Chris French

Job title:

Lecturer in Architecture and Contemporary Practice

Office:

Minto House

Biography

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 a two-year MArch studio entitled Grounding Naples. 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, University College Cork, and the University of Sassari.

Teaching

Chris has taught at the University of Edinburgh since 2009, across the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. He is Course Organiser for the MArch Integrated Pathway, Course Organiser for the course Architectural, Management, Practice and Law, and has led or been involved with the following design studios:

  • Grounding Naples. MArch. Unit Leader, with Michael Lewis, 2022-24.
  • Countryside [INSIDE] Architecture. MArch. Unit Leader, with Michael Lewis, 2021-22.
  • Countryside [OUTSIDE] Architecture. MArch. Unit Leader, with Michael Lewis, 2020-21.
  • City Fragments: Neapolitan Porosities. MArch. Unit Leader, with Dr Maria Mitsoula, 2019-20.
  • City Fragments: Palermo Institutions. MArch. Unit Leader, with Dr Maria Mitsoula, 2018-19.
  • New Lands II: Donkey Trails and Florentine Irises. Architecture and Urban Design Summer School. Course organiser with Maria Mitsoula, 2018.
  • PARA-Sites, Parapluies-Parasols: Tectonics as Landscape, Landscape as Tectonics. Final Year, MA (Hons). Unit leader with Dr Maria Mitsoula, 2018.
  • New Lands I: Donkey Trails and Florentine Irises. Architecture and Urban Design Summer School. Course organiser with Maria Mitsoula, 2017.
  • PARA-Situation [Bari]: Baresi Blades and Captains Villages. MSc Architectural Urban Design. Course organiser with Kevin Adams, 2015-16.

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 and has contributed to PhD Research Skills and Methods courses. He is a supervisor for undergraduate dissertations; the following are examples of work he has supervised:

  • Beth Hardy, "Mythical Figures and Figuring Myths: a study of architecture, drawing and narrative through the architects Louis Kahn and John Hejduk," 2018.
  • Sonakshi Pandit, “Dusty Matter,” 2019.
  • Julieanna Yang, “The Cultivation of Lina Bo Bardi: Encounters with and Accounts of the Brazilian-Italian Late-Modernist,” 2019.
  • Cormac Lunn, “Traversing Intersections of/with the Countryside,” 2020.
  • Kirsty Mann, “Catastrophism: Architecture and The City in Times of Crisis,” 2020.
  • Yanjie Chan, “Portraits of Baishizhou: Rethinking the re-development of Shenzhen’s Urban Villages,” 2020.
  • Yuhe Ge, “Material Enclaves of Huangpu: Absent Water, Red Brick, and Vermillion Timber,” 2021.
  • Eleanor Trew, “Excursions along a Line: Examining Architecture’s Relationship with the Constructed Line through NEOM,” 2022.

Research

Two principal interests guide Chris' research, both of which concern architecture's capacity to make political and territorial gestures. 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. ​He is particularly interested in how these themes relate to specific cities and situations. This has shaped teaching projects in Bari and Palermo (framed through Cassano’s Southern Thought) and Naples (through Benjamin’s description of ‘porosity’), and research into the landscape of Aloula, Athens, conducted with Dr. Maria Mitsoula. 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, the conca d'oro in Palermo and the Vesuvian grounds of Napoli—focuses on urban/landscape thresholds, patterns and temporalities, and on how projections of urban space into landscape impart or impose particular political, spatial and managerial regimes. Centred on Michel Serres' key ecological texts The Natural Contract (1995) and Times of Crisis (2013), and Bruno Latour’s critique of the split between a world we live in and a world we live from, 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.

Chris is currently supervising two PhD Architecture by Design candidates:

  • Fang, En. “Taizhong Drifts. Camphor, Chi Lou, and Unutterable Words.” 2019- (First Supervisor: Dr Dorian Wiszniewski)
  • Makarouni, Eirini. “Composing Mythologies: Tu(r)ning Plato’s myth of Atlantis to Contemporary Athens.” 2022- (Co-Supervisor: Prof. Suzanne Ewing).

He is interested supervising research that explores the following, particularly research conducted by-design:

  • Architectures of the European South
  • The architectural imaginary and its associated imagery
  • Architecture, exhibition, and installation
  • City-Landscapes, or Architecture and the Countryside

Current PhD students

Eirini Makarouni

Composing Dialogues: Tu(r)ning Plato's myth of Atlantis towards Contemporary Athens

PhD Supervision Topics

  • Architectures of the European South.
  • The architectural imaginary and its associated imagery.
  • Architecture, exhibition, and installation.
  • City-Landscapes, or Architecture and the Countryside.

Related programmes