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History and Theory

The epicentre of humanities research at the Welsh School of Architecture.

With architectural history and theory as our point of departure, our work engages cultural and visual studies, urban history, aesthetics, cognitive linguistics, and social and political theory.

The group’s strength is its scholarly research, broad expertise, critical perspective and urban focus. Our key research topics include:

  • the history of Chicago
  • the use of visual images in urban development
  • the urban spectacle
  • the symbolic
  • contracting
  • architectural agency
  • the relation of spatial to social form.

We are all involved in international networks and contribute to sustaining our field through reviews of papers for journals and manuscripts for publishers.


We aim to:

  • develop leading research in the field and disseminate it through high-end books and journal articles
  • organise disciplinary events
  • provide a School-based context for discussions of current history and theory research
  • support postgraduate research students and early career researchers.


We conduct research on:

  • the history of Chicago
  • 1968 Berlin and architecture
  • the use of visual images in urban development
  • ruins and decay
  • the urban spectacle
  • architecture and the symbolic
  • contracting
  • architectural agency
  • architecture and Marxism.


Precision in Architecture, 15 December 2020

Dr Mhairi McVicar presented on a chapter of her book, Precision in Architecture: Certainty, Ambiguity and Deviation (Routledge, 2019) which examines the pursuit of construction quality in the architectural profession from the point of view of a ceiling joint in OMA's McCormick Tribune Campus Centre, IIT. Chicago.

'The picturesque is now wrested from the homogenized, the singular liberated from the standardised’, Rem Koolhaas wrote in 2001, as a seven-page specification for a greenboard ceiling at OMA’s IIT McCormick Tribune Campus Centre was in development. OMA’s application of a prefabricated product eschewed the standard finish layer of paint, instead exposing the unfinished greenboard and spackled joints and screws. ‘The installation’, a Request for Information stated, ‘is contrary to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Please advise.’

In response, the team specified the spacing, dimensions, tools and hand movements for the application of each spackled joint and screw, changing installers’ roles from ‘rough’ to ‘finish’ craftspeople.

Scrutinising precise documentations accompanying one OMA ceiling detail over a 15-month period, this research examines the extraordinary care employed between a team as they sought to ‘wrest the picturesque from the homogenized’ in deviating from a standard.

H&T Research Seminar, 25 June 2020

We had two speakers sharing their current work:

Prof. Isabelle Doucet - Chalmers: who presented a paper in progress, and our own Dr. Juliet Davis, who presented a chapter for her forthcoming book, also work in progress.

WSA Research Lecture: Edward Denison (UCL)

‘Planetary Modernisms in the Age of the Anthropocene’, 27 February 2020.

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