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Prof Iain Borden
Wates House
22 Gordon Street
United Kingdom
Tel: 020 7679 4821
  • Professor of Architecture and Urban Culture
  • The Bartlett School of Architecture
  • The Bartlett School
  • Faculty of the Built Environment

Iain Borden is Professor of Architecture and Urban Culture at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, where he is also Vice-Dean for Communications for the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, having previously served as Director and Head of the Bartlett School of Architecture from 2001-09.

An Honorary Fellow of the RIBA, I have guided architectural education and research internationally, helping to write the QAA Benchmarking Statement for Architecture (2006-10), acting as a Strategic Reviewer for the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2011-12), evaluating refereed articles and book proposals for over 40 journals and publishers, as well as assessing research funding applications in countries such as Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Singapore, USA and the UK.

As an architectural historian and urban commentator, my work has explored various interdisciplinary intersections of architectural history, cultural history, critical theory and urbanism. I am particularly interested in the ways in which urban and architectural spaces are experienced and perceived by people after the moment at which these spaces have been first constructed - that is, the various ways in which buildings and cities constantly change and evolve depending on their different uses and lives over many years and through different media. My inaugural professional lecture – “Machines of Possibility” (2004) – describing this approach is available for download.

My wide-ranging research interests within architecture and urban culture are described below. Most recently I have been working on a history of automobile driving, urban experience and cinema, now being followed by new work on an experiential history of the buildings and spaces of London. I operate extensively in the public arena, making numerous media appearances on the radio and television worldwide, while also curating and participating in exhibitions, debates, symposia, workshops and other academic and public events worldwide.

Research Summary

Research by Iain Borden explores how architecture and cities are experienced and re-used by members of the public.

Architecture and cities are crucial to how people live and society operates. Without homes, shops and parks, without offices, workplaces and airports, our world would grind to a halt. As a historian and theorist of architecture and urban culture, I am interested not just in how our cities function but also how they are designed, what they mean to people and how they are experienced.

The role of architects and urban designers plays a big part in this, and high quality of design is a crucial ingredient in what people expect from architecture. What do buildings look like? How do they satisfy people’s needs? How do they speak of deeper cultural issues today and in the past?

Ultimately, architecture is assessed by those who use it on an everyday basis, and much of my research work has consequently been about how people who are not trained in architecture perceive and experience the cities in which they live. To do this, I have studied a diverse range of subjects and places, ranging from the urban spaces of Italian renaissance piazzas to the use of surveillance cameras in shopping malls, from architectural modernism to recent postmodernism, from issues of gender and ethnicity in city spaces to the way architecture is represented in cinema and photography. In particular, I have completed an in-depth study of the urban practice of skateboarding, looking at how skateboarders have adopted modern cities as their own pleasure-ground, creating a concrete wonderland with its own subculture of clothes, attitudes and actions. I have also extended this area of investigation into the world of automobile driving, looking at films and movies to explore how people’s experiences of the city from the car changes their engagement with, and understanding of, architecture and urban space. Recent work explores how specific places and buildings in London can be encountered through different kinds of social engagement, such as knowledge, memory and risk-taking.

Authored and co-edited publications include:

•      Drive: Journeys through Film, Cities and Landscapes (2013).
•      Bartlett Designs: Speculating With Architecture (2009).
•      The Dissertation: an Architecture Student’s Handbook (revised edition, 2005; Chinese edition 2010).
•      Transculturation: Cities, Spaces and Architectures in Latin America (2005).
•      Bartlett Works (2004).
•      The City Cultures Reader, (revised edition, 2003).
•      Manual: the Architecture and Office of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (2003).
•      Skateboarding Space and the City: Architecture and the Body (2001; Japanese edition 2006).
•      The Unknown City: Contesting Architecture and Social Space (2001).
•      The New Babylonians, special profile n.151 of Architectural Design (AD), v.71 n.3, (June 2001).
•      InterSections: Architectural Histories and Critical Theories (2000).
•      Gender Space Architecture: an Interdisciplinary Introduction (1999).
•      Strangely Familiar: Narratives of Architecture in the City (1996).
•      Architecture and the Sites of History: Interpretations of Buildings and Cities (1995).

