Job title: Senior Lecturer in Architectural History
Role: Programme Director, MA(Hons) Architectural History & Heritage (currently on sabbatical: Leverhulme Major Research Fellow, 2018-21)
Tel: +44 (0)131 650 2320
Research outputs: Dr Alex Bremner on Edinburgh Research Explorer
BA (Hons), MArch (Deakin), PhD (Cantab), FRHistS
Alex joined Architecture at the University of Edinburgh in 2005. He read for his PhD at the University of Cambridge (Gates Scholar 2001-04), where he specialised in the history and theory of Victorian architecture. Between completing his doctorate and arriving at Edinburgh, Alex was Postdoctoral Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (Yale University). He is a recipient of both the Hawksmoor Medal (Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain) and the Founders’ Award (Society of Architectural Historians, USA) for outstanding scholarship in the field of architectural history. His monograph Imperial Gothic: Religious Architecture and High Anglican Culture in the British Empire c.1840-70 (Yale University Press) received the Alice Davis Hitchcock Medallion for 2013 from the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, the William M. B. Berger Prize for British Art History (2014), the Historians of British Art Book Prize (2015), and was shortlisted for the Whitfield Prize, Royal Historical Society (2014).
Alex's research interests include the history of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British architecture, architecture and empire, national identity and its relationship to the wider built environment, and religious architecture (particularly Anglican and Nonconformist cultures in Britain and its colonial empire during the nineteenth century). His particular interest concerns the intersection between European empire and the globalisation of architectural form, knowledge and expertise, including the nature and effects of corporate agency. He has published widely on these subjects.
Alex is currently an editor of ABE Journal (Architecture Beyond Europe), and an Editorial Advisory Committee member of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. He has also been a Deputy Editor of Architectural History, the journal of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain (2012-14).
Alex teaches in all areas of the MA Architectural History & Heritage programme at Edinburgh, lecturing in Years 1 and 2 on topics ranging from Ancient Egypt to the present day. He also offers specialist Honours-level (years 3 and 4) subjects in the history of Victorian architecture and the history of British imperial and colonial architecture. Alex also teaches on the flagship MSc Architectural History and Theory programme, offering expertise in post-colonial theory, the historiography of architecture, and architecture and globalisation.
Alex’s research focuses on the history and theory of Victorian architecture and design culture broadly defined, with a special interest in the history of British imperial and colonial architecture. He is currently producing a new survey history of Victorian architecture for the Oxford History of Art series, and has recently received a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship (2018-21) to complete a monograph study of Edwardian civic and state architecture. The latter of these projects will re-evaluate the relationship between architecture, imperialism, and national identity in Britain and the wider British world (i.e., 'Greater Britain') through an examination of the so-called Edwardian Baroque movement in architectural design, connecting it to broader currents in British history, politics, and empire. Other research interests include the relationship between commercial architectures and international trade in the context of empire, especially networked spaces of economic exchange, where he has undertaken research on the commercial infrastructure of Jardine, Matheson & Co. in South and South-East Asia during the early nineteenth century. Alex also has a special interest in the historiographic traditions of architectural scholarship, with a particular concern for the application of broader historiographic frames of reference to the understanding of architecture and the wider built environment, including Transnational, Oceanic, and World/Global historiographies, as well as methods of cultural and historical geography.
His principal publications include:
Imperial Gothic: Religious Architecture and High Anglican Culture in the British Empire, c.1840-70 (Yale University Press, 2013), 484pp, 363 ills.
Architecture and Urbanism in the British Empire, ed. G. A. Bremner (Oxford University Press, 2016).
Making History: Edward Augustus Freeman and Victorian Cultural Politics, eds., G. A. Bremner and Jonathan Conlin (British Academy/ Oxford University Press, 2015).
Scholarly Articles and Chapters
'Material, Movement and Memory: Some Thoughts on Architecture and Experience in the Age of Mechanisation' in E. Gillin and H. Joyce (eds), Experiencing Architecture in the Nineteenth Century: Buildings and Society in the Modern Age (Bloomsbury, 2018), pp. 175-91.
‘“In bright tints … nature’s own formation”: the uses and meaning of marble in Victorian building culture’, in N. J. Napoli and W. Tronzo (eds), Radical Marble: Architectural Innovation from Antiquity to the Present (Routledge, 2018), pp. 72-92.
‘The expansion of England? Scotland, architectural history, and the wider British world’, Journal of Art Historiography, no. 18 (June 2018)
‘Does ABE Journal need a rethink?: “Early modern” and “modern” in the study of imperial / colonial architecture’, in ABE Journal, no. 12 (2017).
