The Bartlett School of Architecture

Prof Edward Denison

Prof Edward Denison

Professor of Architecture and the Other

The Bartlett School of Architecture

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
1st Aug 2007

Research summary

Professor Denison's wide-ranging research is motivated by the notion of ‘otherness’, exploring the resistance to and the role, practice and imperative of non-canonical architectural histories, especially outside the west and in relation to modernity. Underlying all of his work is a deep concern for sustainability – ecologically, culturally and socially. 

Current research is focussed on other histories of architecture, the Anthropocene and the modern heritage of Africa. This has evolved partly from two-decades of work in Eritrea, culminating most recently in the inscription of Asmara, Eritrea’s capital city, onto UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2017 - a first for Eritrea and a first for modernism in Africa. In 2016, this research received the RIBA President's Award for Research in History and Theory and won the President's Medal for Research. As an oeuvre of work, this research has been selected to be an Impact Case Study in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF). 


His most recent publication, Ultra-Modernism: Architecture and Modernity in Manchuria (Hong Kong University Press, 2017), co-authored with Guang Yu Ren (Lecturer, Bartlett School of Architecture), also won the RIBA President's Award for Research in History and Theory and the President's Medal for Research.

Also published in 2017, Architecture and the Landscape of Modernity in China before 1949 (Routledge, 2017) examines architecture and modernity in the turbulent era in China before the advent of Communism. The underlying research, a small part of which was shortlisted in the RIBA President's Award for Research in History and Theory in 2018, originated from his AHRC-funded PhD, which was awarded a Commendation in the RIBA President’s Award for Outstanding PhD Thesis in 2012. For his upgrade from MPhil to PhD, he published Modernism in China – Architectural Visions and Revolutions (Wiley, 2008) and curated an accompanying 3-month exhibition in the main gallery at the RIBA to coincide with the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

Other significant published research outputs include Luke Him Sau: Architect - China's Missing Modern (Wiley, 2014); Building Shanghai – The Story of China’s Gateway (Wiley, 2006); The Life of the British Home – An Architectural History (Wiley, 2012); McMorran & Whitby (RIBA, 2009); and Asmara – Africa’s Secret Modernist City (Merrell, 2003).

Teaching summary

Edward Denison has taught at The Bartlett School of Architecture for ten years. His primary teaching roles are on various postgraduate programmes, though he frequently lectures to undergraduates and is regularly an invited guest speaker at academic and professional organisations nationally and internationally.

09.16 – present: Director and Module Coordinator of MA Architecture and Historic Urban Environments. This programme promotes a fresh and critical approach to creative interventions at all scales, aimed at reinterpreting, rejuvenating and rethinking historic urban environments in the 21st century. Students examine cities from around the world, using London as an outstanding laboratory for learning. Prof. Denison organises the Field Trip, which is a major component of the programme, with former destinations including Tel Aviv (Israel), Asmara (Eritrea), and Kaunas (Lithuania). https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/architecture/programmes/postgraduate/ma-architecture-and-historic-urban-environments 

01.16 – present: Module Coordinator, MA Architectural History. My module is titled ‘Multiple Modernities Architecture’, which encourages students to question conventional modernist historiography by exploring architectural encounters with modernity outside its dominant geographical, theoretical and professional territories.

09.15 - present: PhD Supervision. I am currently supervising ten PhD students (primary and secondary).  

10.14 – 09.20: Co-coordinator, Year 5 Thesis. Co-coordinator of the thesis programme for approximately 120 Year 5 students in the final year of their Part 2 architecture degree who are required to produce a c.10,000-word thesis. 

09.10 – 03.17: Teaching Fellow, Year 4 History & Theory. He started his teaching career with a seminar series on the Year 4 History & Theory programme titled ‘Hidden Histories and Multiple Modernities’, based on my research on modernism outside the west. He taught on the course for seven years until 2017.


Edward Denison is Professor of Architecture and Global Modernities at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, and has twenty-years’ experience as an independent consultant specialising in urban and cultural heritage. He is Director of the MA Architecture and Historic Urban Environments, Module Coordinator of ‘Multiple Modernities Architecture’ on the MA Architectural History, and a PhD Supervisor.

Professor Denison has lived, worked and studied in Oceania, Asia, Africa and Europe, and now combines this experience with teaching in London. He has written and photographed over 20 books on architecture and design and regularly presents his work to academic and public audiences internationally through lectures, tours, articles, and exhibitions. His primary interest has always been sustainability, in all its forms, and can be traced through most of his research projects in the form of imbalances of power. This can be read variously through colonialism, imperialism, modernism, and anthropocentricism.

Current work includes: heritage projects with the Municipalities of Gdynia (Poland), Kaunas (Lithuania), Asmara (Eritrea), and Beijing (China); academic and scientific affiliations with the China Academy of Art (China); founding member of the Modern Cities Network and the Modern Heritage of Africa/Modern Heritage in the Anthropocene (MoHoA); and a forthcoming co-authored book on architectural drawing with RIBA Publishers.