learning architecture


a PhD in live projects and architectural education

A flying pigeon interfering

On Wednesday I began the long journey home. For three short days I’d been in the south-west and south of England meeting with academics at schools of architecture to talk about live projects and architectural education. I began this research trip – which covered six meetings – with an early morning flight from Glasgow to Cardiff. The journey home would be much slower, this time by train. After my last interview in Portsmouth, I turned north and headed for home, all the way from the south coast towards the central belt of Scotland.

For the first leg of my journey, the cheapest train ticket to London was also on the slowest train. So I had some time to begin transcribing the interviews I’d conducted in the previous days. Upon arrival at Victoria and with a couple of hours in hand before my connection from Euston, I skirted around the livelier distractions of London town and went directly to Tate Britain. Until 16 January 2011 you can catch the excellent exhibition on Eadweard Muybridge here, and I strongly recommend that you do so. As you may be aware, my previous research investigated the intersection between the sequential art of comics and architecture. Were it not for William Hogarth, you might say that Muybridge created the comic strip: a sequence of frozen moments, each presented graphically in a sequence that could read, releasing the narrative into a user-controlled recollection.

Most striking for me was this print,  Head-Spring, a flying pigeon interfering, exhibited courtesy of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC (who, it seems, have sadly not permitted a postcard or poster reproduction to be sold by the Tate). Muybridge set out to capture, from two angles, the human form as it performed a head spring. As part of a long lineage of such sequential photographs on show at Tate, it is nothing special, but for the interruption in the images of a pigeon meandering and then flying through the set naturally captivates the viewer. The print has become not only a sequence of a human but also a bird in flight. No matter how hard you try to establish the scientific conditions for your research, something fuzzy from the real world will always creep in. And it will usually surprise you with something quite beautiful.

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CEBE Innovation in Learning and Teaching funding award

James Benedict Brown and Prof. Ruth Morrow of the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering (SPACE) have been awarded funding from the Innovative Projects in Learning and Teaching initiative of the Centre for Education in the Built Environment (CEBE).

The grant, totalling £4,360, will be used to develop a colloquium for academics and practitioners employing live projects in architectural education to be hosted in Belfast by SPACE in spring 2011. The event will be jointly curated with Anne Markey, Director of ASD Projects at London Metropolitan University, and Dr. Rosie Parnell, Director of Outreach at the University of Sheffield School of Architecture.

UPDATE: The Live Projects 2011 website is now live at liveprojects2011.wordpress.com, with details of the call for participation and registration.

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Acme wins 2010 RIBA Manser Medal for Hunsett Mill

Congratulations to Acme and the whole team behind this year’s RIBA Manser Medal winning house, Hunsett Mill in the Norfolk Broads. It’s a subtle and beautiful adaptation of an existing cottage in a part of the world very close to my heart, and I am distinctly jealous of the house’s owners.

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You are here

Six trains, five buses, one aeroplane and a rental car. I’m in the south-west and south of England for a three day research trip, meeting with academics from six schools of architecture and talking live projects. This campus “map” (I use that word advisedly) met me at one university, and while bearing no resemblance to the building I was standing in, it did strike me as a poignant illustration for the PhD process.

You are here. As if that helps.

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Opening: A Space for Learning

IAF and NCAD present A Space for Learning, opening tonight at the NCAD in Dublin. Hope to see some of you there.

Dates: 5th November 2010 – 29 January 2011
Opening View: Thursday 4th November, 6-8pm
Exhibition continues: Saturday 29th January 2011 (closed December 18-January 2).
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm. Admission Free.

The NCAD Gallery is pleased to present ‘A space for Learning’, an exhibition by the Irish Architecture Foundation, opening at the NCAD Gallery on November 5  and running until January 29, 2011. Earlier in 2010, 120 architects, 1,500 students and 90 schools all took part in a competition in which architects and transition year students worked together to imagine their ideal educational space. This exhibition showcases the top ten designs from the competition.

Ten winning architect-student teams from counties Cavan, Limerick, Louth, Cork and Dublin have created films, installations, models and drawings to illustrate their ideas about learning spaces and environments, which will tour to various locations around Ireland, beginning with the NCAD Gallery, located at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin.

Funded by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government with additional funding from the Department of Education and Skills, this exhibition will showcase a unique collaborative project, created by the Irish Architecture Foundation (IAF), to raise public awareness of the importance of school design.

The exhibition of A Space for Learning is accompanied by an education programme, which includes school visits, teacher training on incorporating architecture into the classroom, NCAD student events, public lectures and lunchtime talks by the participating architects.

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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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