The Bartlett School of Architecture

Prof Jane Rendell

Prof Jane Rendell

Professor in Critical Spatial Practice

The Bartlett School of Architecture

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
1st Sep 2000

Research summary

My research is transdisciplinary and since 1994 has focused on exploring the relationship between architecture and other disciplines – feminist theory and architectural history, art and architecture, autobiographical writing, psycholanalysis and criticism – through individual and collaborative international research projects.

My early work on gender and architecture in this area sought to develop a feminist practice of architectural history, and to draw autobiographical concerns into academic writing, specifically in an essay called '(Un)doing Architecture' from 1998. Key publications include a sole authored book Jane Rendell, The Pursuit of Pleasure:  Gender, Space and Architecture in Regency London, (2002) and reader, Gender, Space, Architecture, (1999), co-edited with Iain Borden and Barbara Penner. 

In response to my teaching of site-specific art, as the Course Director of The Theory and Practice of Public Art and Design (1998-2000) at Chelsea College of Art Design, I first coined the term 'critical spatial practice' in an article of 2002, to describe works that operate between art and architecture, that test disciplinary limits, and intervene into sites in order to critique embedded power relations. I developed these ideas in an authored book, Jane Rendell, Art and Architecture: A Place Between, (2006). 

In writing 'about' various art and architectural projects, I became aware the criticism was itself a form of critical spatial practice, and I developed the practice of site-writing as a form of situated criticism. Site-writing aims to draw out the spatial qualities of the critic’s engagement with a work and to configure materially what happens when discussions concerning situatedness and site-specificity enter the practice of writing, In 2011, a set of essays and text-works were published together as Site-Writing: The Architecture of Art Criticism by IB Tauris. My site-writing work been delivered as international keynotes, and invited talks worldwide in galleries/museums, and university settings. Sections have been translated into Armenian, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. 

One particular site-writing project entitled May Mo(u)rn takes a collection of abandoned black and white photographs of modernist architectural icons found in a derelict arts and crafts house called 'May Morn' as a starting point for a discussion of London's post war social housing projects. Morn and mourn are homonyms, one suggests a beginning, the other an ending. Morning begins the day, while mourning – in grieving the loss of something or someone – marks an ending. This text-image work juxtaposes resurgence and decay, siting a fascination with the backwards gaze of nostalgia in relation to anticipation as a yearning that moves forward. This writing forms one strand of a tri-partite book on architecture, psychoanalysis and transitional spaces, published as The Architecture of Psychoanalysis by IB Tauris, in 2017.

My recent work is concerned with the practice of ethics, and developing a mode of critical spatial practice that engages with the institutional structures that position writing subjects, from places of home to those of work, including the university itself. Recent publications include a site-writing, Silver (2017), part of the Lost Rock series, edited and curated by A Published Event (Justy Phillips and Margaret Woodward), and Reactivating the Social Condenser, a special issue of The Journal of Architecture, co-edited with anthropologist Dr Michal Murawski, which traces the history of the soviet social condenser as a radical concept and practice of social housing.

Teaching summary

The interdisciplinary BA and MA teaching modules and courses I have developed evidence a close relationship with my research. At the Bartlett, on the MArch Programme, and through the MA Architectural History, and now the MA Situated Practice, my module ‘Site-Writing’, which I have led since 2002, students develop innovative ways of ‘writing architecture’; this involves working with artists, fiction-writers, graphic designers and poets, using workshops and practice-led research crits as teaching modes. 

Artists books and performative works produced as part of the Site-Writing module have been displayed several times at public venues, first as Site-Writing/Site-Reading, at the Cities Methodologies conference hosted by the Urban Laboratory in 2013, curated by Anna Andersen with Dr Polly Gould; then as Gutter/Index/Margin curated by Joanne Preston, Rachel Siobhan Tyler and Lili Zarzycki at the MA Architecture Conference, at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL in October 2017, the Situated Practices conference at UCL’s Here East in October 2017, and as part of the fringe to the Folkestone Triennale in November 2017. In 2018 work has been performed and site-writing workshops led by alumni of the module at the Creative Critic conference at the University of Newcastle in June 2018, and as Reconstructions, curated by Emma Filippides, with Maria McLintock, as part of the Urban Storytelling event, hosted by Emily Stone, at the Bartlett School of Architecture, as part of the Bloomsbury Festival. 

