School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape

Research and Design Seminars

Research and Design Seminars

To encourage a dynamic research environment the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape organise weekly research and design seminars where research students, staff, visitors and invited guests present their work.
The seminars are held on Wednesdays 1pm - 2pm in the Exhibition Area, Room 4.60 in the Daysh Building. Everyone is welcome - bring your lunch and see you there!

Seminar Details

8 May 2019 - Duncan Pickstock

HS2: Whose line is it anyway? Film screening.

Hs2 is a high speed rail link between London and Birmingham. It was lauded as a bold move to remedy the economic divide between the North and South of the country but from its conception the project has been dogged by controversy. The arguments and economic projections that have been presented by Hs2 to justify the huge [ from £60 Billion to over £100 Billion] have been widely and regularly discredited but still the project moves forward; the projected cost increasing by the week. My film tries to understand why, when there are so many reasons why it shouldn't, Hs2 continues.

The film follows a group of anti-Hs2 protesters in London who are trying to stop Hs2 destroying a cemetery next to Euston as part of the proposed expansion of the station. We see their, ultimately futile, series of protests and demonstrations to stop the destruction and we hear about their experiences navigating the complicated system of Hs2 consultations and governmental select committees. I use the experiences of the protesters as a lens to explore what a project like Hs2 tells us about the state of our democracy. I speak to politicians, activists, academics and journalists to try and establish what is behind Hs2 and huge infrastructure projects like it. The findings of the film are put succinctly by Professor John Tomaney of UCL who positions Hs2 with Colin Crouch's Theory of Post Democracy which proposes that the mechanisms that signify that we live in a democratic society have been hijacked by powerful elites who use the inaccessible structures of parliamentary procedure and the influence of powerful duplicitous lobbying companies to present their own narrow economic and political interests as being 'the national interests.'


15 May 2019 - Gareth Fearn

An authoritarian turn in environmental governance? The case of shale gas fracking in the UK.

Shale gas fracking has proved to be a controversial technology, which has been highly politically contested, fought out in planning committees, courtrooms and the streets. The U.K. government has continued to support this means of extracting deep and previously unrecoverable deposits of gas (and oil), intervening in planning decisions and making largely supportive legislative changes.

My research focuses on this case as means of analysing changes to both the planning system and environmental governance more broadly in the period following the financial crisis. It draws on the literature of ‘post-politics’ and more recent work into ‘authoritarian neoliberalism’ to understand and critique these changes, by asking whether there are signs of an ‘authoritarian turn’, with increasingly centralised decision making in response to an effective social movement. The talk will give an overview of what has happened in U.K. Shale Gas, briefly cover the theoretical basis for the work, and put forward some initial findings, concepts and possible conclusions from the work so far. 

22 May 2019 - Dr Louise Tythacott

Museums, material culture, and display in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh 

Over the past decades, Ladakh in northwest India has experienced a museum boom with the creation of exhibitionary spaces in many of the key Buddhist monasteries. While small, single-room displays were set up in the 1990s, the first major ‘Western’ style museum opened at Ladakh’s largest monastery, Hemis, in 2007. Monastery museums have been established in Ladakh for a range of reasons - protection, security, education, as well as to make money by attracting the increasing numbers of both domestic and international tourists.

This talk will explore the role, purpose and functions of Buddhist collections in museums in monasteries in Ladakh - especially, relationships between the sacred environments of the temples and the ‘secular’, Western-style spaces of the museum, where deity figures have been relocated and now function in the realm of education, rather than worship. The paper will discuss how and why Western exhibitionary techniques have been utilised alongside local forms of display, and it will also address monastic museum governance – by examining who decides on the interpretation, conservation and display of the collections, as well as issues arising from the care of material culture in relation to Buddhist systems of belief. Contemporary museum practice in Ladakh will thus be analysed in the context of Tibetan Buddhist culture.

The research has been made possible by 3-year AHRC grant (2016-19) exploring Tibetan Monastery Collections in Ladakh and Nepal, and it draws on interviews undertaken in 2017 with Buddhist practitioners and museum caretakers in Chemre, Hemis, Likir, Matho, Phyang, Shey, Stakna and Thikse monasteries, as well as reflections on the experience of curating a new museum at Chemre monastery.

Louise Tythacott is Senior Lecturer in Curating and Museology of Asian Art at SOAS. Her research focuses on the collecting and display of non-Western artefacts, and she has particular interests in the representation of Buddhist and Chinese art in museums. Her books include, The Lives of Chinese Objects: Buddhism, Imperialism and Display (Berghahn, 2011), Museums and Restitution: New Practices, New Approaches (Ashgate, 2014) and Collecting and Displaying China’s “Summer Palace” in the West: The Yuanmingyuan in Britain and France (Routledge, 2018) 


29 May 2019 - Juliet Odgers

My talk will focus on the laboratory like aspects of two gardens devised by the famous seventeenth century diarist and author, John Evelyn (1620-1706). Both were devised during the 1650s:  the one is the imaginary ‘Royal Garden’, or ‘Elysium’ that Evelyn described and drew in his great unpublished , all-encompassing work on gardening  Elysium Britannicum or, The Royal Gardens; the other is the garden that he planted at his home, Sayes Court in Deptford (now destroyed, but known from drawings). As a founder member of the ‘Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge’, commonly known as the ‘Royal Society’, it is no surprise to find that Evelyn had an experimental agenda for his gardens. This we find described in the Elysium manuscript. What is more surprising, perhaps is the precise lineaments of that agenda and the extent to which it pervades the structures and spaces of his gardens.

Following an enquiry into these aspects of Evelyn garden design I explore two themes – the Alchemical derivation of Evelyn’s understanding of Nature, in which Nature is seen as a synonymous for Universal Spirit or World Soul, and the ways in which this animistic conception interacts with the prominent perspectival structuring of the garden spaces he designed.


5 June 2019 - James Craig

Title TBC