Programme: Cultural Studies - PhD

Start date: September 2014

Mode of study: Full time

Research title: 1968 in West Berlin: Space, Place and Identity

I have recently been awarded a PhD in Cultural Studies at the University of Edinburgh (UoE), where I was awarded the Principle’s Career Development Scholarship. I hold an MA, First Class with Joint Honours in Architectural History and Archaeology from the University of Edinburgh (UoE) and an MA, with Distinction, in European History from Newcastle University (NU). I have taught both Architectural History and Architectural Theory Honours at UoE. My research has been presented at conferences and published in journals and I have been awarded a DAAD language grant and the Barrie Wilson Award for Excellence in First Year PhD Studies. Concurrently with my studies at the UoE, I have co-organised the SAHGB Student Research Forum, the 14th AHRA Annual Student Research Symposium and was involved in the student-led seminar series Prokalo. I am currently co-editor of the department’s post-graduate journal, Edinburgh Architecture Research.

Laura's research interests include:

  • city and protest
  • radicalisation of urban space
  • use of memory as an exploratory tool
  • architecture as a political device

Research title

1968 in West Berlin: Space, Place and Identity


Due to the current politicisation of public spaces and the “reclaiming of the commons”, there has been renewed interest in historical protest movements instigated by the Left and particularly in relation to the idea of reclaiming physical spaces of the city. Literature has tended to focus on global and continental perspectives, with recent publications demonstrating an increasing trend towards memory studies and literary analysis. By contrast, this thesis will offer cultural analysis in relation to urban planning in order to present the experience of the protester in direct relation to their contemporary condition. This thesis attempts to illustrate this relationship through a focus on the politicisation of urban space and the symbiotic relationship between protester and city space. In contrast to studies of a global or transnational nature, this analysis focuses specifically on the case study of West Berlin. The city’s turbulent history had a profound impact on the identity of the city and its inhabitants causing post-war planning policies to become laden with political and ideological symbolism. As the first generation to seriously consider the impact of National Socialism, with the city a haven for the left-wing, with an education system which allowed for a lot of extra-curricular study and movement between disciplines, the movement in West Berlin operated under a different set of circumstances to other European cities and it is this specificity of time and place which is at the centre of this analysis.

This thesis will be centred on a manifesto created in 1968 by a group of architecture students at West Berlin’s Technische Universität to coincide with an exhibition for the Biannual Berlin Construction Weeks Festival. Aktion 507, as the group named themselves, critiqued the urban planning of the city which they used to exemplify the issues they identified within society and this use of urban planning as a vehicle for wider critique will form a central focus. The methodology places the individual at the centre of the investigation in the use of leaflets, DIY publications, and interviews, supplemented with contemporary texts consulted by the students, and enriched with elements from the cultural sphere. The intention is to form an understanding of the relationship between place and political activism and argue that changes in the built environment both impacted the students’ perspectives and were equally impacted by their critique. The conclusions drawn add nuance and complexity to the 1968 movement and demonstrate its specificity as well as its longevity, and impact on the present.  




Journal articles

  • 'W(al)king through Trauma: Wolf Vostell and West Berlin in the 1960s', Canvas, Issue 4 (2017): Identity, pp. 16-19. [url]
  • 'Protest and Marginalised Urban Space: 1968 in West Berlin', Studies in History and Theory of Architecture, Vol. 4, (December 2016): Marginalia: Architectures of Uncertain Margins, pp.  225-240. [url]
  • 'The Rote Armee Fraktion: Memory and the Construction of Art, Film and Literature', eSharp: University of Glasgow Post Graduate Journal, Issue‌ 20, (Spring 2013): New Horizons, 1-18. [url]
  • 'The Impact of World War Two on the Individual and Collective Memory of Germany & Its Citizens', Postgraduate Forum E-Journal, Remembrance and Memory, Issue 9, (2012): Remembrance and Memory, 1-17. [url]

 Online articles

  • 'Markisches Viertel, Berlin: "Social Housing, Hasten the Agony"', The Column, August 2015, available here:


  • 'Meeting of Minds at the Old College: Conference Review', The Architectural Historian, Issue 1, (June 2015), 22. [url]

 Conference presentations

  • [forthcoming] 'Mass-Housing, Urban Space, and Conflict: 1968 in West Berlin', in Society of Architectural Historians 70th Annual International Conference (Glasgow, 7-11 June 2017). [url]
  • 'Urban Space, Politicised: 1968 in West Berlin', in Urban Social Movements, Protest and Advocacy Master Class with Margit Mayer (Global Justice Academy, University of Edinburgh, 29 March 2017).
  • 'Books and Protest: 1968 in West Berlin', in Books and the City Symposium (Maastricht University and Van Eyck Academie, 22-24 June 2016). [url]
  • 'Coloured Architecture: Democratic or Oppressive? 1968 in West Berlin', in GTA Workshop 'Europe and its Limits' (ETH Zurich, 31 May-1 June 2016). [url]
  • ​'Protest as Analytical Tool: 1968 in West Berlin', in PGR Seminar with Professor Barry Bergdoll (University of Edinburgh, 5 November 2015).
  • '1968 in West Berlin: Research Development at the 1st Year Review Stage' in ESALA PG Research Skills Seminar, (University of Edinburgh, 5 October 2015).
  • 'Space, Place and Identity: 1968 in West Berlin', in First Year Review Conference (University of Edinburgh, 10-11 September 2015).
  • 'Urban Berlin - Memories of a City', in Stadtkolloquium 2015 Annual Workshop (UCL, London, 30-31 March 2015) [url].
  • 'The City as Text: 1968 in West Berlin', in institutions: History Lab Annual Conference (IHR, London, 12-13 June 2013) [url].
  • 'The Spatial Dimensions of Protest: 1968 in West Berlin', in Arguing the Establishment: Obedience and Resistance since 1450 (Durham University, 23 May 2013).


  • 'Space, Place and Identity: 1968 in West Berlin' in 10th Annual PGF Conference (Newcastle University, 24 May 2013).

    Architectural History 1 (2015/2016)

    Architectural Theory Honours (2016-present)

    Architectural History 2B