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Matthew James Wells: Global Standardisation - British Architects and the Underpinning of Empire 1816-1931

Matthew James Wells: Global Standardisation - British Architects and the Underpinning of Empire 1816-1931

During my time in Munich, I will be working on new research project on the standardisation of the built environment in nineteenth-century Britain and its global territories. Through the study of a series of cultural techniques I have begun to explore the role played by the architectural profession in the political, commercial and environmental interrelationships of imperialism. Drawing on methodologies from a variety of disciplines including the histories of technology and bureaucracy, my research will examine standardisation through four main areas of historical investigation: the presentation of architecture and its role in standardising imperial power as displayed within the many exhibitions devoted to the British Empire; the emergence of new building technologies to regulate climatic conditions, solve issues of sanitation, and govern individual and collective bodies; regulation, paperwork, and the social construction of expertise; and finally the political effects of standardisation through various forms of representation. This last strand will be the focus of my time in Munich, drawing on the excellent and expansive resources at the Zentralinstituts für Kunstgeschichte to understand how European architects, moving away from the representation techniques used by painters and adopted in the late eighteenth-century, began to develop new methods of drawing and transition existing forms of representation to complement changing technological conditions and social values.

 

Caption:'Pott's Patent Ventilating Cornice', a decorative prototype for a new ventilation system, as featured in The Building News (18 December 1868)

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