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Department of Architecture

Department’s Double British Academy Success

Academics from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Architecture have received news of two successful British Academy applications in one week

The appearance of the pointed arch in Western architecture and its possible origin in the Middle East has been the subject of speculation since the 17th century and possibly before. The similarities in form and spatial arrangement between certain Cistercian churches in 12th century France/
Switzerland and the Seljuk hans of 13th century Turkey have been commented on in secondary literature, but have not been seriously investigated.

This groundbreaking new study will examine whether these buildings are merely close in morphology or if they were actually built in similar ways. The latter would suggest there was significant exchange between two distinct and disparate cultures and religions.

Understanding of the construction of medieval vaulting has improved due to recent research and new surveying techniques. The British Academy award will enable the team to apply these new insights and methods to a number of buildings from each region to see if the results suggest not just inspiration but also technical exchange.

Dr Max Sternberg’s project, Models of urban trans-nationalism? Public space in German-Polish border towns, will investigate the transformations of public space in interface areas of the German-Polish ‘twin towns’ of Frankfurt-Slubice, Guben-Gubin and Görlitz-Zgorzelec along the Oder-Neisse border.

Despite modest populations, the border towns have major symbolic value for two nations attempting to write a new chapter in a modern history marked by war, trauma and deep resentments. The fall of socialism and the eastward expansions of NATO and the EU have propelled the towns from the margins to the heart of a reconstituted Europe. At the same time ongoing economic and political asymmetries, linguistic barriers and cultural differences impede the towns’ capacity to tackle common challenges. Official policies of goodwill at regional, national and EU-levels have so far remained disconnected from local communities.

This important project will explore evidence for, and opportunities of, not just economic, but also social and cultural exchange, and how the everyday dynamics of a city and its spatial contexts affect such relations.