learning architecture


a PhD in live projects and architectural education

The sexual solipsism of Sigmund Freud

As I start to get into the nitty gritty of the actual original research that will underpin my thesis, a chance encounter with a new edition of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, reprinted this year by Penguin Modern Classics, brought me to the following paragraph.

The physicist’s relativity, which in recent years has changed our whole approach to scientific knowledge, is harder, and therefore easier to understand, tham the social scientist’s relativity. It is not a slogan, but a fundamental statement about truth to say that no social scientist can completely free himself from the prison of his own culture; he can only interpret what he obsevres in the scientific framework of his own time. This is true even of the great innovators. They cannot help but translate their revolutionary observations into language and rubrics that have been determined by the progress of science up until their time. Even those discoveries that create new rubrics are relative to the vantage point of their creator.

A fine caution to any novice social researcher.

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Another weekend, some time, I will be reading…

I live quite close to a bookstore branch of a famous charity. I don’t often drop in, because said charity has a habit of marking up their second hand stock to a point that seems to negate the pleasure and value of taking the time to search through the shelves. I also smart a little every time I visit, because on the one occasion (during my extended winter of unemployment) I went in to volunteer some time, I was subjected to one of the rudest customer service encounters I can recall in this city. I did not persist in my efforts to help them out.

However, today’s visit produced two great little finds. A 1985 copy of MATRIX’s Making Space – Women and the Man Made Environment and a revised edition of John Summerson’s The Classical Language of Architecture. One was worth the £1.99 price tag, the other was not, but one absolute bargain subsidised the other less spectacular purchase. Together, and perhaps more entertainingly, they make a  appealing demonstration of the opposite ends of the gendered spectrum of architectural writing. I am nothing, if not balanced…

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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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