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Department of Architecture, University of Westminster

History & Theory open lecture series, 2010-11

6.30pm, Thursdays Room M421

University of Westminster,
35 Marylebone Road,
London NW1 5LS

Thursday 10th February 2011 Tanis Hinchcliffe
Thursday 17th February 2011 Jeremy Till
Thursday 3rd March 2011 Barnabas Calder
Thursday 10th March 2011 William Menking
Thursday 24th March 2011 Zeynep Mennan

Open lectures, no charge, all welcome. Baker Street tube.
Email enquiries to: [email protected]

Thursday 10th February, 6.30pm

Tanis Hinchcliffe

Top Down:Aerial Photography and the Planner at Mid-20th Century

Even before it was possible to fly, people thought they knew what the earth looked like from above. By the 19th century when ballooning became commonplace, it seemed only natural that the newly invented camera should be taken aloft. This combination of flight and camera accelerated after the invention of the heavier than air machine so that by World War 1 aerial photography could make an important contribution to military reconnaissance. After the war when the question was asked to what use aerial photography could be put outside wartime, the answer was usually ‘planning’.

What contribution did aerial photography make to planning in the 20th century and what did planners learn from these photographs? Given that people thought they knew what the earth looked like from above before aerial photography, did they actually see what the photographs depicted, or did they see what they already knew?

Dr Tanis Hinchcliffe, recently retired Reader in Architecture at the University of Westminster, is an architectural historian and has written widely on the interface between architecture and the wider culture. She is the author with Dr John Bold of Discovering London’s Buildings, 2009. In 2008 she convened with Dr Davide Deriu a symposium on London and aerial photography, Eyes over London, at the University of Westminster.


Thursday 17th February

Jeremy Till

Spatial Agency and The Ethics of Architecture

The most intemperate part of Jeremy Till’s book Architecture Depends focuses on architecture’s ineffective and sometimes immoral engagement with ethics. In this lecture he explains the cause of his ire, and suggests a view of ethics that goes beyond a consideration of building as object. This leads to an alternative version of architectural production called Spatial Agency, which offers numerous other ways of doing architecture.  

Jeremy Till, Dean of Architecture and the Built Environment at the University of Westminster since 2008, was previously Professor of Architecture and Head of the School at the University of Sheffield. He is a prize-winning author whose books include Architecture and Participation, Flexible Housing (with Tatjana Schneider), Architecture Depends, and most recently, Spatial Agency (with Nishat Awan and Tatjana Schneider). As an architect, he worked with Sarah Wigglesworth Architects, best known for their pioneering 9 Stock Orchard Street (The Straw House and Quilted Office). In 2006 he curated the British Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale.


Thursday 3rd March

Barnabas Calder

Denys Lasdun; the Mechanisms of Reputation

Denys Lasdun (1914-2001) was one of Britain’s leading modern architects. In the 1960s he turned down more work than he accepted, and produced a succession of internationally admired masterpieces including the National Theatre, the University of East Anglia and the Royal College of Physicians. Yet by the 1980s he was sufficiently unpopular that Punch called for him to be ‘taken out and shot’. Recent years have seen a revival of his reputation, with almost all his surviving buildings listed and increasingly widely loved.  This paper will examine this spectacularly fluctuating popularity, and the steps Lasdun himself took to develop and protect his reputation

Dr Barnabas Calder is Lecturer in History & Theory of Architecture at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. His research centres on Brutalist architecture in Britain and North America.


Thursday 10th March

William Menking

Architecture on Display

In this lecture William Menking will focus on the early history of the Venice Architecture Biennale, the origins of which are traced to the 1970s when it emerged from under the umbrella of the larger Venice Biennale which was established in 1895. It has become one of the most important forums for architectural discourse, and has served as a model for a range of international exhibitions. The history of the Biennale offers an understanding of the complex relationship between architectures of use and architectures of display. The exhibitions staged there navigate the tensions between nation-state representation, economic tourism and the city of Venice itself.

William Menking is founder and editor-in-chief of The Architect’s Newspaper. He has organised, curated and created catalogues for exhibitions on architecture and urbanism in the USA and Europe, including those on Archigram and Superstudio. He is the author, with Aaron Levy, of Architecture on Display, which explores the Venice Architecture Biennale through the directors who established its particular discourse. He was himself curator of the US Pavilion at the 2008 Biennale.




Thursday 24th March

Zeynep Mennan

From Simple to Complex Configuration: Sustainability of Gestalt Principles of Visual Perception within the Complexity Paradigm  

In this lecture Zeynep Mennan will use design research in order to question the premises of the Gestalt theory of visual perception in the context of complex forms. Formalist procedures applied to the rationalization of complex form seem unable to account for the challenge which the forms pose to intuition and visual perception. This challenge calls for a sharpening and augmentation of intuitionist and perceptual abilities, built on an effective theoretical ground. It will be argued that the basic Gestalt principles of visual perception should be reconsidered in face of the challenges posed by complex geometric and conceptual developments.

Zeynep Mennan is Graduate Programme Director in Architecture, Theory and Design at METU, Ankara. She is an architect, theorist and design critic who has researched and lectured in Europe, USA and Australia. She co-curated ‘Non Standard Architectures’ at the Pompidou Centre in 2003. Her recent fields of interest include the epistemology and aesthetics of computational design.