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Dr Mhairi McVicar PhD, NCARB (USA), M Arch, BSc Hons in Architecture Studies

Dr Mhairi McVicar

PhD, NCARB (USA), M Arch, BSc Hons in Architecture Studies

Project Lead of Community Gateway

+44 (0)29 2087 4634
Room 3.25A, Bute Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3NB
Available for postgraduate supervision



MArch 2 Year Chair

Project Lead, Community Gateway

Higher degree supervisor (MPhil / PhD)

Unit Tutor MArch2 Architectural Design - Value Unit

External activities

Fellow of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce)

Other information

I am Project Lead of Community Gateway, overseeing a community-university engagement platform through a team who facilitate over 50 partnership projects between Grangetown and Cardiff University, including the £1.6 million community-led partnership redevelopment of a vacant civic building. I joined WSA in 2006, following practice in the USA and UK. I am an RIBA Affiliate member, former Chair of Design Circle RSAW South, have acted as juror on the RIBA President's Medal for Dissertations and the National Eisteddfod Gold Medal for Architecture, and co-ordinated several national architectural exhibitions. I am past editor of the journal Made at WSA and a peer-reviewer for Architectural Research Quarterly, and Ardeth and have presented my research in the UK, Europe, USA and Canada. In 2017, Community Gateway was awarded the Professor Sir David Watson international award, and I received Leading Wales' Leadership in the Public Sector award.

My research interests include Value in the built environment; community development and community asset transfers; critiques of processes of architectural practice; critiques of live teaching, co-production and participatory design; the University as a civic anchor; theories of architectural technology and construction; and architectural history and theory, particularly UK and USA 19th-21st century. My book, Precision in Architecture: Certainty, Ambiguity and Deviation, will be published with Routledge in May 2019.

Please contact me in particular regarding research, engagement and teaching related to community-university partnerships, partiularly long term partnership initiatives between Grangetown and Cardiff University, and regarding research interests in questions of measuring civic value, the production of civic space, the role of the architect in community development, and critiques of the policies and procedures of historical or contemporary professional architectural practice.


Mhairi joined WSA in 2006, following architectural practice in the UK and USA where she worked on a range of social housing, theatrical, ecclesiastical,  commercial and private residential architectural projects, including a Heritage centre and a self-build residence in the Orkney Islands as Director of a private practice.

She recently completed a PhD at Cardiff University on ’Precision in architectural production.’ Prior to this, Mhairi graduated with a Masters in Architecture from Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, and a BSc First class Honours from Scott Sutherland School of Architecture, Aberdeen. She previously taught at the School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Chicago.









  • Kite, S., McVicar, M. T. and Odgers, J. A. eds. 2011. Economy : abstracts. Cardiff: Cardiff University, Welsh School of Architecture.






Teaching profile

Mhairi’s teaching in architecture is primarily focused in Grangetown, Cardiff, facilitated through her role as Project Lead of Community Gateway. Working with the support of a long term partnership between Cardiff University and Grangetown which begins with community led ideas, skills, and expertise to inform and develop university teaching and research, Mhairi’s teaching builds upon established engagement partnerships with a geographically defined local community, encouraging students to collaborate and to build on previous interdisciplinary research and ideas within design and dissertation work.

Research interests

Mhairi’s research focuses on the processes and values of architectural practice. Her PhD on Precision in architectural production investigated the pursuit and consequences of precision in architectural practice by interpreting technical written, drawn, oral, and built evidence associated with constructed architectural details as poetic and cultural statements, focusing on architectural details constructed between 1856-2006, including works by Sigurd Lewerentz, Mies van der Rohe, Caruso St John Architects, and OMA.

Mhairi’s current research links closely to her role as Academic lead of Cardiff University’s Community Gateway, and focuses on the role and value of the architect in engagement with community-led development. In 2015, Mhairi received a RIBA Research Trust Award, with co-investigator Neil Turnbull, to research the value of the Architect in a Community Asset Transfer. This ongoing action research is embedded within a live community project through Cardiff University’s Community Gateway, in collaboration with resident organisations seeking to convert a vacant Bowls Pavilion into an active community resource.