Prof Iain Borden

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Iain Borden is Professor of Architecture and Urban Culture at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, where he is also Vice-Dean Education for The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, having previously been Vice-Dean Communications (2010-15) and Head of the Bartlett School of Architecture (2001-09). 

Twitter @iainborden

As an architectural historian and urban commentator, my work has explored various interdisciplinary intersections of architectural history, cultural history, critical theory and urbanism. I am particularly interested in the ways in which urban and architectural spaces are experienced and perceived by people after the moment at which these spaces have been first constructed - that is, the various ways in which buildings and cities constantly change and evolve depending on their different uses and lives over many years and through different media. My inaugural professional lecture – “Machines of Possibility” (2004) – describing this approach is available for download.

My wide-ranging research interests within architecture and urban culture are described below. A specialist on the history and practice of skateboarding, most recently I have also completed a history of automobile driving, urban experience and cinema, now being followed by new work on an experiential history of the buildings and spaces of London. I continue to research on skateboarding, and regularly consult and advise those wishing to engage with skateboarding and skateboarders. I operate extensively in the public arena, making numerous media appearances on the radio and television worldwide, while also curating and participating in exhibitions, debates, symposia, workshops and other academic and public events worldwide.

An Honorary Fellow of the RIBA, I have guided architectural education and research internationally, helping to write the QAA Benchmarking Statement for Architecture (2006-10), acting as a Strategic Reviewer for the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2011-12), evaluating refereed articles and book proposals for over 40 journals and publishers, as well as assessing research funding applications in countries such as Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Singapore, USA and the UK.

Research Summary

Research by Iain Borden explores how architecture and cities are experienced and re-used by members of the public.

Architecture and cities are crucial to how people live and society operates. Without homes, shops and parks, without offices, workplaces and airports, our world would grind to a halt. As a historian and theorist of architecture and urban culture, I am interested not just in how our cities function but also how they are designed, what they mean to people and how they are experienced.

Ultimately, architecture is assessed by those who use it everyday, and so much of my research is about how people not trained in architecture perceive the cities they live in. To do this, I have studied a diverse range of subjects and places, from Italian renaissance piazzas to surveillance cameras in shopping malls, from architectural modernism to recent postmodernism, from issues of gender and ethnicity in cities to the way architecture is represented in cinema and photography. In particular, I have completed an in-depth study of the urban practice of skateboarding, looking at how skateboarders adopt modern cities as their own pleasure-ground, creating a concrete wonderland with its own subculture of clothes, attitudes and actions. I have also extended this investigation into the world of automobile driving, looking at movies to explore how people’s experiences of the city from the car changes their engagement with architecture and urban space. Recent work explores how specific places and buildings in cities worldwide can be encountered through different kinds of social engagement, such as memory and risk-taking.

Authored and co-edited publications include:

•      Forty Ways to Think About Architecture: Architectural History and Theory Today (2014).
•     The Dissertation: a Guide for Architecture Students (3rd revised ed., 2014; Chinese ed. 2010).
•      Drive: Journeys through Film, Cities and Landscapes (2013).

•      Bartlett Designs: Speculating With Architecture (2009).

•      Transculturation: Cities, Spaces & Architectures in Latin America (2005).
•      Bartlett Works (2004).
•      The City Cultures Reader (revised ed., 2003).
•      Manual: the Architecture & Office of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (2003).

•      Skateboarding Space & the City: Architecture & the Body (2001; Japanese ed. 2006; revised version forthcoming).
•      The Unknown City: Contesting Architecture & Social Space (2001).
•      The New Babylonians, n.151 of Architectural Design (AD), v.71 n.3, (June 2001).
•      InterSections: Architectural Histories & Critical Theories (2000).

•      Gender Space Architecture: an Interdisciplinary Introduction (1999).
•      Strangely Familiar: Narratives of Architecture in the City (1996).

•      Architecture & the Sites of History: Interpretations of Buildings & Cities (1995).

A selection of articles are available at

Research outputs

Ollies at the Olympics: why having skateboarding at Tokyo 2020 is a winning move 2016 Borden IM
Shut up and Skate: Skateboarding’s Performative Urban Critique/Quatsch Nicht, Skate: Skateboarding als Performative Kritik an Städen/Ferme-la et Skate: le Skateboard Comme Critique Urbaine Performative 2015 Borden IM
Architecture du Corps: Skateboard et Création d’Espace Super-Architectural/Body Architecture: Skateboarding and the Creation of Super-Architectural Space 2015 Borden IM
The New Skate City: How Skateboarders are Joining the Urban Mainstream 2015 Borden IM
Southbank Skateboarding, London and Urban Culture: the Undercroft, Hungerford Bridge and House of Vans 2015 Borden IM
The Southbank Controversy: Skateboarding and Urban Youth in London 2015 Borden IM
An Interview with Professor Iain Borden on the ‘Long Live Southbank’ Campaign and Skatepark Design from the 1970s to the Present 2015 Borden IM
The Singapore Flyer: experiencing Singaporean modernity through architecture, motion and Bergson 2014 Borden I
The Spaces of Skateboarding 2014 Borden IM
The World's Most Popular Architecture: the Technology and Interior of the Automobile 2014 Borden IM
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Research activities

Bartlett Designs: Speculating with Architecture
Drive: Journeys through Film, Cities & Landscapes
Everyday Constructions: Global Manifestations of Postmodern Urban Space
Imaging Architecture
Manual: the Architecture and Office of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
Playtime: Tativille and Paris
Skateboarding, Space and the City
Thinking About Architecture