I have also conducted 'site-writing' workshops with students in KTH, Stockholm; RMIT; The University of Tasmania; The University of South Australia; The Prague Quadrennial; The University of Calgary; The University of Aalborg; Aarhus University; Central St Martins; University of Woodbury. 

I have been developing a new area of PhD research which examines critical writing as form of spatial practice and has attracted PhD students internationally, many of whom have obtained scholarships to study at UCL, from their home countries. I have first-supervised over 22 doctoral students to completion, (of these: 5 with 3-year UCL graduate school scholarships, 7 with 3-year AHRC/LAHP 3-year PhD scholarships, and 1 with a Canadian Arts and Humanities Scholarship). I am currently first supervisor for 6 full-time and 2 part-time PhD students. (1 with a 3-year UCL graduate school scholarship, 1 with a scholarship from the Chilean Government, 1 with an RIBA Ozolin PhD Biannual Scholarship, 1 with an ESRC 3-year PhD scholarship, and 4 with 3-year AHRC/LAHP PhD scholarships). I have examined 25 PhDs (2003-18), 17 externally and 8 internally.


Birkbeck College
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1998
University College London
Other higher degree, Master of Science | 1994
University of Edinburgh
Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), Diploma of Architecture | 1992
To be updated
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts (Honours) | 1988


I am Professor of Critical Spatial Practice at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, where I co-initiated and teach on the MA Situated Practice, and on the MA Architectural History. I supervise history/theory and design PhDs in architecture, art, urbanism and experimental writing. 

My research, writing and pedagogic practice crosses architecture, art, feminism, history and psychoanalysis. I have (co-)edited 10 books, written 5 sole authored books and over 100 papers/chapters on architectural, material and cultural histories; critical spatial practices and situated criticism; psychoanalysis, subjectivity and housing. I have introduced concepts of ‘critical spatial practice’ and ‘site-writing’ through my authored books: The Architecture of Psychoanalysis (2017), Silver (2016), Site-Writing (2010), Art and Architecture (2006), and The Pursuit of Pleasure (2002). My co-edited collections include Reactivating the Social Condenser (2017), Critical Architecture (2007), Spatial Imagination (2005), The Unknown City (2001), Intersections (2000), A Place Between (1999) Gender, Space, Architecture (1999) and Strangely Familiar (1995).

Working with Dr David Roberts, Bartlett Ethics Fellow, I lead the Bartlett’s Ethics Commission; and, with Research Associate, Dr Yael Padan, I am Co-I for the Ethics of Research Practice for KNOW (Knowledge in Action for Urban Equality: PI Prof Caren Levy). Together we produced an on-line educational ethics tool which won an RIBA Research Award in 2021-2. In 2018 I was awarded the History/Theory prize at the RIBA Research Awards for, May Mo(u)rn, my work on housing, psychoanalysis and ethics and a Provost's Education Award for our work on ethics.

I been invited to write about artists such as Jananne Al Ani, Daniel Arsham, Bik Van Der Pol, Jasmina Cibic, Nathan Coley, Janet Hodgson, Jane Prophet, Tracey Moffatt, Apollonia Susteric, transparadiso, Adriana Verajao, Richard Wentworth. My talks and texts have been commissioned by galleries, for example, the Baltic, The Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, Gallerie Emmanuel Perotin, FRAC Centre, Orléans, the Hayward, the Kunstmuseet Koge Skitsesamling, Kunstmuseum Thon, the Serpentine, the Tate, the Wapping Project and the Whitechapel. Recent essays have been commissioned by Anthony Spira of the Milton Keynes Gallery, for Lie of the Land, (2019) and by Charlotte Day, Shelley McSpedden & Elise Routledge for Unsettlement, (2018), Monash Art Gallery, Melbourne. I regularly give keynote addresses at international conferences, at The Universities of Yale and Arizona in 2018, and at the University of Pennsylvania and Woodbury in 2019.