School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape

Staff Profile

Dr Rolf Hughes

Research Associate


Currently Research Associate and Director of Experimental Research Practices within the field of Experimental Architecture at Newcastle University, Rolf Hughes was previously Director of Research as well as Professor of Artistic Research at Stockholm University of the Arts (inaugurated 2014), and Vice President of the international Society for Artistic Research. A prose poet, essayist, epistemologist and researcher of innovative forms of artistic and transdisciplinary practices over more than twenty years, Hughes holds a First Class degree in English and Related Literature (University of York), an MA (with Distinction) in Creative Writing and the first ever PhD. in Creative and Critical Writing funded by the British Academy from the University of East Anglia, UK. Working across arts, crafts and design disciplines, he has been expert advisor and reviewer in artistic research for the Swedish Research Council, the Norwegian Artistic Research Programme, the Austrian Programme for Arts-based Research (PEEK), the Ministry of Scientific Research and Education (MIUR, Italy), VolkswagenStiftung/Volkswagen Foundation (Germany), and the  Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) – the national funding agency of Portugal for science, technology and innovation, under the Ministry for Science, Technology and Higher Education. Hughes has been Guest Professor in Design Theory and Practice-Based Research at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design (2006–2014); Senior Professor in Research Design at Sint-Lucas School of Architecture (KU-Leuven, Belgium), where he helped create and develop an international, design-led PhD. programme (2007–2013), and has served two terms as Vice President of the international Society for Artistic Research (elected by the SAR membership 2011-2013, unanimously re-elected 2013–2015). He has published extensively on artistic, design-led and practice-based research, and has both supervised and examined PhD dissertations across architecture, art, craft, design, and the performing arts since 2000. In his artistic and critical practice, he explores writing, genre, and interdisciplinarity – extending essay and poetic forms alike – the concept of exposition in artistic research, and (working with new circus artists) experiments in what he has termed “the art(s) of the impossible”. 

A published prose poet, Hughes is also a dramaturge (author of This is Not a Story, a performed and published play on Diderot’s contribution to practical knowledge), and co-editor of four volumes of interdisciplinary essays: The Book of Models: Ceremonies, Metaphor, Performance. 2nd edition (Milton Keynes, UK and Stockholm, Sweden: Department of Telematics, Open University/Metamorphosis - Centre for Writing and Performance Research, 2003), Hybrid Thought (Milton Keynes, UK and Stockholm, Sweden: Department of Telematics, Open University/Metamorphosis - Centre for Writing and Performance Research, 2003), Architecture and Authorship (Black Dog Press, 2007), and Second Nature: Origins and Originality in Art, Science and New Media (Axl Books, 2011). His creative and critical work has been exhibited or performed at galleries and theatres in Sweden, UK, France, and the USA. 

He is co-founder of Radical Circus (2016), a group dedicated to radical experiments in artistic research and contemporary circus arts. Alongside Professor Rachel Armstrong, he is exploring the contribution of poetry, choreography, and performing arts to the field of experimental architecture, including the conception and design of a third millennium experimental research laboratory.


Publications: selection with emphasis on design-led research (since 2014)

Armstrong, R., Ferracina, S., Hughes, R. (eds.) Designing with Demons: In Search of Living Bricks in Estonia (Experimental Architecture Group, Newcastle University & Academy of Architecture and Urban Studies, Tallinn Technical University, In press, 2017)

Armstrong, R., Ferracina, S., Hughes, R. “A Wall for the 21st Century: ‘Trump’s wall should be a porous, shape-shifting invitation’” article in The Architecture Review, published online 19 April 2017.

*Armstrong, R., (ed.) Space Ark: A Living, Self-Sustaining Spaceship (Springer-Verlag, 2016) (essay, prose poems, and drawings).

*Armstrong, R., Hughes, R. and Gangvik. E. 2016. Handbook of the Unknowable. Trondheim: TEKS. (essay, prose poems).

*Armstrong, R., Hughes, “The Art of Experiment”  in Writing and Architecture (Åarhus School of Architecture, forthcoming 2017)

*Armstrong, R., Hughes, R. “Persephone” in JOUST Volume 3, Issue 1, March 2016, College of Engineering, University of Puerto Rico

Hughes, R. “Our fingers, my heart: lilac at dusk knows nothing of choice” (prose poem on interdisciplinarity) in The Phoenix Project: Circus Glass Royale (eds. Åsa Johannison and Nina Westman, 2016) 

Hughes, Rolf (2017) “Love, Love Me Do! Evaluating Research in the Arts” in Evaluating Research in the Arts ed. Walter Ysebaert (ASP Publishers, Belgium, forthcoming 2017)

*Hughes, Rolf (2016) “When will it thunder?” in Perspectives on Research Assessment in Architecture, Music and the Arts, Nilssen, F., Dunin-Woyseth, H., Janssens, N. (eds.), Routledge 2016.

*De Zeeuw, Gerard & Hughes, Rolf (2015). “Preferences in Architectural Research” Cybernetics & Human Knowing: Special Edition – Ranulph Glanville & How to Live the Cybernetics of Unknowing [Volume 22, No. 2-3, 2015]

*Hughes, Rolf (2014). “In Other Words: Or Why is it Difficult to Talk about Why it is Difficult to Talk about Architecture?” in Why is it Difficult to Talk about Architecture? Ed. Jean Stillemans UCL- Faculté d'architecture, d'ingénierie architecturale, d'urbanisme (LOCI)

Hughes, Rolf (2014). “An Architect’s Testimony” in Reflections 17, Sint-Lucas School of Architecture, Brussels.

Selected artistic works (e.g. exhibitions, concerts, performances); since 2014 

The Temptations of the Non-Linear Ladder: Artistic research experimental performances exploring pre-modern knowledge forms at the Do Disturb! Festival, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, April 2016. With Rachel Armstrong and members of the leading Swedish new circus company Cirkus Cirkör. 12 000 visitors over 3 days.

“It”, short story about cockroach in space, published by British Interplanetary Society (2016), and part of multimedia installation and research project (with Rachel Armstrong); “The Capsule of Crossed Destinies”, an allegorical view of humankind through a creature that is not only capable of multiple transformations but one that can thrive under the most extreme conditions such as, exposure to high levels of radiation. In this work, two roaches are transported to the extreme limits of terrestrial terrains into the rarified environment of the stratosphere. Here, exposed to intense ultraviolet radiation, which bleaches out colour, as well as temperatures and pressures close to those observed on the Martian surface, their capacity to adapt and thrive is tested. Caught between planes of existence the roaches struggle for survival against the odds before gravity drags them back to the earth’s surface:

Radical Circus Keynote performance lecture (with Rachel Armstrong) for Uppsala Congress and Concert Hall, 1 day symposium & workshop on Radical Circus with Cirkör Lab (part of Cirkus Cirkör), Uppsala, 21 January 2017. 3200 visitors between 15.00-Midnight.

The Art of Experiment Keynote performance lecture (with Rachel Armstrong) for Circus Arts Research Development 2.0 conference Stockholm University of the Arts, December 2015.

Hughes, Rolf (2015) “Light” in You Say Light – I Think Shadow: 109 perspectives collected and visualized by Sandra Praun and Aleksandra Stratimirovic (Art and Theory Publishing)