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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).
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 by Iain
Borden explores how architecture and cities are experienced and re-used by
members of the public.
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.
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
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
A selection of articles are available at