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Department of Architecture


Students must take two optional modules in addition to the core modules.  We offer five options and ask you to select the two you would most like to pursue.  We then run the four most popular options, two in the second residential course and two in the third.

Vernacular buildings

Few areas of building history have expanded more rapidly in the past half-century than the study of vernacular buildings.  Once almost entirely overlooked, the vernacular heritage of this country is now recognised as one of the pre-eminent sources for studying the history of ordinary people, from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.  Vernacular buildings are intensely regional in flavour, varying considerably from one part of the country to another, and they forefront materials such as timber and mud that are less conspicuous in, or entirely absent from, elite buildings.  With contributions from leading members of the Vernacular Architecture Group, this module will set out the richness of the heritage and introduce you to some fierce debates over origins and interpretations.

Industrial buildings and their conservation

The Industrial Revolution took hold in Britain earlier than anywhere else in the world.  It has left a unique legacy which has given rise to a series of World Heritage Site inscriptions.  In recent decades the extractive, processing and manufacturing sectors of British industry have contracted sharply – just as interest in recording, understanding and in many cases preserving key aspects of this heritage has risen correspondingly.  ‘Dark Satanic mills’ (in Blake’s formulation) can be forbidding, but they can also offer glimpses of the sublime.  This module will focus on motive power, process, structure, surveillance and security, illustrated by visits to key sites in the Midlands and North.

Religious buildings

Whether it is Salisbury’s soaring spire, the starved preaching box clinging to a Welsh hillside, or the gleaming new mosque in one of England’s larger cities, religious buildings express some of the most powerful sentiments in human society.  The Religious Buildings option embraces all faiths that have a recognisable architectural presence in the UK.  Lectures and visits will inevitably be weighted towards the very substantial Christian heritage, but other traditions – which are in many cases virgin soil for architectural research and conservation – will be introduced and students are free to develop their interests through essay and dissertation choices in the direction that appeals most to them. 

Post-war 20th-century architecture

The architecture of Post-war Britain is frequently reviled in the popular press and elsewhere, but can we afford to jettison half a century of building history?  This module, led by Dr Elain Harwood of English Heritage makes a persuasive case for the interest and integrity of our post-war heritage, and for the importance of designating key exemplars.  Modern architecture is not everyone’s taste, but if the cutting edge of taste formation interests you, you will find this module an absorbing journey.

The country house and its landscape

The country house is one of the defining images of British (more particularly English) life, exported around the world in forms as various as Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice and John Boorman’s film Gosford Park.  That it was home, for part of the year at least, to a small elite is almost incidental to its importance as the hub of an extended economic system drawing in rents from agriculture, and income from industrial enterprises, and its role in projecting the culture, power and ambitions of the ruling class.  Yet country houses and their parkland settings are also, in very many cases, works of accomplished artistry, treasure houses of extraordinary richness, and hives of intensely regulated menial activity, sometimes assisted by innovative technology.  This module will attempt to convey the complexity of this many-faceted phenomenon.