Richard Williams is the head of History of Art, and Professor of Contemporary Visual Cultures. For over twenty years his teaching and research has explored the visualisation of the city, through case studies chiefly in the USA, Brazil and the UK. Key questions for Richard are: why do cities look the way they do? How have artists and film-makers, as well as professional urbanists envisioned the city? And how have real and imagined cities fed off of each other? His work has drawn on the social sciences and psychology as well as art history, and in teaching he is interested in practice-based research as well as more conventional approaches.
Richard arrived in Edinburgh in 2000, having just published a study of the 1960s New York art scene, After Modern Sculpture, groundbreaking in the emphasis it gave to the spaces of exhibition. His next book, The Anxious City (2004) explored the spectacular changes wrought on the British city from the 1980s to the early 2000s. Including detailed studies of the British Museum’s Great Court, the redevelopment of Liverpool and Prince Charles’s interventions in the architectural debate, it has since become a standard work in British urban studies. Brazil: Modern Architectures in History (2009) followed, an account of Brazil’s use of modernist aesthetics to shape political and social agendas. Sex and Buildings (2013) asks how architecture has responded to changes in sexual mores in the past century. Rooted in contemporary debates about sex, the book analyses the influence of historic thinkers including Freud and R. D. Laing, and architects from Rudolf Schindler to Mies van der Rohe. The book was very widely reviewed during 2013. Richard’s work-in-progress includes an intellectual biography of the architectural historian and critic Reyner Banham.
Richard’s work has been covered by BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4, The Guardian, The Herald, Foreign Policy, the Financial Times, The Times, and frequently by local media. He is a regular contributor to the art and design press too, as well as Times Higher Education, where he is a frequent reviewer, and you can usually find him on Twitter. During 2017-8, his speaking engagements include the University of Oregon, Portland, the University of São Paulo, and Peking University, Beijing, as well as the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh.