I am a postgraduate researcher, specialising in architectural plastics and economic and environmental transformations. My articles have appeared in numerous publications including C20 Magazine: The Magazine of the Twentieth Century Society and Bauhaus Zeitschrift. I am a CELTA-qualified English teacher and have taught at universities such as the University of East Anglia, Hochschule Anhalt, and, most recently, Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin. I am an active member of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, the Construction History Society and the Twentieth Century Society, and also hold a BA Hons. in History (University of Sussex, 2011) and an MA in Architectural Conservation (Hochschule Anhalt, 2015).
 
 

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Publications

August 29, 2022

"The Poetry of Plastics in Architecture from the House of the Future to the Grenfell Tower Disaster", The Routledge Handbook of Plastics and Archeology, Abingdon: Routledge, forthcoming in 2023!

Though single-use plastics have come to dominate headlines in the mainstream media, therole of plastics in buildings – which accounts for 20% of plastic output - has for a long time been ignored not only by the wider public, but more surprisingly by the architecture world itself.


Envisaged as kaleidoscope, the proposed chapter contribution will examine plastic’s use in five micro-level case studies of respected buildings over a period in which it boomed.
The essay will range in date from the House of Future (1956), where Alison and Peter
Smithson showed what a futuristic plastic home might look like, associating plastics with
futuristicness and the space age, through to Grenfell Tower (refurbished 2016) where the fire has produced a powerful association between plastic insulation and cladding materials and the extremes of cynical cost-cutting and dangerously irresponsible deregulation.

December 08, 2021

"'A Whiter Shade of Grey'. European Integration and Professional Appreciation in the Work of British Architects in Germany from Reunified Berlin to Brexit Britain" (Forthcoming), C20 Journal: Twentieth Century Architecture, 15 (2022)

Starved of opportunities in Great Britain, British architects working in the 1990s increasingly looked to Germany for important commissions, where their arrival coincided with the enormous transformations the country was undergoing. Commenting on the new trend, AJ dedicated an entire issue to what they had humorously dubbed the “The Land of Milk and Black Forest Gateux”, and, in 1994, RIBA published Working in Germany, a practical guide for architecture students who wanted to complete their Part 1 training in the newly reunified country. For this article, I want to look at the architects who responded to the clarion call and took up training and/or practice in Germany in the years from 1989 to 2009. What forces, cultural, political, and social, drove British architects to take the leap and set up shop in Germany? To what extent is British architecture more appreciated abroad than at home? What new textures does the Neues Museum take on when it is viewed through the lens of epochal social and economic changes that were wrought on Europe at that time? Examining a well-remembered period in architecture rigorously for the first time, the paper will analyse a range of architects' accounts and planning reports concerning the Hauptstadt Berlin Urban Design Competition of 1993 and 1994 and subsequent architecture competitions held in Berlin in the 1990s, as well as considering work which was designed by notable figures in British architecture, such as Will Alsop, Zaha Hadid, and David Chipperfield.

December 08, 2018

""Enclosing the Styrofoam Dome: Robert E. Schwartz’s House, Midland, MI (1964-67)", Construction Historian: The Magazine of the Construction History Society, 01 (2018)

In 1964, Dow Chemical Company offered Robert E. Schwartz the necessary materials and equipment to build a dome house for his family in Midland, MI, composed in large part out of heat-welded foamed polystyrene boards put together using a construction method which Dow had just had patented, called Spiral Generation. To what extent did Schwartz’s personal connections aid him in realising his long-held desire to build a dome house? What were the mechanics of the design and construction process and how did Schwartz’s talent with sculptural concrete gleaned from designing churches in Midland prove itself to be useful here? In what ways did Schwartz contribute to the development of Spiral Generation technology and what is the likelihood of there being other buildings in Michigan made using this method?

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August 14, 2017

"Publicising Plastic and Plasticising Public in Ralf Schüler and Ursulina Schüler-Witte's Indapt System (1970-72)", e-plastory: The Journal of Plastics History, 07 (2017)

​It has been claimed Ralf Schüler and Ursulina Schüler-Witte's Indapt System (1970-72) was never built because it was a victim of the oil crisis. Taking a different tack, I outline rather a causal relationship between aspects of the research project the Indapt System emerged from and BASF's decision not to build the plastics megastructure. Was the view of plastic propounded by the researchers more architectural or social? In which contexts did the research project have its greatest impact? What does this imply for Jeremy Till's conception of architectural research in his canonic paper for RIBA?

