Dr Jonathan Gardner

Job title:

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow


Member of ECA Ethics Committee, ECA Post-Doc Champion


E.05, Main Building


I joined ECA in October 2020 as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow and am undertaking a four year research project studying the creation and use of waste-modified landscapes (Reimagining British Waste Landscapes). Understanding the use of waste materials in landscape modification as a form of creative practice, I examine different varieties of land-reclamation, artificial hill building, dumping, and land-art across the UK and how they are used and valued as creative spaces.

Prior to joining ECA, I was a Teaching Fellow in Heritage and Museum Studies between 2017 and 2019 at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London (UCL).

I gained my PhD in 2017 (also from the Institute of Archaeology) which traced the material remnants of mega events like the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Great Exhibition of 1851. This resulted in my first monograph, A Contemporary Archaeology of London’s Mega Events: From the Great Exhibition to London 2012 (2022, UCL Press: open access). Prior to my doctorate, I completed an MA in Cultural Heritage Studies, following an undergraduate degree in Archaeology, both at the UCL Institute of Archaeology.

I have also worked extensively as a commercial archaeologist excavating on construction sites across London and south-east England since 2007. I continue to work on archaeological fieldwork projects whenever I can.


I contribute to undergraduate teaching in Visual Culture across programs in the School of Art, including as tutor on Critical and Cultural Theories of Contemporary Art (ARTX08087) and the fourth year Visual Culture Research Project (ARTX10036/ARTX10040). I act as guest lecturer on landscape, archaeology and heritage courses at ECA’s ESALA, the University of Edinburgh school of History, Classics and Archaeology, and at other institutions including Hunter College (CUNY), University of Amsterdam and IUPUI (Indianapolis).

I developed my teaching practice as a Teaching Fellow at the UCL Institute of Archaeology (2017–19) where I created and taught courses in heritage studies, museum theory and practice, social research methods, and contemporary archaeology. I also gained professional accreditation as a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) in October 2019.

I have run numerous public engagement activities related to my mega event research, including in-person and virtual site tours, lectures, and workshops, and for my current project, recently ran a public seminar series with invited artists, writers and researchers (‘Reimagining Waste landscapes’ – available to watch here).

Though I am unfortunately unable to supervise any more doctoral students, I am happy to discuss dissertations or other research projects with students at ECA and across the University at any level of study, and especially in subjects related to my interests of archaeology, heritage, landscape modification, waste and rubble.


I have a strong interest in tracing how industrial landscapes change over long time scales, and how conceptions of temporality – and understandings of the past in particular – shape how such places are used today.

My current research project (Reimagining British Waste Landscapes) investigates how waste materials such as mine spoil, slag, garbage, and soil have been used to create new landscapes across the UK since the Industrial Revolution and examines how these places are used and valued today. Understanding this (re)use of waste as a creative process, the project studies land-reclamation, dumping, and the creation of artificial hills using a mixed methodology (including survey, archival research, visual analysis, and ethnography using interviews, participatory drawing/mapping, and photography). The project has revealed both the physical traces of waste-led landscape modification and the many ways in which people engage with these ‘artificial’ places. This research, funded by The Leverhulme Trust and Edinburgh College of Art (University of Edinburgh) has produced several articles and chapters to date and a final project monograph is in development for publication in late 2024.

My doctoral research at the UCL Institute of Archaeology considered the role of heritage in international mega events (e.g. the Great Exhibition of 1851, New York World’s Fairs and London 2012 Olympic/Paralympic Games). This examined event sites’ histories, their organisers and opponents’ use of concepts of time and temporality, and what traces are left of mega events years, decades and centuries after they close their doors.

This resulted in my UCL Press, A Contemporary Archaeology of London’s Mega Events: from The Great Exhibition to London 2012 which was published in May 2022. This project also published numerous articles and book chapters. I have also contributed to the development of ‘The Groundbreakers’, a National Lottery Heritage Fund funded walking trail that presents the history of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London.

My other research interests include documenting the long-term persistence of unwanted or ‘waste’ materials, the role of archaeological materials as a form of ‘contamination’, lost rivers, the ethics of commercial archaeology practice, and the use of heritage in urban development projects.

Current PhD students

Sinéad Kempley

Fictioning waste and wasting: thinking through deceleration and dead ends in mythopoetic installation and moving image

PhD Supervision Topics

Not accepting applications
  • Waste
  • Wastelands
  • Archaeology
  • Traces/remnants
  • Critical heritage studies
  • Mega events
  • Art-archaeology
  • Landscape history

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