The work of the Architectural History and Theory Group (AHTG), as reflected in its research projects, publications, and other activities, embraces a wide range of interests linked by a common concern to understand the histories and theories of architecture—and its practice, making and education—within the situated realities of its varied cultures and contexts. These concerns are grouped under five general themes as outlined below. Membership of the Group comprises both staff and post-graduate students. Through conferences, exhibitions, design, pedagogy, and editorships the Group aims to augment the impact of its research on society, education and practice. In recent years, for example, the Group has hosted international conferences exploring the themes of Primitive, Quality, and Economy. Stephen Kite and Juliet Odgers are editors of Architectural Research Quarterly ; Sam Clark, Mhairi McVicar and Cristian Suau are co-editors of WSA’s own 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; we currently have over forty PhD students enrolled in WSA as a whole. The Group’s research was praised as of ‘international quality’ in the last Research Assessment Exercise.
The Group naturally sees its work in the settings of wider geographies and cultural contexts. Juliet Davis's research focuses on themes of regeneration and resilient cities with an emphasis on the role of urban and architectural design and the relation between urban form and governance. The construction of the public realm in urban design informs Allison Dutoit’s practice-engaged research, and Juliet Odgers explores 17th and 18th century British architecture and gardens, principally through the work and thinking of John Evelyn. Marga Munar Bauza looks at the morphology of cities and shifts between public and private realms. Stephen Kite discovers how John Ruskin’s naturalism informs his readings of Italian cities such as Venice and Verona. Cristian Suau researches sustainable urbanism both in Europe and Latin America.
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 studies of Welsh Non-Conformism and Chapel architecture. The historiography of science is explored by Juliet Odgers in her work on John Evelyn and natural philosophy. Oriel Prizeman's expertise in Library Architecture is disseminated in regular contributions to the Architectural Review.
The fundamental architectural practices of drawing and critical observation permeate many aspects of the Groups 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 is contextualised through the other graphic and plastic arts. Mhairi McVicar questions how technical instructions in construction drawings are actually poetic and collaborative statements. As a means of analysis of South Asian and other architectures Adam Hardy uses drawing as a fundamental tool of research, even as Allison Dutoit employs looking as inquiry in drawing the public realm.
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 also teach in the design studios of WSA. Mhairi McVicar’s research pursues the consequences of the desire for precision in architectural practice, and is a director of the Collaborative Design Studio (e.g. Westray Heritage Centre Annex, 2008); Cristian Suau experiments with the potential of Eco-fabrication and compact dwellings; Adam Hardy is designing a new temple for Karnataka, India; Allison Dutoit works with the Scandinavian practice, Gehl architects, Copenhagen. Oriel Prizeman is co-ordinating a new MSc in Sustainable Building Conservation which will bring together environmental professionals to balance the interests of heritage and energy conservation. Juliet Davis explores the challenges of long-term planning, as in her research on the relations between design processes and urban development in The Legacy Masterplan Framework for the 2012 Olympic site. The thinking and building of individual architects is explored in the Group, as in Stephen Kite’s work on Colin St. John Wilson. Andrew Roberts’ depth of interest in pedagogy is reflected in his long involvement with CEBE, and he researches the potential of problem-based learning in architecture. Sarah Lupton investigates the professional and legal aspects of design and building procurement and contributes to texts widely used in practice and education.
AHTG has a strong reputation in research into the history and theory of non-Western cultures - especially through Adam Hardy and PRASADA - as 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. Global and Local agendas are also reported in Kathryn Wilkinson’s studies.