Job title: Professor of Contemporary Visual Cultures, History of Art

Tel: +44 (0)131 651 4321

Email: r.j.williams@ed.ac.uk

Office address: Room 055, Hunter Building

Contact time: Wednesday, 12pm - 2pm

Research outputs: Prof Richard Williams on Edinburgh Research Explorer

Richard J. Williams is 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? Answering these questions, his work has drawn on the social sciences and psychology as well as art and architectural history. His relations with architecture, at ECA and more widely are very close, and he is co-chair of EAHN2020 in Edinburgh, Europe’s largest gathering of architectural historians.

Richard’s books include After Modern Sculpture, a groundbreaking study of the New York art scene in the 1960s. 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. 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) asked how architecture has responded to changes in sexual mores in the past century. The Architecture of Art History (written with Mark Crinson, 2018) was a study of the often tortured relationship between the architecture and the discipline of art history. Why Cities Look the Way They Do (2019) proposed looking at cities in terms of process rather than design, and was widely reviewed in 2019. Richard is writing an intellectual biography of the architectural historian and critic Reyner Banham for publication in 2021. 

Richard’s work has been covered by BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, and the BBC World Service, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Herald, Foreign Policy, the Financial Times, The Times, and frequently by local media. He is a regular contributor to Times Higher Education, where he is a frequent reviewer. You can usually find him on Twitter.

Modern and contemporary architecture and urbanism

PhD Supervision Topics

  • Modern and contemporary architecture and urbanism
  • Art institutions and institutional histories

  • Countercultures of the 1960s and 1970s