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Dr Barbara Penner
Bartlett School of Architecture
140 Hampstead Road London
  • Senior Lecturer
  • The Bartlett School of Architecture
  • Faculty of the Built Environment

Barbara Penner is Senior Lecturer in Architectural History at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. She is Acting Director of Research and Director of the PhD Architectural History & Theory programme. She also teaches on the MA Architectural History and on BSc Architectural & Interdisciplinary Studies (AIS).

Barbara is author of Bathroom (Reaktion, 2013; Awarded RIBA President’s Award for Outstanding University-Located Research 2014) and Newlyweds on Tour: Honeymooning in Nineteenth-Century America (UPNE, 2009). She is co-editor of Forty Ways to Think about Architecture (John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 2014), Ladies and Gents: Public Toilets and Gender (Temple University Press, 2009) and Gender Space Architecture (Routledge, 2000). She has most recently contributed essays to The Journal of Architecture, Globalization in Practice (Oxford University Press, 2014), ArchiPop (Berg, 2014), and Use Matters: an alternative history of architecture (2013). She regularly writes for architectural magazines such as Architectural Review, Cabinet, Icon and Places.

In recent years, Barbara has been invited to give lectures in institutions across the UK, Japan, and North America, including at Aoyama Gakuin University, Cornell University, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture. She has been interviewed in news outlets such as CNN and The Globe and Mail and has been featured in radio programmes on the ABC, BBC, and CBC, e.g. on the theme of “The Great Indoors,” for the BBC Radio 4 programme Thinking Allowed (19 February 2014).

Barbara serves as a member of the editorial boards of The Journal of Architecture (2011-) and Interiors: Architecture, Design, Culture (2009-) and as a contributing editor to Places (https://placesjournal.org). As a member of the Education Sub-Committee of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain (2011-14), she helped to establish its Annual Graduate Student Forum. She remains on the Judging Panel for the SAHGB's Alice Davis Hitchcock Book Prize. She has served as a member of various scientific committees and been invited to participate in numerous research groups, most recently Future Archive, sponsored by The Graham Foundation in association with Places, to select and introduce key architectural writings for digital reprinting. She is presently an external examiner (theory) for the BA Interior and Spatial Design at Chelsea School of Art and Design, UAL, and has examined twelve PhDs at UCL, the University of London, and institutions in the UK, Europe and North America.

Research Summary

Barbara's research covers a wide range of subjects: nineteenth-century commercial architecture (hotels and department stores); twentieth-century tourist destinations (honeymoon resorts); the domestic interior; urban infrastructure; and bathrooms of all kinds. Her primary research question is how such seemingly everyday spaces and building types enable the formation of particular social and cultural identities and can promote social inclusion or its opposite. Her work is consistently informed by an interest in feminism. It is also interdisciplinary in nature, typically drawing on work from anthropology, literary theory, history, technology studies and cultural studies.

Barbara is author of Bathroom (Reaktion, 2013; Awarded RIBA President’s Award for Outstanding University-Located Research 2014) and Newlyweds on Tour: Honeymooning in Nineteenth-Century America (UPNE, 2009). She has co-edited numerous publications, including, with Iain Borden and Murray Fraser, Forty Ways to Think about Architecture (John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 2014); with Olga Gershenson, Ladies and Gents: Public Toilets and Gender (Temple University Press, 2009); and with Jane Rendell and Iain Borden, Gender, Space, Architecture (Routledge, 2000).  She has contributed essays to peer-reviewed publications such as Winterthur Portfolio and The Journal of Architecture and to edited collections such as Globalization in Practice (Oxford University Press, 2014), ArchiPop (Berg, 2014), and Use Matters: an alternative history of architecture (2013). She regularly writes for architectural magazines such as Architectural Review, Cabinet, Icon and Places on subjects that range from sewers to Niagara Falls to adventure playgrounds. She also enjoys an ongoing collaboration with Charles Rice (Professor of Architecture, University of Technology Sydney). They have co-authored articles about the domestic interior and its representations, most recently in Interior Lives (Ashgate, 2013).

Barbara is regularly invited to write and comment on bathrooms and sanitation issues, both on her own and as part of the UCLoo team (with Dr. Sarah Bell in Civil, Environmental, and Geomatic Engineering and Dr. Tse Hui-Teh in the Bartlett School of Planning). In 2013, the team coordinated the two-week UCLoo festival that sought to highlight sanitation issues globally. Events included a film festival, loo tours, make-a-thon, exhibition, and a comedy night. Its centerpiece was a working ecological public toilet with a .2l flush in the UCL Main Quadrangle. The event was covered in BBC Radio4’s “Costing the Earth: A Toilet for the 21st Century” (12 Feb. 2014) and was named UCL Communication and Culture’s Best Public Event of 2013.

