His work locates buildings (both built and unbuilt) in a wider context, drawing on original archive material and contemporary published accounts. His most recent major publication is Modern Playhouses: an architectural history of Britain's new theatres, 1945-1985 (Oxford University Press, 2018).
This substantial book examines the new theatres built across Britain between the 1950s and the 1980s. The book is based on extensive archive research, and explains the ideas which shaped Britain’s post-war theatres. Not only does it discuss stage and auditorium design, but it also considers the place of theatres within Britain’s modernising townscape, and the transformative roles they were intended to play in a modernising society. The research was funded by the AHRC (2004-7), the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland (2014), the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2014-15), and the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain (2017).
Ultimately, the book has two aims. The first is to consider these buildings in ways which move beyond formal or stylistic labels. The second is to be a history which looks beyond avant-garde London practice to consider the reality of Modern architecture as it was actually experienced across Britain.
More recently, Alistair has written a companion volume on contemporary British theatre, Play On: Contemporary Theatre Architecture in Britain, published in autumn 2019 by Lund Humphries. He is currently working on a further book (funded by a grant from the Paul Mellon Centre) about the architect Peter Moro, who was a specialist in theatre architecture but also designed a whole range of other types of building. Another current project is looking at buildings for the arts in 1980s Britain.