This programme addresses the histories and theories of architecture, cities and landscape, positioning history and theory as an integral part of design.
The MPhil/PhD programme in Architectural and Urban History and Theory addresses the histories and theories of architecture, cities and landscape. It encompasses how these are affected by intellectual, social, economic, political and environmental contexts over time. The programme’s purpose is to educate candidates in history and theory, not as supplementary discourses to architectural, urban and landscape design, but as integral parts of these fields of knowledge, in past, current and future issues facing society.
Students are expected to become independent thinkers, making an original contribution to knowledge and expanding the disciplinary discourse in their field of inquiry. They are encouraged to reflect, within the shifting boundaries of their discipline, the rapidly changing nature of the architectural profession and how these are affected by societal and institutional challenges.
Candidates use a range of methods from field work and archival research to ethnographic and qualitative tools. They draw from the unique multi-disciplinary environment of The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment and UCL’s departments, including, but not limited to, anthropology, political science, forensic science, literature, the fine arts, history of technology, environmental history and ecology.
History and Theory doctorates at The Bartlett began in the years after Reyner Banham came to the school (then the School of Environmental Studies) in 1964 as Reader in Architectural History. The most celebrated of Banham's early students was Charles Jencks, whose 1969 thesis became the book ‘Modern Movements in Architecture’ (1973).
Developed through individual research investigations and supported by regular tutorials with a principal and a secondary supervisor, an Architectural and Urban History and Theory thesis consists of a text of around 80,000-100,000 words.
In their first year, candidates are registered as MPhil students, but are then expected at the end of that year (or second year if part-time) to upgrade to PhD status. A full-time candidate is expected to complete the PhD in three to four years, whilst a part-time candidate completes theirs in five to seven years.
Within The Bartlett School of Architecture, the Architectural and Urban History and Theory MPhil/PhD programme has a longstanding, fruitful association with the Architectural Design MPhil/PhD programme. Every year the programmes collectively organise a series of regular seminars and events:
Initial presentations by new MPhil students.
In-depth seminars to meet the criteria for upgrade from MPhil to PhD status.
An annual PhD conference and exhibition with international critics as respondents, so that students can present and discuss work-in-progress.
Read the PhD Research Projects publications on Issuu
Candidates also have the option of auditing taught modules from the Architectural History MA, led by Professor Peg Rawes, or the Landscape Architecture MA/MLA, led by Professor Laura Allen and Professor Mark Smout.
The programme draws upon the wide range of research expertise offered at The Bartlett School of Architecture. Supervisors are selected depending on the student’s specific research area. The principal doctoral supervisor is within The Bartlett School of Architecture, while the subsidiary supervisor can be from The Bartlett or another UCL department, including anthropology, medicine, or fine art, for example. The intention is for doctoral subjects and supervisions to be as broad as the discipline of architecture and to connect research to related disciplines to foster productive and rewarding collaborations. The school also has a fruitful association with the doctoral programme at the Royal Academy of Music.
To discuss a potential Architectural and Urban History and Theory MPhil/PhD, it is recommended that you read the profile of the principal supervisor with whom you would like to work and email them a research proposal. Alternatively, you may contact the Programme Director.
- Current supervisors
Dr Sabina Andron
Graffiti, street art and public art; legal geography and urban property regimes; the right to the city, spatial justice and urban commons; urban semiotics, geosemiotics, surface semiotics; urban visual culture and image theories; deviance, disorder and crime in cities; vandalism, protest and anti-social behaviour; transgressive and subversive practices of urban inhabitation.
Professor Peter Bishop
Application of urban design and urban planning theory; incremental urbanism; temporary uses and installations; role of conservation in distorting urban change; role of other stakeholders and political forces outside the design process in the construction of the built environment.
Professor Iain Borden
History of modern architecture; urbanism and urban culture; skateboarding, graffiti and urban arts; public space; experiences of architecture; film, photography and other urban representations; critical theory and cultural studies.
The aesthetic, spatial and philosophical impact of digital technologies on architecture and urbanism.
Professor Ben Campkin
Histories, theories and practices of urbanism and urbanization. Transdisciplinary urbanism and experimental methods of urban research, publication and public engagement. Urban night spaces, cultures and governance. London’s history and built environment; contemporary urban policy and practice in London. Queer space, architecture and architectural histories; heritage associated with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer populations.
