The History of Architecture and the Built Environment (HABE) research group reflects the strength of Architectural and Urban History as a broadly conceived discipline at the University of Edinburgh. We have one of the largest concentrations of architectural historians of any European university, and a well-established record of internationally recognised research, which also informs our teaching. We carry out collaborative research as well as individual scholarship, and work closely with the Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies, also based at the University of Edinburgh, as well as colleagues in other university schools and subject areas.

HABE is open to all with an interest in the subject: staff, students at any level, and staff/members of organisations involved in managing and shaping the historic built environment in Edinburgh, Scotland, and beyond. Our events bring together academic historians and practitioners, and we have strong links with external organisations including Historic Environment Scotland, Docomomo Scotland, and the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust.

Current HABE research projects include: 

  • a new history of Victorian Architecture (Professor Alex Bremner, funded by a Paul Mellon Centre Senior Fellowship, 2023-24) 

  • a study of the relationship between architecture and the politics of energy (i.e., 'power') in the nineteenth-century British imperial world, seen through the lens of the environmental humanities (Professor Alex Bremner) 

  • a project examining architecture and 'internal colonisation' in the British Isles, 1550-1950 (Professor Alex Bremner and Prof. Daniel Maudlin [Plymouth University]) 

  • a study of the use of computers in planning in post-war Britain (Dr Moa Carlsson) 

  • a study of Scottish architecture's links to slavery (Dr Kirsten Carter McKee and John Lowrey, funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh) 

  • a major collaborative project examining the architectural and social histories of the Scottish new towns between the 1940s and the present day (Dr Alistair Fair & Professor Miles Glendinning, and Professor Lynn Abrams [University of Glasgow], funded by the Leverhulme Trust, 2021-24) | Find out more > 

  • research on the history of mass housing in Hong Kong (Professor Miles Glendinning) 

  • A study of the rise of architectural images as platforms for scientific inquiry in the early modern world, with a focus on the Architectura treatise of Strasbourg artist Wendel Dietterlin (Dr Elizabeth Petcu, previously funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and the German-American Fulbright Commission) 

  • Research on the emergence of architectural naturalism as a tool for the manipulation of nature between early modern Europe and colonial Latin America (Dr Elizabeth Petcu, previously funded by the Bavarian government and Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies) 

  • research on the architectural and urban planning of Edinburgh and Athens in the early 1800s (Margaret Stewart) 

  • the production of a documentary film about an early eighteenth-century designed woodland and a water-powered industrial development in Alloa (Margaret Stewart) 

  • Reimagining Urban Expressways of the 1960s and 1970s: a Global Study (Professor Richard Williams, funded by a BA/Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowship) 

  • A study of and intervention in Ouvidor 63, a former government building in Sāo Paolo (Professor Richard Williams, a collaboration with the Federal University of Sāo Paolo, funded by FAPESP).

There are also PhD student projects engaged with topics ranging in date from the Renaissance to the late twentieth century.

Recent completed projects include: 

  • a three-year study of Edwardian architecture (Professor Alex Bremner, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, 2018-21 and published in 2022 as Building Greater Britain [Yale]) 

  • research on the post-war work of Peter Moro and Partners (Dr Alistair Fair, funded by the Paul Mellon Centre and the John S Cohen Foundation, 2018-20, and published in 2021 as Peter Moro and Partners [Liverpool]) 

  • a study of ideas of 'community' and citizenship in post-war British architecture and planning (Dr Alistair Fair, funded by the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust, 2020-22, and published in several articles) 

  • a project examining European writing on the art and architecture of the United States, 1945-90 (Professor Iain Boyd Whyte, funded by the Terra Foundation) 

More details on the research activities of everyone involved in HABE can be found by clicking on the links to individuals’ profiles, below.

Our flagship series is the Architectural History and Theory Research Seminar. Founded in 2015, more than seventy seminars have since taken place with speakers from around the world. The seminar is open to all with an interest in the subject. Other recent events include: co-organisation of an international meeting of the Renaissance Architecture and Theory Scholars group; a conference on Scotland’s historic links with the slave trade; organisation of the 2021 European Architectural History Network conference; and a two-day workshop on British modern urban history.

Please get in touch with Professor Alex Bremner if you would like more information about our seminar series, or the group more generally: 

Architectural History courses and programmes at Edinburgh College of Art

Undergraduate: Our MA (Hons) Architectural History and Heritage programme is one of a very small number of courses in this subject anywhere in the world. It offers a specialist training in the history of the built environment, understood in context, with option courses relating directly to staff expertise and opportunities to take electives from across the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Our pre-Honours survey courses are also core components of the BA/MA Architecture programme, and are popular options for students from across the University.

Postgraduate: We welcome proposals for PhD study on topics related to the expertise of our staff.

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