Job title: Professor of Architectural History

Role: Director of Research ESALA

Tel: +44 (0)131 650 2320


Research outputs: Prof 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 (Gonville & Caius College), where, as a Gates Scholar, 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, London). 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/Paul Mellon Centre) 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 editorial board member of ABE Journal (Architecture Beyond Europe) and a Deputy Editor of Architectural History. He has also been an Editorial Advisory Committee member of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (2015-19).

Degree Programme Teaching

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.


PhD Supervision

Alex also supervises on the PhD in Architectural History programme at ESALA. Past and current students and their projects include:

Íñigo Basarrate, An English Architect in Spain: Five Projects by Edwin Lutyens

Nilina Deb Lal, Building Calcutta: Construction Trends in the Making of the Capital of British India, 1880‒1911

Laura Fernandez Gonzalez, Philip II of Spain and Monarchia Universalis: Architecture, Urbanism, and Imperial Display in Habsburg Iberia, 1561–1598

Sam Grinsell, Urbanism, Environment and the Building of the Anglo-Egyptian Nile Valley, 1880s-1920s

Erin Hammond, Forms of Feeling: Architecture and Emotion in the Victorian Gothic Revival, c. 1840-1875

Lucia Juarez, Trading Nations: Architecture, Informal Empire and the Scottish Cast Iron Industry in Argentina

Stephen McNair, Southern Gothic: Antebellum Ecclesiology in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi

Mohona Tahsin Reza, Bengali Nationalism within the Modern Architectural Inception of Bangladesh, 1947-1971

Jung-Jen Tsai, Metaphors of the Nation: the Architectural Programme of the KMT under Chiang Kai-shek’s Rule in Post-war Taiwan

Emily Turner, Mission Infrastructure Development in the Canadian North, c.1850-1920

Katherine Vyhmeister, Public Architecture in the Nation-Building of Chile 1818-1925

Tommaso Zerbi, The Tricolour, Shield, and Cross of Savoy: 'Sabaudian Medievalism', the Risorgimento, and Neo-Medieval Architecture in Italy, c.1814–1864


Alex’s research focuses on the history and theory of Victorian architecture and design broadly defined, with a special interest in the history of British imperial and colonial architecture. A major theme in his work concerns the impact of empire on built environments in the United Kingdom, considering how buildings, monuments, and urban space were both designed and used as markers of imperial power and prestige. He is currently producing a new survey history of Victorian architecture for the Oxford History of Art series, which will aim to address these concerns. As a recipient of a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship (2018-22), Alex has recently completed a monograph study of Edwardian civic and state architecture. This study re-evaluates the relationship between architecture, imperialism, and national identity in Britain and the wider British world through an examination of the so-called Edwardian Baroque movement in architectural design, connecting it to broader currents in British history, politics, and empire. It is to be published in November 2022 as Building Greater Britain: Architecture, Imperialism, and the Edwardian Baroque Revival, c.1885-1920. In addition to these studies, Alex is producing (with Dan Maudlin) an edited volume entitled Inner Empire which will analyse forms of 'internal colonialism' alongside representations of empire and imperialism in Britain's urban and rural landscapes, from c.1550 to the present day, and is working with Clarisse Godard Desmarest on the Edinburgh-based ERC (Horizon 2020) project 'The Architecture of William Burn: Style and Identity in Scotland's Imperial Age' (2021-23). 

Other research interests include the relationship between commercial architectures and international trade in the context of empire, especially networked spaces of economic exchange, where Alex has undertaken research on the commercial infrastructure of Jardine, Matheson & Co. in South and South-East Asia during the early nineteenth century. He 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. He is currently developing (with Barnabas Calder) new ways of considering how catastrophic climate change can be addressed in architectural education and research through a closer examination of the relationship between architecture and energy consumption through time.

His principal publications include:

Books and Edited Volumes

Building Greater Britain: Architecture, Imperialism, and the Edwardian Baroque Revival, c.1885-1920 (PMC/Yale University Press, 2022), 356pp, 298 ills.

