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Dr Sophie Read

Dr Sophie Read

UCL Teaching Fellow

The Bartlett School of Architecture

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
1st Sep 2016

Research summary

My doctoral research at the Bartlett, which explored the architect Sir John Soane’s six popular lectures on architecture at the Royal Institution of Great Britain (RI) in London (1817 and 1820), is an interdisciplinary project that worked across architectural history, theatre history, fine art, historiographical practice and performance studies. Soane’s RI lectures occurred approximately half way through the architect’s more famous and previously studied lectures (Watkin 1994 and Bolton 1929), which he gave as Third Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy of Arts, between 1809-1836. My research shows how these RI lectures — which have been almost completely neglected and never academically studied by other scholars — reveal a new side of the existing known story of this important British architect’s lecturing practice; shifted from their existing interpretation as a form of textual knowledge, into a completely new, early nineteenth-century performance and performative discipline. Based on close archival research, key findings of this work include uncovering Soane’s own close attention to his spoken delivery, and to his use of the material manuscript page to score the future use of words and drawings together to communicate architecture while lecturing on stage. I also explore Soane’s architectural office’s practice of making lecture drawings suited to their purpose of performing an argument in the temporal lecture itself and in response to the material architectural spaces of the RI lecture theatre.

In addition to uncovering a range of new empirical evidence about the Soane office’s practical, performance-related processes and material culture of lecturing architecture – and reading this within a broader culture of literary lectures, scientific demonstration and rhetoric from the period – my work also heavily draws on and interrogates performance studies as a methodology for reading and practicing architectural history. Indeed, an important part of this work has been to intensely explore the implications and significance of turning to performance history and theory to read design practices from the past. I consider what this epistemological and methodological context offers for accessing and engaging with new dimensions of the history; for reading and writing the evidence in new ways; and for investigating/surfacing/activating the existing historiography and value systems around word and image which are evident in Soane’s lectures’ existing treatment by other historians and archivists.

Teaching summary

I have 4 years of experience teaching history and theory to architecture students and have been a Teaching Fellow at the Bartlett since 2016. As part of this role, I teach a range of modules, including on the subject of architectural writing (‘ArchiTexts’) and architectural drawings (‘The Limits of Drawing’) to Year 2 and Year 3 BSc Architecture students. I also teach architectural research modules to BSc Architectural & Interdisciplinary Studies students, where I am Module Coordinator to Year 1 (‘Architectural Research I’) and Dissertation Tutor to Years 2/3 (‘Architectural Research III’). I was nominated in 2018 for a UCL Student Choice Award for Diverse & Inclusive Education (“for making sure students’ curriculum or research recognises marginalised scholars, and shining a light on diverse perspectives”). I am committed to developing a range of innovative, inclusive and practical pedagogies and visual and object-based teaching, directly influenced by my own research. I offer specialist expertise in architectural history, performance studies, drawing, fine art, and interdisciplinary and historiographical research process/practice.

Education

University College London
PhD, Architectural History | 2018
University College London
MA, History of Architecture | 2010
Camberwell College of Art
BA Hons, Fine Art | 2007

Biography

I am an interdisciplinary historian and artist. I was trained in the practice of drawing at Camberwell College of Art (2003-07), before studying architectural history at the Bartlett (2009-10); a trajectory which has informed my creative and scholarly approaches to the reading, writing and teaching of architectural history and theory. I am a Teaching Fellow at The Bartlett, teaching on both BSc Architecture, and Architectural & Interdisciplinary Studies programmes. I am also Programme Coordinator for MPhil/PhD Architecture Design and MPhil/PhD Architecture and Urban History & Theory Programmes (shared with Dr Nina Vollenbroker) for academic year 2018/19.

I am currently working on a collaborative project with architectural historian Adrian Forty entitled ‘The Limits of drawing’ or ‘When drawings Fail’, resulting in a co-authored essay. I recently worked at the V&A as Factory Project Cataloguer, cataloguing drawings by Soane which were acquired by the V&A through the architect’s former assistant C.J. Richardson. My recent work, together with artist and architect Tijana Stevanovic, is published in the collection Architecture and Feminisms: Ecologies, Economies, Technologies (2018) by Routledge.

My current research also comprises two interlinked strands that have developed from my doctoral work. The first strand, is a history of the early nineteenth-century architectural lectures of the neo-classical architect John Soane at the Royal Institution in London, conducted through archival work of written manuscripts and the large lecture drawings prepared by the Soane office for these lectures. Secondly, it involves the interrogation of the practice of architectural history itself as a form of creative, performance and performative practice. I am fascinated by the significance of and difference that approaching historical enquiry through the eyes of the practitioner, or as an artist, makes to the questions one asks, the evidence that one in turn notices and uncovers, and the ways in which the history can be accessed, written, imaged and communicated. My critical and creative research occupies that careful ground between precise empirical work, close observation and assessment of material evidence within its historical context; and subjective and self-reflexive modes of engaging with and writing that evidence and the process of reading it.

Publications