learning architecture


a PhD in live projects and architectural education

SPSS training

I’m sure this will be come in useful at some point, but I’m just not sure when. Three days of informal but informative training in OLS and Logistical Regression.


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Via the BBC. For those beyond our shores, British undergraduate degree classifications are generally (in ascending order): Fail, Ordinary Degree (a three year degree in Scotland, where Honours degrees require an additional year), Third Class Honours (a “third”), Second Class Honours Lower Division (a “two-two”), Second Class Honours Upper Division (a “two-one”) and First Class Honours (a “first”).

Student challenges 2:2 degree awarded from Queen’s
20 September 2010 Last updated at 17:13

A Belfast graduate has taken his university to court after they awarded him a 2:2 degree.

Andrew Croskery, from County Down, applied for a judicial review of the grade he received from Queen’s University in Belfast.

Mr Croskery claimed if he had received better supervision he would have obtained a 2:1, the High Court was told on Monday.

A lawyer for QUB said the court was not the place to resolve the matter.

Mr Croskery graduated in June with a degree in electrical engineering.

His barrister claimed he had been denied a right to appeal against his classification because he had already graduated from Queen’s in the summer.

Tony McGleenan argued that the university’s stance was not compliant with his client’s human rights.

“It is obviously an important case for the applicant. He avers his employment prospects have been jeopardised… in this competitive job market,” he said.

“It’s also clearly an important case for the university.”

The court heard how a Board of Visitors at Queen’s, whose members include two judges, considers student appeals and complaints.

Nicholas Hanna QC, for Queen’s, argued that the judicial review application should be dismissed as the court was not the proper forum for the challenge.

“The jurisdictional issue is so clear that it is unarguable and therefore, I submit, leave should be refused,” he said.

The judge, Mr Justice Treacy, adjourned the case and will determine if the legal challenge can go ahead next month.

Good to know I might have a back-up option if things go badly in the next 18 months. Just kidding, I promise.

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colloquium |kəˈləʊkwɪəm|

noun ( pl. -quiums or -quia |-kwɪə|)

an academic conference or seminar.

ORIGIN late 16th cent. (denoting a conversation or dialogue): from Latin, from colloqui ‘to converse,’ from col- ‘together’ + loqui ‘to talk.’

I enjoyed a very nice long coffee (well, actually, two annoyingly short coffees, extended shamelessly over three hours to spite the waiter who took 20 minutes to deliver a substantially smaller coffee than I asked for) in London on Friday. A friend and I were plotting something educational, enjoyable and hopefully of practical value to research students in the built environment. Watch this space in the next month or so for an announcement and an invitation.

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Little ginger biscuits

I’m over in Sheffield (nine years after starting undergraduate studies here) to attend tomorrow’s CEBE conference Innovation in Built Environment Education (iBEE) 2010. This is the view of one of my old haunts, one that I miss a great deal, the Showroom Cinema. I spent far too much time here during my studies, largely thanks to the extremely well priced student tickets.

After iBEE, I will continue a week of ricocheting around Britain and Ireland. It’s back across the water tomorrow, but to the other end of Ireland, for the second meeting of the All Ireland Architectural Research Group in Cork. Then it’s back to London for some meetings and interviews before I head home, exhausted, on Friday night.

I’m now engaged in these interviews as part of my first major phase of empirical research. I’ve been designing, redesigning, redesigning, piloting and redesigning my interview schedule for several months now. The time has come to roll it out, nerve wracking though that is. My transcription skills are being refreshed, and I expect to spend a substantial portion of the coming autumn with headphones plugged into my MacBook as I flip between iTunes and Pages, trying to understand why I am so bad at interrupting interesting people mid-sentence.

Do say hello if you are also attending either of those events.

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And we must retain it

What we should do, I suggest, is to give up the idea of ultimate sources of knowledge, and admit that all knowledge is human; that it is mixed with out errors, our prejudices, our dreams, and our hopes; that all we can do is to grope for truth even though it be beyond our reach. We may admit that our groping is often inspired, but we must be on our guard against the belief, however deeply felt, that our inspiration carries any authority, divine or otherwise. If we thus admit that there is no authority beyond the reach of criticism to be found within the whole province of our knowledge, however far it may have penetrated into the unknown, the we can retain, without danger, the idea that truth is beyond human authority. And we must retain it. For without this idea there can be no objective standards of inquiry; no criticism of our conjectures; no groping for the unknown; no quest for knowledge.

