Job title: Lecturer in Architecture and Contemporary Practice

Email: C.A.French@ed.ac.uk

Office address: Minto House

Chris is a Lecturer in Architecture and Contemporary Practice at the University of Edinburgh. He has taught architectural design and theory at the University since 2009, and is currently leader of an MArch studio entitled City Fragments: Palermo Institutions. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh MArch with Distinction in 2009 (Warszawa: Projects for the Post-Socialist City), and received his PhD Architecture by Design (Designs for (the failure of) Institution: A Rake's Progress, an eccentric chest, banking and Edinburgh) from the University of Edinburgh in 2015, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. He has worked in practice with Simpson and Brown Architects and Kalm Architecture in Edinburgh and MMasA Arquitectos in A Coruña, Spain, and has worked with various collaborators on independent design projects and competitions. Chris has also acted as an invited critic at the AA School, Newcastle University, and the University of Sassari.

Chris co-organised and chaired the symposium Plenitude and Emptiness, and co-founded the architectural design research journal Drawing On. He is a member of the City Speculations research group. His current research concerns the architectural exhibition as a means of investigation and speculation, framed through questions of the fragment, and research conducted in collaboration with Maria Mitsoula into the relationships of cities to landscapes, the imaginary and the absurd through Albert Camus and Vilém Flusser.​

Chris is currently leader of an MArch studio entitled City Fragments: Palermo Institutions. He has taught architectural design studios and theory courses at the University of Edinburgh since 2009, across the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. In this time, he has been involved with the following design studios:

  • The [Loving] Metropolitan Landscape: PARA-Situation [Olbia]. MArch and MSc Architectural Urban Design. Tutor (Course Organiser: Dr Dorian Wiszniewski), 2012-13.
  • The [Loving] Metropolitan Landscape: PARA-Situation [Mumbai]. MArch and MSc Architectural Urban Design. Tutor (Course Organiser: Dr Dorian Wiszniewski), 2013-15.
  • PARA-Situation [Bari]: Baresi Blades and Captains Villages. MSc Architectural Urban Design. Course organiser with Kevin Adams, 2015-16.
  • PARA-Situation [Kolkata]. MSc Architectural Urban Design. Tutor (Course Organiser: Dr Dorian Wiszniewski), 2016-17.
  • New Lands I: Donkey Trails and Florentine Irises. Architecture and Urban Design Summer School. Course organiser with Maria Mitsoula, 2017.
  • PARA-Situation [Kolkata]. MArch and MSc Architectural Urban Design. Tutor (Course Organiser: Dr Dorian Wiszniewski), 2017-18.
  • PARA-Sites, Parapluies-Parasols: Tectonics as Landscape, Landscape as Tectonics. Final Year, MA (Hons). Unit leader with Dr Maria Mitsoula, 2018.
  • New Lands II: Donkey Trails and Florentine Irises. Architecture and Urban Design Summer School. Course organiser with Maria Mitsoula, 2018.
  • City Fragments: Palermo Institutions. MArch. Unit Leader with Dr Maria Mitsoula, 2018-19.

In addition, Chris has taught on various architectural theory courses, and devised and delivered research skills and methods courses to support the needs of the MSc Architectural Urban Design programme. He has also contributed to PhD Research Skills and Methods courses, and is a supervisor for undergraduate dissertations. Undergraduate dissertations that Chris has supervised include:

  • Goussous, Zaki. "Patronage in Architecture: Crisis and Nostalgia from the Great Depression to the Global Financial Crisis." 2018. 
  • Hardy, Beth. "Mythical Figures and Figuring Myths: a study of architecture, drawing and narrative through the architects Louis Kahn and John Hejduk." 2018.
  • Lee, Jun Ho. "A zero-sum game of Industry and Housing: a survey of the city." 2018.

Two principal interests guide Chris' research. The first, explored through and emerging from research undertaken during his PhD Architecture by Design thesis, involves an investigation into critical forms of representation in relation to the production of the political, architectural imaginary, institutions and institution (invoking Cornelius Castoriadis' use of the terms). As part of Chris' PhD, this fostered a discussion of William Hogarth's satirical series A Rake's Progress and Joseph Gandy's renderings of Sir John Soane's Bank of England, as well as a speculative design project drawing on John Hejduk's Lancaster/Hanover Masque. Hogarth and Gandy's depictions of financial ruin framed a discussion, critique and questioning of the financial institutions of Edinburgh in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. ​

The second interest, developing through Chris' studio teaching, pertains to the relationship between urbanity, architecture, and agricultural and urban landscapes. This interest—explored through studio briefs looking at the River Tyne, Newtongrange in Midlothian, the lama(dry flood channels) of Bari, and the conca d'oro in Palermo—has driven investigations into particular urban/landscape thresholds, landscape patterns and temporalities, focusing on how projections of urban space into landscape impart or impose particular political or managerial regimes (taking the borgataof southern Italy as an example). Centred on Michel Serres' key ecological texts The Natural Contract(1995) andTimes of Crisis(2013), and Donna Harraway's notion of the chthulucene (developed in Staying with the Trouble, 2016), this research explores our relationship with the 'natural' (a loaded term, David Macauley reminds us) world and how we, as architects, make (in) the world.

Central to these interests is design-research and design-practice, both as the subject and means of study. In addition to developing his own research and fostering work in design studios, Chris is a co-founder and editor of Drawing On, an e-journal concerned with the dissemination of design-research with an international review board expert in design-research. Issue 02 (Drawing On: Situation and Installation) launched on 12th March, 2018.

Chris supervises undergraduate dissertations, and is interested in topics that engage these research interests. In addition, he is interested in supervising dissertations that explore the following:

  • The figure of the architect
  • Research-by-design
  • The imaginary
  • Architecture and exhibition
  • City-Landscapes