I am a principal lecturer and the joint Head of Technical Studies in the School of Architecture and Cities at the University of Westminster. I write about architecture, technology and Construction History and I have co-authored five books with colleague Pete Silver including Structural Engineering for Architects: A Handbook, Laurence King 2014, Air Structures, Laurence King 2015 and Introduction to Architectural Technology, Laurence King, the 3rd edition of which has recently been published. I have recently completed a new book with Pete Silver entitled Environmental Design Sourcebook: innovative design ideas for a sustainable built environment. The book will be published in August 2021 by RIBA Publishing.
In 2016 I was appointed as a co-editor of Construction History: International Journal of the Construction History Society. Between 2005 and 2010 I wrote a column for Architectural Design (AD) entitled McLean's Nuggets, which appeared in over 30 issues of the magazine. In 2008 I established the architectural imprint Bibliotheque McLean, publishing new titles including Sabbioneta: Cryptic City by James Madge (2011), which was awarded a commendation in the RIBA presidents medals for research in 2012, Quik Build: Adam Kalkin's ABC of Container Architecture (2008) and Building with Air by Dante Bini.
In 2014 I designed an inflatable exhibition of the work of Italian architect and inventor of the Binishell, Dante Bini, entitled The Villa Antonioni, which featured as part of the Monditalia exhibit at the Venice Biennale: 14th International Architecture Exhibition curated by Rem Koolhaas. As part of my ongoing research into the work of Dante Bini, I was recently invited to take part in symposium about the The Villa Antonioni at Univesita della Svizzera Italiano in Mendrisio, Switzerland. The symposium celebrated the extraordinary house that Bini designed for the Italian film director Michelangelo Antonioni and the actor Monica Vitti completed in 1970. The event was held to debate how this house might be successfully restored and preserved as a cultural monument. I am currently completing a monograph on the work of Dante Bini which will be published later this year.
I am responsible for leading Technical Studies teaching across both the Undergraduate Degree and MArch courses in architecture, with input into all five years of Part I and Part II RIBA/ARB joint professionally validated courses as well as supervising PhD students. I deliver lectures, seminars, tutorials and workshops, and I have organised a visiting lecture programme which has been successfully running for almost 20 years. Architects, engineers, artists and other specialists have been invited to talk as a part of the Technical Studies lecture programme and participate in discussions about the social use and function of technology in the context of design. This regular programme of talks and seminars is an attempt to capture a contemporary philosophy of technology and introduce students and professionals to current and future trends in the technological development of architecture. https://technicalstudies.tumblr.com/
Architecture is a wide-ranging and ‘generalist’ discipline, which includes the learning of explicit knowledge through lectures and seminars, and also requires the focus of the design project to successfully synthesize and make meaningful, specialist input and practical knowledge. We have imbedded different types of teaching input and feedback throughout the BA and MArch courses and we regularly invite architects, engineers and other specialists to act as informal ‘technical’ tutors to the students during their final design projects. We host regular Friday afternoon tutorial sessions where visiting specialists act as consultants to our final year BA Architecture and MArch students in a relaxed ‘studio’ atmosphere. This specialist input (as in practice) helps to focus the work of the student in regards to structural clarity, visual comprehension and environmental sustainability.
I have been a visiting critic and lecturer at the Architectural Association School of Architecture, The Bartlett (UCL), The Royal College of Art and the Welsh School of Architecture. I have been an an external examiner at The Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA), University of Edinburgh (2016–2020), Department of Civil Engineering at Glasgow University (2010 – 2012), Chelsea School of Art, UAL (2008 – 2010). I am currently External Examiner for the MSt Apprenticeship in Architecture, Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge. (2021–).
In 2016 I became a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA), and in 2019 I joined the RIBA Educational Publishing Advisory Panel.
My doctoral thesis Technological Innovation in Architecture: The Role of the Aberrant Practitioner, analysed the unique contribution of the 'Innovative Entrepreneur' to architecture and construction. Research included the construction automation work of Dante Bini and his development of the Binishell family of construction systems. Published outputs include essays and articles including the McLean's Nuggets column for Architectural Design (2005-2010) and the editing and publishing of the first English language book on the work of Bini. McLean, W., ed., (2014) Building With Air: Dante Bini. London: Bibliotheque McLean, McLean, W., The Pneumatically Powered Construction Systems of Dante Bini. In: Campbell, J. W. P. et al, Further Studies in the History of Construction: The Proceedings of the Third Annual Conference of the Construction History Society. Queens’ College Cambridge. 8-10 April 2016. Cambridge: Construction History Society, 2016, pp. 441-450, McLean, W., (2014). Air Apparent: Pneumatic Structures. The Architectural Review. 235 (1406), 104-109), McLean, W., (2014). Fundamentals: 14 International Architecture Exhibition. La Biennale Di Venezia (by Rem Koolhaas), Venice: Marsilio, pp 32–33) and McLean, W., (2013) Dante's Inflatables. AA Files: Annals of the Architectural Association School of Architecture 67 (Winter 2013), 19–23.
The 'Innovative Entrepreneur' project also included research into the work of artist Graham Stevens (pneumatic / inflatable / environmental art), architects Adam Kalkin (prefabrication / building with shipping containers) and Fritz Haller (systems building) and structural engineer Tim Macfarlane (structural glass). Current research outputs include interviews, published articles, papers and books. McLean, W. 2017. Building with Glass: Tim Macfarlane and the Development of Glass as a Load-bearing Structural Element. Campbell, J. (ed.) Fourth Annual Construction History Society Conference. Queens' College Cambridge 07 to end of 09 Apr 2017 Construction History Society. McLean, W., (2015) Graham Stevens: Atmospheric Industries. AA Files: Annals of the Architectural Association School of Architecture 70, pp 138–143. McLean, W., ed. (2008). Quik Build: Adam Kalkin’s ABC of Container Architecture. London: Bibliotheque McLean.
Ongoing research is focused on the early history and application of pneumatic / air structures in architecture. Recent publications in this field include: McLean, W. Silver, P., (2015) Air Structures. London: Laurence King. Sixth International Congress on Construction History in Brussels (2018) on the work of Frederick Lanchester and The Development of the Air-Supported Structure.
I am currently completing a monograph about the work of the Italian architect and inventor Dante Bini. Dante Bini: Architect, due for publication in October 2021 by Bibliotheque McLean.
Contributing a chapter on Building and Construction for A Cultural History of Craft in the Modern Age edited by Clive Edwards and published by Bloomsbury Academic.
Researching for a future publication on the work of Scottish architectural practice Gratton and McLean, the architects of the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow (1960), Castlemilk West Church (1957) and works for the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board.
Cataloging the work of artist Bruce McLean in preparation for a monograph of his work.