learning architecture


a PhD in live projects and architectural education

Detroit gets growing

Last month I shared with you a cheekily YouTube’d video of BBC 4’s documentary Requiem for Detroit. Perhaps Observer journalist Paul Harris also saw that film when it was broadcast earlier this year, because he reports today (with video) from just one of the nine hundred urban gardens established in Detroit last year.

If you think that number is impressive, then consider this: there still remain approximately 33,000 vacant residential plots of land in Detroit.

Being a novice allotment gardner with more than a few ties to the mid-western United States, a trip to Detroit has never been so tempting.


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Video: Requiem for Detroit

I shan’t ask how, but the entirity of Julien Temple’s 2010 film Requiem for Detroit has made its way from BBC Television and onto YouTube. Although my work here hasn’t led to many concerted explorations of postmodern studies, I’m fascinated by Detroit – perhaps the only postmodern American city.

If, like me, you combine passions for automobile design with architecture, urbanism, race / gender studies and urban agriculture, you should find 75 minutes of your time to watch this.

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Prize winning onions

Sadly, these onions are not from our allotment. Photographed over the weekend during a weekend retreat to read some Pevsner and Banham and to re-acquaint myself with sunlight.

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Perks: home made pesto

A big chunk of Sunday was spent on the allotment, lifting our first potatoes and generally letting the sunshine and soil provide a break from reading. This evening we boiled our first potatoes, and ate them with home made pesto. Life is much much better than twelve months ago…

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Reading: Pedagogy of the Oppressed


In order to ensure this blog works effectively as a means for structuring and disciplining my daily routines, I’m posting this now as I sit down to read Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I’ll be back to write some thoughts on it later today (so no excuse for me skiving off to the allotment instead).

EDIT (the next morning): well that didn’t work, did it. My notes are still all over the place, so I’ll continue to do some thinking and writing, and I’ll share them later.

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The same week that our first basil seeds start to germinate and poke out through the potting compost, I receive confirmation that I can commence studies towards a PhD. Automatically I begin to look at these delicate green basil seedlings and make some fairly predictable connections. I wonder if they feel the same amount of excitement and trepidation?

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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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