learning architecture


a PhD in live projects and architectural education

Preview: RIBA Research Symposium

The 2010 RIBA Research Symposium has been announced, and it will take place on 23 September at Portland Place in London. Last year’s lively and diverse programme was entitled Changing Practices. This year, practices have duly been changed, and the theme is back on safe high architecture territory with the theme Does Beauty Matter?

Booked speakers include John Andrews, Irena Bauman, Tom Bolton, John Calcutt, Sue Clifford, Sarah Featherstone, Eric Parry and Pam Warhurst. The afternoon’s keynote speaker will be John Gummer, former Conservative MP and now member of the House of Lords. His speaking engagements cover most of the second letter of the alphabet: beauty, BSE, beef-burgers…

RIBA Research Symposium 2010: Does Beauty Matter?

The fifth annual RIBA Research Symposium will address one of the basic principles of architecture: beauty. It is both a universal good and an enduring source of controversy, but what does it really mean?

Architecture is often judged on its success in creating beauty, yet beauty can also be a slipper, uncomfortable and divisive subject. As a society we are uneasy about discussing beauty, both on an individual and a professional level. The word rarely features in modern political discourse, and the concept can be dismissed as arbitrary, subjective, unnecessary, unaffordable, or elitist. Debates purporting to be about the beauty of the built environment often turn out, on closer inspection, to be about style, taste or political symbolism.

So how can beauty be both understood and applied? Do beauty and wealth go hand in hand, and if so why? Do we need our places to be more beautiful, and what would happen if they were? Can we value beauty, measure it or define its role in policy?

Can anyone hoping to be taken seriously argue in favour of beauty? And what is the responsibility of the architect?

The symposium will tackle the significance and function of beauty today. Delegates will debate with architects, developers, community activists and politicians, informed by new research. High profile contributors will bring their varied perspectives to bear on the future of beauty, and the implications of beauty in our society.

Further info and booking here. I hope to attend, but there’s something from Pony Pie in the oven in Glasgow that week that I cannot miss either. Academic sugar daddies with air miles please apply within.

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This week: AA PhD symposium

Four cities in three days; it’s that busy time of the month when I have a cycle of supervisions but with the added treat of trips to Dublin and London. On Friday I hope to find time to attend all or some of the sessions being given as part of the Architectural Association‘s annual PhD Symposium. The title this year is Ideology in Transparency; a programme and abstracts can be found online:

If you’re attending, please say hello. As usual I’m the one with scruffy clothes, bad hair but rather nice spectacles.

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AA launch a live project?

Live projects for the super-wealthy? A 16 month programme for £23,453. I’m awaiting details of a correct link to the course programme. Here’s a link to the programme homepage.

AA launches Design + Make Graduate Diploma, first ever full-time course of study at Hooke Park
In 2009 the Architectural Association School of Architecture is launching a new graduate design programme, AA Design + Make (AA D+M). The course is a full-time graduate programme that awards an AA Graduate Diploma (Design + Make).The AA Design + Make programme pursues the teaching and learning of architecture through the design and construction of small-scale, sustainable and ecologically sensitive prototype buildings located in rural settings and communities.

The course distinguishes itself from the rest of the AA School by being the only full-time course of study located at Hooke Park. Its focus is on rural settings and alternative, renewable construction methods, with hands-on, building and environmental projects pursued by students living in a small, local community.

The 16-month, four-term course brings together students, teachers, consultants and craftspeople from rural England, Europe and around the world. Students and staff will live off-site in a village community near Hooke Park.

See aaschool.ac.uk/school/Design and Make Programme for further details and information about how to apply.
Date Submitted: 30.03.2009

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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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