Programme: History of Art - MPhil/PhD/MSc by Research

Start date: September 2015

Mode of study: Full time

Research title: Beyond Genius: the Reception, Reputation and Afterlife of Robert Adam

Sydney Ayers is a PhD Candidate at the University of Edinburgh, studying History of Art and Architectural History.  She is a recipient of a PhD Scholarship from the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain (SAHGB).   Her research focuses on the eighteenth-century British architect Robert Adam.  

Sydney's doctoral thesis is provisionally titled 'Beyond Genius: the reception, reputation and afterlife of Robert Adam.'  It seeks the challenge the idea of 'genius' as applied to the eighteenth-century British architect Robert Adam, by exploring how Adam entered the British architectural canon and how he remains there today.  This study will examine Adam's reputation and reception, both in his life time and posthumously; and will be accomplished by looking at several different aspects, including: Adam's patrons and networks, his death and funerary practices, the representation of Adam in portraiture, the development of biography, and the beginnings of architectural history writing. 

Before beginning a PhD, Sydney completed her Masters by Research also at Edinburgh and holds a B.A. in art history and English literature from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, USA.  After graduating and before starting her postgraduate studies, Sydney was awarded the H. Allen Brooks Travelling Fellowship from Dartmouth – allowing her to spend the year researching and traveling in England, Italy, France and Croatia; visiting over 50 English country houses and re-creating the Grand Tour of eighteenth-century British aristocrats. 

Sydney has presented her research at Edinburgh's Eighteenth Century Research Seminar Series (February 2017), the Association of Art Historians Annual Conference (April 2016), the University of Edinburgh's History of Art Postgraduate Conference (June 2016), 'Reading Architecture across the Arts and Humanities' at the University of Stirling (December 2015), Historic Scotland and the University of Edinburgh's conference 'The Architecture of Scotland in its European Setting: 1660-1750' (April 2015), the SAHGB's Graduate Student Research Forum (April 2015), and the University of Edinburgh's History of Art Postgraduate Conference (May 2015). ​

Tutor for History of Art 2 (2016-2017).  Nominated for "Best Student Who Tutors Award" through Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA).

Tutor for History of Art 2 (2017-2018).

Research Interests

  • Robert Adam
  • Adam Architectural Family
  • The British Country House
  • Development of the architectural profession in eighteenth-century Britain
  • Reception Studies


  • ‘The making of a monopoly: exploring the business practices of William Adam’ in The Architecture of Scotland in its European Setting: 1660-1750, Edinburgh University Press (Forthcoming). 

Conferences co-organised

  • Eighteenth-Century Research Seminar Series, The University of Edinburgh, January 2017 - April 2017.  
  • Changing Tides: Exploring the relationships between people, places and art. Annual History of Art Postgraduate Research Conference, University of Edinburgh, June 2016.