Barbara's current research project, “Subject to Design: Social Science in the Home”, proposes to study how social scientific research into user behaviour has shaped Anglo-American homes in the 20th and 21st centuries. By exploring disciplines from home economics to ergonomics to ethnographic consumer studies, it suggests that this research has shaped the design of home spaces, domestic technologies, and home lives in pervasive but rarely acknowledged ways. She was recently awarded the 2014-5 Cornell Dean’s Fellowship in the History of Home Economics to conduct archival research into the celebrated Cornell Kitchen (1950-53), an exemplary ergonomic project which brought together a multidisciplinary team of home engineers, architects, and social scientists to redesign kitchen space.

Teaching Summary

In her teaching, Barbara Penner aims to expand students' understanding of the social, cultural and material context of the built environment's production. Since 1997, she has taught a range of modules that have served undergraduate (Years 2 and 3) and postgraduate students (Masters and PhD). It is primarily through this work, that she has brought her own research interests to bear, running courses on subjects as varied as Michel Foucault’s concept of heterotopia, detective fiction as an urban genre, domestic design and identity, and the ‘expanded field’ of architecture in the 1960s. Since 2005, she has also co-taught the Masters module, Representation of Cities with Iain Borden and Ben Campkin, and has twice coordinated the Masters module Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Architecture, taught mainly through site visits in London. 

Since 2002, Barbara has been the Programme Leader of BSc (Hons) Architectural & Interdisciplinary Studies, a multi-disciplinary programme to provide students with an alternative route through the Bartlett School of Architecture. The course has proved to be very successful and its graduates have gone on to further studies and/or careers in law, management, journalism, architectural history and the fine arts. For this programme, Barbara has set up two innovative courses devoted to the skills and methods of architectural research; Architectural Research II involves producing an original exhibition, which in 2014-5, was on the theme ‘Bartlett, Banham and Beyond.’

Barbara is also the Director of the PhD Architectural History and Theory, as well as presently being the first supervisor to six PhD students who are researching topics from the role of women religious in building nineteenth-century convents to photography and American urban renewal. She has seen six PhD students through to completion and has examined  MPhil and PhD dissertations at institutions including Birkbeck College, Edinburgh College of Art, Kingston University, Dublin Institute of Technology, K.U. Leuven, Swansea Metropolitan University, University of Delaware and UCL. 

She welcomes inquiries from potential graduate students, particularly  those interested in gender, sexuality, domesticity, consumerism, tourism, design history (especially user-centered and inclusive design), interior culture, and infrastructure.

2000 Teaching and Learning Coordinator   UCL, United Kingdom
2000 M.Phil/Ph.D supervisor   UCL, United Kingdom
2000 M.A. Architectural History Tutor   UCL, United Kingdom
2000 B.Sc. Architectural Studies Course Director   UCL, United Kingdom
2000 Ph.D. Architectural History & Theory Director   UCL, United Kingdom
2000 Senior Lecturer Bartlett School of Architecture UCL, United Kingdom
1999 – 2000 Visiting Lecturer Visual Culture and Media Dept Middlesex University, London, United Kingdom
1999 Senior Lecturer School of Architecture University of East London, United Kingdom
SEP-1998 – MAR-1999 Lecturer Design and Public Art Chelsea College of Art and Design, United Kingdom
SEP-1997 – JAN-1999 Lecturer Dept. of Art History Winchester School of Art/University of Southampton, United Kingdom
JAN-1997 – JUN-1997 Lecturer Dept. of Architecture South Bank University, London, United Kingdom
OCT-1996 – AUG-1997 Administrative Assistant Chairman’s Office The Architectural Association (AA), London, United Kingdom
JUN-1994 – AUG-1995 Editorial Assistant   Dr. Clifford Scott, United Kingdom
OCT-1993 – AUG-1995 Guide (Guide Animateur)   Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), Montreal, Canada
Academic Background
2003 PhD Doctor of Philosophy – Humanities Birkbeck College
1996 MSc Master of Science – Architectural History University College London
1994 BA Bachelor of Arts – English Literature and History of Art McGill University
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