Imperial Gothic: Religious Architecture and High Anglican Culture in the British Empire, c.1840-70 (PMC/Yale University Press, 2013), 484pp, 363 ills.

Architecture and Urbanism in the British Empire, ed. G. A. Bremner (Oxford University Press, 2016 [paperback 2020]), 464pp, 174 ills.

Making History: Edward Augustus Freeman and Victorian Cultural Politics, eds. G. A. Bremner and Jonathan Conlin (British Academy/Oxford University Press, 2015).

The Architecture of the Tasman World, 1788-1850, eds. G. A. Bremner and Andrew Leach, special issue of Fabrications, vol. 29:3 (2019).

Building the Scottish Diaspora: Scots and the Colonial Built Environment , eds. G. A. Bremner, Harriet Edquist and Stuart King, special issue of ABE Journal, nos. 14-15 (2019).

Ecclesiology Abroad: The British Empire and Beyond, ed. G. A. Bremner, special issue of Studies in Victorian Architecture & Design, vol. 4 (2012).

Scholarly Articles and Chapters

'Britain and the British World Context: Slavery, Race, and Empire', Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, special forum on 'Constructing Race and Architecture 1400-1800', vol. 80:3 (2021), pp. 260-2.

'Propagating Power: Gender, Language, and Empire in the Edwardian Baroque Revival (1885-1920)', in M. Faietti and G. Wolf (eds), Motion: Transformation, 35th Congress of the International Committee of the History of Arts, Florence, 1-6 September 2019 (2021),  pp. 117-22.

'Buildings and Energy: Architectural History in the Climate Emergency' [with Barnabas Calder], Journal of Architecture, vol. 26:2 (2021), pp. 79-115, DOI: 10.1080/13602365.2021.1891950

'A Tale of Two Churches: "Protestant" Architecture and the Politics of Religion in Late Nineteenth-Century Rome', Papers of the British School at Rome, vol. 88 (2020), pp. 259-96.

'The Gothic Revival Beyond Europe', in J. Parker and C. Wagner (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Victorian Medievalism (Oxford University Press, 2020), pp. 463-87.

'Sermons in Stone: Architecture and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts within the Diocese of Gibraltar, c.1842-1882', in S. Maghenzani and S. Villani (eds), British Protestant Missions and the Conversion of Europe, 1600-1900 (Routledge, 2020), pp. 235-61.

'Colonial Themes in Stained Glass, Home and Abroad: A Visual Survey', 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, Issue 30 ('Reframing Stained Glass in the Nineteenth-Century British World: Culture, Aesthetics, Contexts') (2020).

'Tides that Bind: Waterborne Trade and the Infrastructure Networks of Jardine, Matheson & Co.', Perspecta, no. 52 'Ensemble' (2019), pp. 31-47.

'Introduction' [with Andrew Leach], The Architecture of the Tasman World, 1788-1850, eds. G. A. Bremner and Andrew Leach, Fabrications, vol. 29:3 (2019), pp. 313-16. 

'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)

'William Butterfield in the Wider British World', in P. Howell and A. Saint (eds), Butterfield Revisited, special issue of Studies in Victorian Architecture & Design, vol. 6 (2017), pp. 61-81.

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.

'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.

'Scott and the Wider World: The Colonial Cathedrals, 1846-74', in P. S. Barnwell, G. Tyack, and W. Whyte (eds.), Sir George Gilbert Scott 1811-1878 (Donington: Rewley House Studies in the Historic Environment, 2014), pp. 70-90.

'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.

'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.

'Supreme and High Court Architecture in the Common-Law Tradition: An International Perspective', in C. Miele (ed.), The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom: History, Art, Architecture (London: Merrell, 2010), pp. 174-97.

'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.


Germany and the Ottoman Railways: Art, Empire, and Infrastructure (Peter H. Christensen, 2017), in Architectural History, vol. 63 (2020), pp. 332-5.

British Houses in Late Mughal Delhi (Sylvia Shorto, 2018), in Architectural History, vol. 62 (2019), pp. 281-3.

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

PhD Supervision Topics

Accepting applications.

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