Forty years on: The past and future of design history

Chris Breward, Pat Kirkham, Catherine Whalen, and Jonathan Woodham speaking at the Open University in Milton Keynes. View on Open Arts Archive website

In May I was honoured to be asked to present at the conference ’40 Years On: The Domain of Design History’ at the Open University (OU) in Milton Keynes. The conference celebrated the launch of the pioneering OU programme “History of Architecture and Design 1890-1939”, an authoritative introduction to Modernism presented by Professor Tim Benton.

It was one of the first university courses to subject design and architecture to academic scrutiny in a context that went beyond the art historical. It was also echoed by similar initiatives in art schools around the UK, particularly Middlesex, Brighton, Manchester, Newcastle and the Royal College.

My polemic considered the continuing place of design historical work in our much-altered scholarly environment, and it generated some lively debate!

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Soft Power

Image by Billy Smith (bit.ly/tunnocks-van), used under a Creative Commons license

Image by Billy Smith (bit.ly/tunnocks-van), used under a Creative Commons license

Holidays in the Hebrides and the busy beginning of semester have rather limited time for the blog, but I return with a transcription of a position statement I delivered during the last week of the Edinburgh International Festival at the end of August at a discussion panel addressing the question of ‘soft power’ in contemporary Scotland. Chaired by my colleague Charlie Jeffery and including contributions by developmental linguist Antonella Sorace and think-tank consultant John Holden, it took place before last night’s momentous referendum vote, but it seems apposite to post it the day after. Continue reading

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Mary & Elizabeth in Princes Street Gardens

Princes Street Gardens. Image by Bernt Rostad (http://bit.ly/princesstreetgardens), used under a Creative Commons license.

Princes Street Gardens. Image by Bernt Rostad (bit.ly/princesstreetgardens), used under a Creative Commons license.

Last night was the opening of the 2014 Edinburgh Art Festival, marked by a welcome dinner for participating artists from across the Commonwealth at the National Galleries of Scotland on the Mound.

As a prelude to the dinner, guests were invited to engage with Jacqueline Donachie’s intriguing installation ‘Mary and Elizabeth’ in Princes Street Gardens. Continue reading

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Athena SWAN

St Aidan's College

St Aidan’s College, image by John Phillips, used under a Creative Commons license

I was at Saint Aidan’s College at Durham University yesterday to receive an Athena SWAN bronze award on behalf of colleagues in the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA) at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA). The Equality Challenge Unit’s Athena SWAN Charter Awards recognize institutional commitment to advancing women’s careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research. Continue reading

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