The work of the Architectural History and Theory Group (AHTG) embraces a wide range of interests, as reflected in its research projects, publications, and other activities. They are linked by a common concern with understanding the histories and theories of architecture - including its practice, making and education - within the situated realities of its cultures and contexts. They are grouped under six general themes outlined below.
The group's research was praised as of 'international quality' in the last Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). Through conferences, exhibitions, design, pedagogy, funded research and editorships, the group aims to augment the impact of its research on society, education and practice. In recent years, the group has hosted international conferences exploring the themes of Primitive, Quality, and Economy in Architecture. Stephen Kite and Juliet Odgers are editors of Architectural Research Quarterly, Mhairi McVicar is an editor of WSA's journal MADE, and Adam Hardy is editor of South Asian Studies. Regular WSA seminars provide a lively forum for the exchange of ideas among staff and students. Membership of the group comprises both staff and post-graduate students. Over forty PhD students are enrolled in WSA as a whole.
The group naturally sees its work in the settings of wider geographies and associated cultural contexts. Stephen Kite discovers how John Ruskin's naturalism informs his readings of Italian cities such as Venice and Verona. Juliet Odgers explores 17th and 18th century British architecture and gardens, principally through the work and thinking of John Evelyn. Marga Munar Bauza is interested in the shaping of urban morphology and of the boundaries between public and private domains over time. Juliet Davis focuses on themes of urban change, regeneration and resilience building with an emphasis on the place and potential of urban and architectural design within these processes. Through her funded research on urban resilience, she considers social, economic and political aspects of the adaptability of historical urban form. In related terms, Federico Wulff's Marie Curie funded research on the 'ecology of urban voids' explores the architecture and urbanism of financial crisis along the Euro-Mediterranean coastline.
Understanding culture and religion, and the resultant typologies and identities, informs the work of Adam Hardy on the history of architecture in South Asia, specifically Indian temple Architecture. This is also the case in Kathryn Wilkinson's work on the relationship between Welsh Non-Conformism and chapel architecture. The historiography of science is explored by Juliet Odgers in her work on John Evelyn and natural philosophy. Juliet Davis PhD research considered how conceptions of time and temporality are mobilised in urban planning and architectural design discourse and practice, focussing on plans for London's Olympic Legacy. Oriel Prizeman's expertise in library architecture is disseminated through regular contributions to the Architectural Review. Her book on Andrew Carnegie's transatlantic standardisation of public environments has received international interdisciplinary recognition.
The fundamental architectural practices of drawing and critical observation permeate many aspects of the group's investigations. Stephen Kite explores architecture as part of a wider visual culture, examining John Ruskin as an optical thinker, and how Adrian Stokes's psychologised readings of architecture are contextualised through the other graphic and plastic arts. He has been awarded a Cardiff University Research Leave Fellowship for 2013-14 to develop his current research into shadow and architecture as a cultural phenomenon. Mhairi McVicar questions how technical instructions in construction drawings are actually poetic and collaborative statements. Adam Hardy uses drawing as a fundamental tool of research into South Asian and other architectures. In their respective research areas, Juliet Davis and Federico Wulff use drawing and mapping as critical analytical tools.
Many of the group have practiced extensively, or remain linked to architectural practice, and are centrally concerned with the ethical making and procurement of architecture. Most of the group's members also teach in WSA's design studios. The thinking and building of individual architects is explored in the group, as in Stephen Kite's work on Colin St. John Wilson. Sarah Lupton investigates the professional and legal aspects of design and building procurement and contributes to texts widely used in practice and education. Andrew Robert's depth of interest in pedagogy is reflected in his long involvement with CEBE, and he researches the potential of problem-based learning in architecture. Mhairi McVicar's research pursues the consequences of the desire for precision in architectural practice, and she is a director of the Collaborative Design Studio (e.g. Westray Heritage Centre Annex, 2008). Adam Hardy is designing a new temple for Karnataka, India.
The AHTG group actively invites research students with an interest in historic building preservation and conservation. The group attracts PhD students with interests in heritage approaches to historic sites around the world. Adam Hardy's established legacy of PhD students has formed a network of conservation expertise across India. He is currently working on a conservation project for an important group of ruined temples in central India, supported by the World Monuments Fund. Oriel Prizeman's experience as a practicing conservation architect has been crucial to the establishment of the new MSc in Sustainable Building Conservation. Her research continues to develop 3D modelling techniques to analyse the environmental performance of historic building environments.
The AHTG has a strong reputation for research into the history and theory of non-Western culture — especially through Adam Hardy and PRASADA. This is reflected in the diverse interests and backgrounds of its postgraduate community. Oriel Prizeman is a member of the Tblisi Heritage Group and is working on the conservation of Old Tbilisi. Stephen Kite has researched into the vernacular architectures and settlement patterns of the Middle East, and Juliet Davis's resilience work looks at patterns of development internationally. Global as well as local architectural traditions are central to Kathryn Wilkinson's work.