, and represented (Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, 29-30 May 2015).

http://vertigointhecity.com/

Twitter: @vertigo_city