Professor Mario Carpo
History of architectural theory and history of cultural technologies, with focus on the early modern period (the Vitruvian tradition and the Italian Renaissance, from Alberti to Vignola) and on contemporary digital design theory (1990 to the present).
Professor Nat Chard
Architecture and indeterminacy; relationship between ideas and technique in architectural representation and manufacture; experimental practices in architecture; developing methods of drawing and making as a means of architectural research.
Professor Marjan Colletti
Digital design and digital theory; experimental building and urban design; innovative CAD/CAM fabrication technologies; neo-baroque and exuberant synthetic and syncretic design techniques.
Professor Marcos Cruz
Innovative environments, utilization of bacteria and algae, computation, bio-technology and synthetic biology.
Dr Edward Denison
Histories and theories of modernism and modernity outside ’The West'. Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, especially China and Chinese encounters with modernity domestically and/or globally. Colonialism, post-colonialism, and globalisation. Cultural heritage and critical approaches to urban heritage. Community engagement/campaigning and neighbourhood planning.
Professor Murray Fraser
Architectural design; design research; architectural history and theory; cultural studies; architecture and globalisation; cross-cultural influences; cultural identity; urbanism.
Professor Stephen Gage
Time-based architecture; architecture that interacts with people and the external environment; architecture and performance.
Dr Sam Griffiths
Theories and methods for researching and writing the historical relationship between urban populations and their built environments; the spatial cultures of industrial cities, suburbs and high streets; urban manufacturing; architecture as chronotope in realist fiction and historical writing; space syntax as an interdisciplinary approach to research in the humanities and social sciences.
London's buildings and topography of the 16th to 21st centuries, especially housing, industrial buildings and vernacular architecture.
Dr Sean Hanna
Spatial cognition; mathematical and computational modelling of spatial and social relationships; individual and collective creativity; machine learning and intelligence; complexity and big data.
Dr Penelope Haralambidou
Architectural drawing and making as research methods; art and architecture; Marcel Duchamp; architecture and allegory; theories of perception, memory, imagination and representation in design; visual technologies – historical and contemporary; experimental film and digital projection; exhibition design and curating; book architecture; stage design; and the design of public spaces.
Professor Jonathan Hill
Histories and theories of architectural authorship and design; the formation of the architect; architecture by users and non-architects. Histories and theories of architecture and landscape with regard to their relations with the environment, climate and weather since the eighteenth century.
Dr Chris Leung
Prototyping through digital modelling, simulation, fabrication and instrumented testing as a modus operandi for design research; timber construction and sustainable approaches to the design of timber buildings; passive low-energy actuator technologies (phase-transitioning waxes, thermo-bimetals, shape memory alloys) for environmental control in buildings; digital and hybrid digital-analogue control systems for facade systems; solar energy; passive cooling with optically selective radiators; embodied mechanical logic; advanced manufacturing processes e.g. design for multi-material polymer printing.
Professor Yeoryia Manolopoulou
Architectural design and theory; design research methods; architecture and experience; collaborative, aleatoric and performative design; dialogic architecture; place, material practices and building; pedagogic settings; theories of embodied mind, action and environment; the architectural score; practices of drawing; architecture’s intersection with art, anthropology and neuroscience.
Dr Clare Melhuish
Anthropology of architecture, the built environment and urban processes; ethnography of architectural practice; urban and architectural visual and material culture; postcolonial urbanism; critical urban heritage; modern(ist) architecture and planning in London; French modern(ist) architecture and planning; Arab cities; Caribbean urbanism; universities and urban regeneration; education spaces and the city; participatory and community-led planning; anthropology of home and domestic space; ethnographic methodologies.
Professor Alan Penn
Urban research at the scale between the building and the city; design of complex buildings and their relations to organisations (i.e. hospitals, laboratories and offices); development of computing for architecture; urban pollution dispersal; virtual reality applications for the built environment; simulation of social phenomena and urban growth and change.
Professor Barbara Penner
Tourism; American hotels, resorts, and commercial architecture; gender and space; domesticity; consumerism; bathrooms and infrastructure; inclusive urbanism; appropriate technology.