'Gothic in extremis: Missions, Mediation, and the Case of the Patteson Memorial Chapel in the South Pacific' in T. Brittian-Catlin, J. De Maeyer, and M. Bressani (eds), Gothic Revival Worldwide: A. W. N. Pugin's Global Influence (Leuven University Press, 2016), pp. 142-55.
‘Narthex reclaimed: Reinventing disciplinary space in the Anglican mission field, 1847–1903’, Journal of Historical Geography, vol. 51 (2016), pp. 1-17.
'Architecture, Urbanism, and British Imperial Studies', in G. A. Bremner (ed.), Architecture and Urbanism in the British Empire (Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 1-18.
'Stones of Empire: Monuments, Memorials, and Manifest Authority' in G. A. Bremner (ed.), Architecture and Urbanism in the British Empire (Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 86-124.
'The Metropolis: Imperial Buildings and Landscapes in Britain' in G. A. Bremner (ed.), Architecture and Urbanism in the British Empire (Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 125-58.
'Propagating Ideas and Institutions: Religious and Educational Architecture' (with Louis P. Nelson) in G. A. Bremner (ed.), Architecture and Urbanism in the British Empire (Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 159-97.
'Intersecting Interests: Developments in Networks and Flows of Information and Expertise in Architectural History' (with M. Volait and J. Lagae), Fabrications, 26:2 (2016), pp. 227-45.
'Fabricating Justice: Conflict and Contradiction in the Making of the Hong Kong Supreme Court, 1898-1912' in L. Victoir and V. Zatsepin (eds.), From Harbin to Hanoi: Colonial Built Environment in Asia, 1840-1940 (Hong Kong UP, 2012), pp. 156-80.
'Pro Fide et Patria: Anglicanism and Ecclesiastical Architecture in Central and Southern Africa, 1848-1903' in F. Demissie (ed.), Colonial Architecture and Urbanism in Africa: Intertwined and Contested Histories (Ashgate, 2012), pp. 239-76.
'1066 and All That: E. A. Freeman and the Importance of Being Memorable' (with J. Conlin), in G. A. Bremner and J. Conlin (eds.), Making History: Edward Augustus Freeman and Victorian Cultural Politics (British Academy/Oxford UP, 2015), pp. 3-28.
'E. A. Freeman and G. G. Scott: An Episode in the Influence of Ideas', in G. A. Bremner and J. Conlin (eds.), Making History: Edward Augustus Freeman and Victorian Cultural Politics (British Academy/Oxford UP, 2015), pp. 177-96.
'History as Form: Architecture and Liberal Anglican Thought in the Writings of E. A. Freeman' [with Jonathan Conlin], Modern Intellectual History, vol. 8:2 (2011), pp. 299–326.
'The Architecture of the Universities' Mission to Central Africa: Developing a Vernacular Tradition in the Anglican Mission Field, 1861-1908,' Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 68:4 (2009), pp. 514-39.
'The "Great Obelisk" and Other Schemes: the Origins and Limits of Nationalist Sentiment in the Making of the Albert Memorial 1861-63,'Nineteenth-Century Contexts, vol. 31:3 (2009), pp. 225-49.
'Out of Africa: G. F. Bodley, William White, and the Anglican Mission Church of St. Philip, Grahamstown, 1857-67,' Architectural History, vol. 51 (2008), pp. 185-210.
'Between Civilisation and Barbarity: Conflicting Perceptions of the Non-European World in William Theed's Africa, 1864-69,' Sculpture Journal, vol. 15 (2007), pp. 94-102.
'Nation and Empire in the Government Architecture of Mid-Victorian London: the Foreign and India Office Reconsidered,' Historical Journal, vol. 48:3 (2005), pp. 703-42.
'"Imperial Peace Memorial": the Second Anglo-Boer War and the Origins of Admiralty Arch, 1900-1905,' British Art Journal, vol. 5:3 (2004), pp. 62-6.
'"Imperial Monumental Halls and Tower": Westminster Abbey and the Commemoration of Empire, 1854-1904,' Architectural History, vol. 47 (2004), pp. 251-82.
'"Some Imperial Institute:" Architecture, Symbolism, and the Ideal of Empire in Late Victorian Britain, 1887-93,' Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 62:1 (2003), pp. 50-73.
'Spaces of Exclusion: the significance of cultural identity in the formation of European residential districts in British Hong Kong, 1877-1904' [with David P. Y. Lung], Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 21:2 (2003), pp. 223-52.
The Pre-Raphaelites and Science (John Holmes, 2018), in The Burlington Magazine (May 2019), pp. 443-4.
