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As society and the architectural profession changes in response to technological, environmental, cultural and economic developments, research plays an ever increasing role in the design process. Inevitably this process becomes more complex, drawing reference from the past and looking to the future. Research in the Department of Architecture has as its core objective the study of the relationship of environment, technology, history, and wider patterns of cultural production to the design of buildings and urban form. It actively seeks to draw together research in computing methods, materials and processes, sustainability, history and theory and their implications for architectural design.
Iain sees architecture as a potent vehicle for cultural history, embracing visual arts, social and political history, and the building sciences. No other human artefact offers such a rich and multi-layered frame of historical enquiry as a building - be it a great cathedral or a modest suburban house. In his own research he has concentrated on cultural and architectural modernism, with a particular focus on the German-speaking countries an the Netherlands. He is a former Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung and a Getty Scholar. In 1996/97 he was co-curator of the Council of Europe exhibition Art and Power: Europe under the Dictators, 1930-45, shown in London, Barcelona and Berlin.
In 2009, a radically new e-journal, Art in Translation, was launched with Iain as Editor. Published by Berg Publishers, Oxford, and generously funded by the Getty Foundation, Art in Translation publishes the best writing from around the world on the visual arts, architecture, and design in English translation.
Iain is currently Director of VARIE (Visual Arts Research Institute Edinburgh), a Vice President of CIHA (Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art), and Chairman elect of RIHA (International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art). He is a former Trustee of the National Galleries of Scotland and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
1) A project on the aesthetic category of the sublime, and its current status in both art and science (with Prof. Roald Hoffmann, Chemistry, Cornell University), has produced an edited volume that will appear in 2010 in German as Das Erhabene in Kunst und Wissenschaft: Ueber Vernunft und Einbildungskraft (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp); and in English as Beyond the Finite: The Sublime in Art and Science (New York: Oxford University Press).
2) After a period of long gestation, a major anthology of texts on Berlin (co-edited with Professor David Frisby, Sociology, LSE) will be published in 2011. To capture the complexity of Berlin between 1880 and 1940, this volume covers a broad range of voices and expertises, and the text selection embraces aesthetic, economic, sociological, literary, and technical analyses by architects, city planners, journalists, cultural critics, politicians, philosophers, and social theorists. A small number of texts drawn from fiction have also been included to help explain not only why Berlin took certain forms and what these forms were, but also what was it like to inhabit them.
3) Germany was the crucible of modernist desing in the early decades of the tentieth century, a victim of totalitarian planning towards mid-cedntury, and a contentious site of rebuilding in the second half of the century. An overview of this history, entitled German Architecture in the Twentieth Century, has been commissioned by Reaktion Book, London.
This article was published on Jul 14, 2011