December 01, 2016

​"Ephemera: Alan Pendry's The Shape of Plastics (1962)," C20 Magazine: The Magazine of the Twentieth Century Society, 03 (2016)

Article on industrial film for plastics industry association, leading to the film's preservation by the BFI. What was it about the composition of the filmmakers that gave the film a mix of sincerity and urbane cool? How does deterioration of the cellulose acetate film base affect how we read it today?

December 01, 2016

"Moulding the Future", C20 Magazine: The Magazine of the Twentieth Century Society, 03 (2016)

Article on plastics buildings from Serge Chermayeff's use of Beetle to James Stirling's Southgate Estate. How and in which contexts did major architects of the twentieth century use plastics in Great Britain? How significant was the oil crisis in architects no longer taking the materials seriously as a solution to mass housing? Does the manner in which the materials decay suggest a particular conservation approach?

 

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Teaching

Summer semester 2017

English for BA Designers, Hochschule Anhalt, Dessau-Roßlau

Began by discussing how art historians use natural, national, or historical analogies when they invoke style, before considering how formalism has given us a framework for talking about art without talking about style. We concluded by attempting formal analyses of contemporary visual communication, reducing them to simple design elements.

Summer semester 2017

English for BA Architects, Hochschule Anhalt, Dessau-Roßlau

Architecture does not only occur globally, but also on university campuses of mid-sized East German towns. We studied what concepts have guided the design of university buildings, before looking at Dessau's good stock of postwar buildings. We chose one, the Magnet Kaufhaus, to repurpose into a new faculty building for the architecture department, for which students produced sketches and floor plans.

Summer semester 2017

English for MA Conservationists, Hochschule Anhalt, Dessau-Roßlau

Task-based project on 'Rethinking Museums Politically,' a museums studies conference in Berlin. Students assigned a speaker whose talk they were to summarise with a good level of detail. Concluded with students writing abstracts for their own hypothetical contribution to the conference.

 

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Conferences

June 9-11, 2021

"Plastic rubbish and Fatima’s future career: Architectural plastics, deskilling, and deindustrialisation", New Researchers. Cities, Crisis and Change: Urban History Group Conference 2021, University of Warwick, Coventry. June 9-11, 2021

Drawing on Urban History’s special issue on the subject, I want to look at how processes such as deindustrialisation, deskilling, and the more disparate development of cities from the 1920s to 1970s, followed by a tentative return to urbanisation from that point onwards, affected how building plastics were used and the values that have been attached to them. Deskilling is a term which needs to be used cautiously because it is as much about changing skill sets in the face of the economy’s shift in focus from the 1980s onwards as it is about a genuine diminishment or loss of skill. It not only implies diminishing knowledge of and appreciation for factory production but also suggests something about the changing status of factory work over time. Throughout the twentieth century, building plastics – like mass production, generally - went from being seen as awe-inspiring and plentiful to being thought of as cheap and throwaway. This phenomenon has led to a crisis in which certain types of labour have been drastically devalued. This conference paper, placing that transition in its proper economic and historical contexts and examining architects’ accounts and critics’ reviews of important postwar buildings, should offer a more nuanced view of the concept.

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October 28, 2017

"The Indapt System and the Oil Crisis", Forum Kunststoffgeschichte 2016, Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin, Berlin. October 27-29, 2016

The purpose of this paper is to interrogate the idea that the Indapt-System was never built because of the oil crisis. In the process, we should be able to glimpse the internal mechanics of the Indapt-System working group through archival research. This paper offers broader implications as to the impact of the oil crisis for plastics architecture. The oil crisis means, in popular memory, the end of experiments into plastic housing. Through a single case study, this assumption will be found to either have a grounding in the material and mental effects of the oil crisis, or, equally, it might suggest that, as plastics historians, a greater level of nuance is required when discussing its legacy for materials.

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