Karl Popper, On the Sources of Knowledge and Ignorance

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How Keanu Reeves rocks my world

It is with no small pride that I can tell you about a project that my better half (intellectually and aesthetically) is working on. How Keanu Reeves Saved the World, in which the Speaker takes the audience on a journey through the career of the essential postmodern hero, Keanu Reeves. This new theatre piece will premiere at Arches Live in September.

If you’re interested you can find out more about the development of the piece on the blog, buy tickets to the festival here or (more pressingly) buy tickets for the show’s fundraiser on 12 September here. Tickets are just £25, and include a three course meal, live entertainments and entry into a prize draw. You could even win a BMW (sort of).

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Straddling the North Channel (pt. II)

As some of you may know, I choose to lead a bit of a double life. I divide my time between sunny Belfast and sunny Glasgow. Although neither is really my home town, I have close family connections on either side of the Irish Sea and I have very similar love/hate relationships with both cities. Surprisingly I’ve been mugged more times in Belfast than in Glasgow, but it still seems to have a stronger hold on my heart.

A week or two ago I ranted and raved over here about the imminent demise of Northern Ireland’s last remaining ‘Rail and Sail’ connection to the mainland. The upshot of the situation is that Stena Line desperately need to find a more fuel efficient boat than their last remaining HSS fast ferry, which plies the North Channel four times a day between Belfast and Stranraer. Having already moved to a new terminal as close to the mouth of Belfast Lough as they could get, they’ve now won permission from the Scottish Government to build a new ferry terminal closer to the mouth of Loch Ryan than the existing (and admittedly very shabby) one in Stranraer. This has lead to all manner of excitement about shorter sea crossings between Northern Ireland and Scotland, when in fact they will be shorter only in geographic length, not actual journey times. By replacing the Stena HSS with conventional ferries, journeys to the new port will be no faster than they currently are.

In their wisdom, and with complete disinterest for the people of Northern Ireland whom they do not represent, the Scottish Parliament’s Loch Ryan Port (Harbour Empowerment) Order 2009 breaks the link between the ferry and the train. Prior to the privatisation of British Rail, multiple daily trains connected with British Rail Sealink ferries at Stranraer. There was a direct overnight train to London, as well as regional trains to Newcastle, Carlisle, Dumfries, Kilmarnock and Glasgow. Only the last two survive, and they look very vulnerable without a ferry that “supposedly” (see my rant) connects with them.

To rub some salt in the wound, although without much surprise, Ryanair announced yesterday that they are quitting Belfast City Airport. Three years to the day after they started service to the airport (who would dare accuse Ryanair of being subsidy bunnies dependent on 36 month deals with airports?) the last flight will depart on 30 October 2010. If nothing else, the McClay Library and David Keir Building will be more peaceful places for me to work in, without the meaty roar of Ryanair’s Boeing 737-800 aircraft flying overhead.

As usual, Ryanair are blaming everyone but themselves for the end of these services. They also claim as many as 1,000 will lose jobs as a result of NI’s planning system, which has yet to approve an extension to Belfast City Airport’s runway. Ryanair need the extension because their planes (unlike those of Easyjet, BMI and FlyBe) can’t reach any international destinations with a full load from the existing runway. They could of course head up to road to Belfast International Airport (you know, the one with ‘International’ in it’s name) but generally don’t like going head to head with their competition. Easyjet, Jet2 and others who offer plenty of escape routes to continental Europe from the International.

My sympathies are with the friendly and professional Ryanair crews based in Belfast. They often greet me by name, and are the hardest working I’ve seen anywhere, completing all inflight sales and services in the 20-25 minute journey over to Prestwick. They now have two months notice to pack their bags, get out of their residential leases, and move to another Ryanair base.

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About the project

learning architecture is an academic blog of James Benedict Brown, previously a doctoral candidate in architectural pedagogy at the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering at Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland. James passed his viva in September 2012 and graduated the following December.

About the author

James Benedict Brown has worked and studied in England, Northern Ireland, France and Canada. Following the completion of his PhD at QUB, he was appointed Lecturer in Architecture at Norwich University of the Arts. A short bio is here.

About the supervisors

The project is supervised by Prof. Ruth Morrow and Keith McAllister. Prior to his appointment at Qatar University in 2009, Prof. Ashraf Salama also supervised the project.


Click here for the bibliography to date.


Click here for a selection of peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed writing.


Click here for a glossary-in-progress of key terms used in the project.

Conference diary

Conferences and seminars of interest to the project.


All images are used for illustrative purposes only, and the copyright remains with the artist and/or creator. Please contact me if I have misappropriated an image or incorrectly credited it.


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