Dr Sophie Read
The Bartlett School of Architecture
Faculty of the Built Environment
- Joined UCL
- 1st Apr 2014
My research interests include architecture and orality, the history of the lecture as an architectural medium (and its distinctiveness alongside the architect’s other customary media), architectural drawings, nineteenth century performance cultures, and intersections between architectural history and theatre and performance history.
I am currently Paul Mellon Centre for British Art Postdoctoral Fellow, which supports the writing of the manuscript of my first book, Soane the Lecturer, exploring the architect John Soane's Royal Institution lectures (MIT Press, release Spring 2023). I am also working on a co-edited book project with Prof. Jane Rendell and Dr Robin Wilson, titled Figurations: Practices of Architectural History and Theory, foregrounding architectural history and theory pedagogy and research as practice and suggesting the potential methodological links with design and practice-led research. I am engaged in a third project, In and Outside the Archive: Evidencing Spatial Performance / Performing Spatial Evidence, with Dr Ruth Bernatek, examining practical questions of retrieving and reconstructing spatial evidence associated with past historical performances or situated sonic practices/events (1800-present).
My forthcoming book Soane the Lecturer, which is also supported by a Paul Mellon Publication Grant, Samuel H. Kress History of Art Grant and the Tavolozza Foundation explores the architect Sir John Soane’s six popular lectures on architecture at the Royal Institution of Great Britain (RI) in London (1817 and 1820). In contrast to the attention given to his Royal Academy of Arts (RA) lectures, delivered in person between 1809–20 (Watkin, 1996 and 2000, Bolton, 1929), comparatively little is known about the talks he gave at the RI. My research provides the first account of these neglected lectures, uncovering the ways they were tailored to communicate architecture to the RI’s non-specialist audience and newly revealing Soane’s methods of visual rhetoric and argumentation through his lecture drawings. The book also considers Soane’s lecturing in relation to other contemporary oral genres of the scientific demonstration, literary lecture and even the sermon. In so doing, I uncover a completely new side to the existing story of Soane the rhetorician, specifically addressing this facet of his practice as a form of early-nineteenth-century architectural performance.
An important part of my research is to intensely explore the implications and significance of turning to theatre and 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 past. But also for expressing the history in fresh ways: For using images and the material page to actively make arguments; for finding new methods of reading and writing in response to specific, historical drawings and texts; for surfacing and activating the politics, historiography and value systems around word and image that are evident, for example, in Soane’s lectures and their treatment by others in the past.
I am a Lecturer (Teaching) at the Bartlett. As part of this role, I teach and have taught a range of modules, including on the subject of architectural representation ('Representations of Architecture'), architectural writing (‘ArchiTexts’) and architectural drawings (‘The Limits of Drawing’) to Year 2 and Year 3 BSc Architecture students. The latter bespoke module is based on my own research, blending history and theory, with the studio and practical history methods. For these seminars, I developed alternating pedagogies: one week running architectural drawing object-based sessions in/with key collections (RIBA, V&A, Soane Museum, Drawing Matter), followed by discursive / practical seminars based on reading texts and studying the work of others who use drawing in their own historical scholarship, as well as incorporating actual drawing exercises. 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 3 (‘Architectural Research III’). I am also Admissions Tutor for the BSc Architectural and Interdisciplinary Studies programme and Programmes Co-coordinator of the school's MPhil/PhD in Architecture Design and Architectural and Urban History and Theory. 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.
- University College London
- Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2018
- University College London
- Other higher degree, Master of Arts | 2010
- Camberwell College of Art
- First Degree, Bachelor of Arts (Honours) | 2007
I am an interdisciplinary architectural historian, writer and educator. I am Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art Postdoctoral Fellow (2020-21) and Lecturer (Teaching) at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, where I teach history and theory on the BSc Architecture and Architectural and Interdisciplinary Studies (AIS) programmes. I am also Admissions Tutor for the BSc Architectural and Interdisciplinary Studies programme and Programmes Co-coordinator of the school's MPhil/PhD in Architecture Design and Architectural and Urban History and Theory. My research interests include the history of the lecture as a medium of architecture, architectural drawings from the nineteenth century until the present and intersections between architectural history and theatre and performance history. I was trained in the practice of drawing at Camberwell School of Art (2004-07, First Class), before studying architectural history at the Bartlett (2009-10, Distinction). This trajectory has led me to teach and practise history as a creative and performative process of questioning and performing evidence and the politics of the archive; a method of working also informed by feminist art and architectural history, performance studies and art practice. My recent work has been published in the anthologies, Architecture Through Drawing (with Adrian Forty, ‘The Limits of Drawing’, Lund Humphries, 2019), Architecture and Feminisms: Ecologies, Economies, Technologies (with Tijana Stevanović, ‘Overpainting that Jostles’, Routledge, 2018) and in the journal Romanticism (forthcoming special issue ‘Romanticism and the RI’, 2022). I am currently writing the book manuscript of my research on Soane's Royal Institution lectures (forthcoming, MIT Press).