Professor Sophia Psarra
Architecture narrative and fiction, geometry of architecture and urban space; conceptual order, spatial morphology and spatial experience; the formation of spatial meaning in architecture and symbolic languages across different media; architectural theory; the morphology of cities in relation to processes of industrialisation, de-industrialisation and innovation; spatial design of complex buildings and its relation to society and organisations; computer modelling and visualisation.
Dr Caroline Rabourdin
Essay writing as critical and creative practice; spatial theory; phenomenology; art practices; spatial literature; philosophy of language; linguistics; translation studies; comparative literature.
Professor Peg Rawes
Theories of materiality and technology in architecture and spatial arts practices; embodiment, spatial subjectivities and aesthetics; histories and theories of geometry and spatiotemporality in early-modern European and Continental philosophy; social and political theories of ecology; wellbeing.
Professor Jane Rendell
Gender/feminist theory and architecture; art, architecture and urban interventions; critical spatial theory and practice; creative/critical subjectivity and positionality in writing or site-writing; psychoanalysis and space; public space, cultural identity and narrative.
Architectural history and heritage; medical buildings; development of hospital planning and design; post-war hospital architecture in Scotland; National Health Service; urban history; Scottish Architecture
Dr Tania Sengupta
Postcolonial and transcultural studies; colonial, post-colonial/contemporary architecture and urban history (non-western worlds, especially South Asia); postcolonial identities in western contexts. For non-western contexts: architectures of governance; provincial identity and rural-urban relationships; spatial cultures of domesticity; material and spatial cultures; global, local and scalar relationships in architecture/ urbanism; everyday spaces and practices.
Professor Bob Sheil
Architecture and design through production, experimental design, prototyping, making, fabrication, craft, innovative technology, digital practice, digital manufacturing, assembly, materials, modelling, transgression from drawing to making, 3D scanning.
Professor Mark Smout
Design-based approach to architecture, landscape (urban and rural) and climate change via political, technological and artistic disciplines.
Dr Nina Vollenbröker
Mobility; domesticity; the U.S. American West; manuscript diaries; nineteenth-century quilts; photography; histories and spaces of deaf culture; disability and architecture.
Dr Robin Wilson
The architectural media (especially the architectural journals of the 20th century); architectural photography; architectural criticism; arts-based and performative methods of spatial research; curatorship and architecture; utopian theory.
Dr Fiona Zisch
Cognitive architecture / neuroarchitecture; spatial cognition; cognitive ecologies; neurophilosophy; radical embodiment; embodied knowledge and intuition; cyberfeminism; technology, interaction, performance; movement, choreography.
The Michael James Scholarship will provide one scholarship to enable a UK domiciled student to pursue a PhD in Architecture and Urban History and Theory at The Bartlett School of Architecture. The scholarship will be awarded based on academic merit and financial need. The scholarship will contribute towards the fees and/or maintenance costs over the course of the recipient’s PhD degree. They are expected to start in 2022/23 academic year (the recipient may enrol in either September 2022 or January 2023) and will receive £30,000 in total to support their postgraduate studies.
For more details on how to apply please email Drew Pessoa.
Visit our funding page to find out more about funding your studies.
The programme equips scholars to educate tomorrow’s architects, preparing them for careers in university teaching and research, curatorial practice, journalism and media, policy making, academic publishing and architectural criticism among others. Recent graduate destinations have included the University of Oxford, University of Westminster and The Bartlett School of Architecture.
Lead image: Gas, Food, Lodging (photograph by Nina Vollenbröker, 2012).
Carousel images: 1. 'Home [Un]Making: Objectified Interiors, Tehran 1963–2013' by Azadeh Asgharzadeh Zaferani
2. 'Façadism in London: 1970–present' by Clemency Gibbs
3. 'Designing for Amusement' by Katerina Zacharopoulou
4. 'Building Identity: Transnational Architectural Exchange in New York City’s First Chinatown, 1870-2019' by Kerri Culhane
5. 'Frameworks of Uncertainty: Architectural Strategies of Control and Change in the Work of Cedric Price and Arata Isozaki (1955-1978)' by Marcela Aragüez Escobar
6. 'Musealisation as an Urban Process: The Transformation of Sultanahmet District in Istanbul’s Historic Peninsula' by Pinar Aykac