A selection of articles are available for download at http://ucl.academia.edu/IainBorden/

Teaching Summary

Iain Borden has been teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students in architecture and urbanism at the Bartlett School of Architecture since 1989.

Teaching at all levels, from undergraduate and masters to PhD, I have developed several new modules and courses. In particular, I have developed the 'Representations of Cities' course within MA Architectural History. This module reviews the variety of ways in which cities have been conceptualised in recent urban and cultural theory, and considers how the city can be understood as a set of differing cultural experiences: experiences of time, space, social identity, artistic interventions etc. Methodologically, the module introduces some of the main architectural and critical theories – such as the work of Lefebvre, Habermas, Tschumi, Debord, Simmel, Le Corbusier, de Certeau, Rossi, Deleuze, Derrida, Benjamin and Baudrillard etc - relating to the experience of the city. In particular, the category of social space is introduced as an important concept which mediates between different disciplines, and links thinkers who have considered the intersection of buildings, cities and people.

My PhD students - many funded by the AHRC or other international sponsors - conduct research into a wide range of related areas, including (previous and current work): colonial and postcolonial architecture and urbanism in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan; media and architectural imagery in London and Shanghai; everyday spaces, housing, landscape and post-apartheid architecture in South Africa; turnpike roads in the UK; construction sites in 1960s Paris; Deleuze, cinema and the London Underground; British amusement parks; psychotopography in the work of LA novelist Steve Erickson; capoeira and the favelas of Rio de Janeiro; the concept and condition of stasis; and graffiti-like writings on everyday urban surfaces.

As Director and Head of the UCL Bartlett School of Architecture from 2001-09, I had overall responsibility for the management of all aspects of its various teaching programmes, including matters of resourcing and staffing, quality assurance, professional accreditation and course development. I have also served as Vice-Dean Academic Affairs and Faculty Tutor for the Bartlett, been a member of the RIBA Education Committee from 2003-10 and chair of the RIBA President’s Medals Dissertation Prize (1999-2003), and acted as Council Member and Vice-Chair of SCHOSA (2006-09).

External and PhD examining has been conducted at Witswaterand University, University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, Birkbeck College, Goldsmiths, Slade School of Fine Art, University of Strathclyde, Central St. Martins, National University of Singapore, University of East London, University of Nottingham and Middlesex University.

I have also been involved in teaching through various workshops and visiting appointments at several other institutions worldwide, including the Architectural Association, University of Westminster, School of African & Oriental Studies, Royal College of Art, Technische Universität (Berlin), Ayoama Gakuin University (Tokyo) and Oslo School of Architecture.

2010 Vice-Dean Communications Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment UCL, United Kingdom
2002 Professor of Architecture & Urban Culture Bartlett School of Architecture UCL, United Kingdom
2001 – 2009 Head/Director Bartlett School of Architecture UCL, United Kingdom
2000 – 2001 Vice-Dean Academic Affairs Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment UCL, United Kingdom
1999 – 2002 Reader in Architecture and Urban Culture Bartlett School of Architecture UCL, United Kingdom
1999 Director of Architectural History & Theory Bartlett School of Architecture UCL, United Kingdom
1996 – 1999 Sub-Dean and Faculty Tutor Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment UCL, United Kingdom
1990 – 1991 Tutor in General Studies   Architectural Association, London, United Kingdom
1989 – 1999 Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Architectural History Bartlett School of Architecture UCL, United Kingdom
1989 – 1992 Research Consultant   Building Use Studies Ltd, London, United Kingdom
Academic Background
1999 PhD Doctor of Philosophy University College London
1989 MA Master of Arts University of California at Los Angeles
1986 MSc Master of Science University College London
1985 BA Hons Bachelor of Arts (Honours) University of Newcastle upon Tyne
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