Ms Julia Backhaus
Associate Professor in Architecture
The Bartlett School of Architecture
Faculty of the Built Environment
- Joined UCL
- 26th Sep 2005
The focus of Julia’s work as an architect, educator and researcher interrogates connections between health and architecture. She explores health not only as a question of access but as a socio- political and cultural tool that shapes the quality of our built environment. Both with realised and conceptualised work, she sees design research as a tool to speculate about future scenarios and as a platform where research-led practice can provide real world solutions. In her research and practice, Julia is strongly invested in interdisciplinary, experimental and collaborative research methods, advocating to holistically design a project’s ecosystem, including a supply chain that is sustainable and regenerative. This has involved close and direct collaboration with Prof Sir Magdi Yacoub OM, a pre-eminent heart surgeon and Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Imperial College London. Together, they have worked on several health projects in Ethiopia, Burundi and Rwanda, creating new models of public healthcare and its delivery in the Global South. This work is complemented by UK based research with the NHS and focused on understanding hygienic boundaries that interrogate the uncertainties and contradictions in cultures, which have largely been influenced by Western medicine. Her current work involves the design and built of the first cardiac teaching hospital in Kigali, Rwanda and the wider region. It is a mission-aligned project and foresees to conduct 800 free-of-charge cardiovascular surgeries per year. Its medical ambition is to transfer knowledge, skills and expertise across the region and help create a biomedical and innovation knowledge base, which can be exported to Africa and the world at large.
In 2003, Julia was invited by Sir Peter Cook to join the Bartlett as a unit tutor and has been teaching UG5 alongside Marjan Coletti, Pedro Font Alba, Martin Tang, Pedro Pitarch and now Ben Hayes. Her research interests in health and environmental wellbeing have informed her teaching. The unit is a laboratory for imaginative re-thinking of health related architecture – the discourse critically interrogates how our profession responds to the use of natural resources, and the cultural identity of place in conjunction with provision of care in communities and vulnerable ecosystems. Julia is a passionate design tutor and nurtures interdisciplinary, inclusive, innovative and research-based teaching methodologies. Her students have consistently produced work of exceptionally high quality, originality and rigour. The unit’s work has attracted national and international publicity, including publications and exhibitions such as the Royal Academy of Arts London and the Hong Kong Biennale. Students have received numerous internal, national and international awards, including several RIBA Bronze Medal nominations and a winning entry in 2020. Julia has extensively taught at UG and PG and post professional level and held positions as Teaching Fellow at Kingston University and as Visiting Lecturer at Oxford Brooks University.