Country Houses and the British Empire, 1700-1930 (Stephanie Barczewski, 2014), in Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, vol. 63 (2019), pp. 134-5.
The Victorian Palace of Science: Scientific Knowledge and the Building of the Houses of Parliament (Edward J. Gillin, 2017), in Physics in Perspective, vol. 20 (2018), pp. 370-73.
Capital Designs: Australia House and Visions of an Imperial London (Eileen Chanin, 2018), in The Burlington Magazine (March, 2019), pp. 263-4.
Swahili Port Cities: The Architecture of Elsewhere (Prita Meier, 2016), in Architectural History, vol. 61 (2018), pp. 292-4.
Unlocking the Church: The Lost Secrets of Victorian Sacred Space (William Whyte, 2017), in The Victorian (July 2018), p. 25.
City of Refuge: Separatists and Utopian Town Planning (M. J. Lewis, 2016), in Journal of Architecture, 22:8 (2017), pp. 1366-1368.
Architecture and Empire in Jamaica (L. Nelson, 2016), in Architectural History, vol. 60 (2017), pp. 344-47.
Building the British Atlantic World: Spaces, Places, and Material Culture, 1600-1850 (eds. D. Maudlin and B. L. Herman, 2016), in Britain and the World, vol. 10:1 (2017), pp. 115-18.
George Frederick Bodley and the Later Gothic Revival in Britain and America (M. Hall, 2014), in The Architectural Historian, 2 (Dec. 2015/Jan. 2016), pp. 25-27.
Iron, Ornament and Architecture in Victorian Britain: Myth and Modernity, Excess and Enchantment (P. Dobraszczyk, 2014), in Victorian Studies, vol. 58:3 (2016), pp. 557-60.
The Age of Empire: Britain's Imperial Buildings, 1880-1930 (C. Aslet, 2015), in Cercles (July 2016).
Buildings of Empire (A. Jackson, 2013), in Journal of Historical Geography, vol. 47 (2015), pp. 109-10.
Empire Builders: 1750-1950 (exhibition at the V&A Museum, London), in Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 73:4 (2014), pp. 582-83.
Bleak Houses: Disappointment and Failure in Architecture (T. Brittain-Catlin, 2014), in The Victorian, no. 47 (Nov. 2014), pp. 29-31.
Slavery and the British Country House (ed. M. Dresser and A. Hann, 2013), in Newsletter of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, no. 113 (Autumn, 2014), pp. 9-11.
Robert Willis and the Foundation of Architectural History (A. Buchanan, 2013), in Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 73:3 (2014), pp. 424-26.
Room for Diplomacy: Britain's Diplomatic Buildings Overseas 1800-2000 (M. Bertram, 2011), Newsletter of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, no. 110 (Autumn, 2013), p. 19.
The Battle of the Styles: Society, Culture and the Design of a New Foreign Office, 1855–61 (B. Porter, 2012), in Victorian Studies, vol. 55.2 (2013), pp. 376-78.
William White: Pioneer Victorian Architect (G. Hunter, 2010), in True Principles, vol. 4:4 (2013-14), pp. 355-58.
Whare Karakia: Māori Church Building, Decoration and Ritual in Aotearoa New Zealand 1834-1863 (R. Sundt, 2010), in Fabrications, vol. 20:1 (2011), pp. 129-31.
Essays in Scots and English Architectural History: A Festschrift in Honour of John Frew (ed. D. Jones and S. McKinstry, 2009), in True Principles, vol. 4:2 (2010-11), pp. 210-11.
An Excellent Recruit: Frederick Thatcher - Architect, Priest, and Private Secretary in Early New Zealand (M. H. Alington, 2007), in Ecclesiology Today, no. 40 (2008), pp. 111-12.
The Great Pyramid: Ancient Egypt Revisited (J. Romer, 2008), in Newsletter of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, no. 93 (2008), pp. 16-17.
Current PhD students
- British Imperial Architecture in the Nile valley, 1880s-1920s
- Forms of Feeling: Architecture and Emotion in the Victorian Gothic Revival, c. 1840-1875
- Dreaming of the Middle Ages: Architecture, Neo-Medievalism, and the House of Savoy in Italy, 1814-1900
PhD Supervision Topics
Alex welcomes applications for PhD study in the following broad areas of research:
Architecture and empire in Britain and the British World
Nineteenth-century religion and architecture
Colonial built environments (1550-1950)
Architecture and trade in the context of empire
Victorian and Edwardian architectures in Britain
Architecture, energy, and industrialisation in the nineteenth century