Architecture and Society in an Age of Reform

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Sch of Histories, Lanuages and Cultures

Abstract

This Network aims to bring together an international group of scholars from different disciplines (including architectural history, history, literature and music) with an interest in the cultures of Enlightenment, reform and radicalism to discuss the complex of ways in which the practice, theory and experience of architecture contributed to debates about modernity and urban experience in the decades around 1800. It will do so through lens of the life of Thomas Rickman (1776-1841), which provides a springboard for discussing many of the issues involved. His internationally influential work, 'An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of Architecture' (Liverpool, 1817) was the first architectural 'best seller', through which the educated public were taught how to identify and discuss architectural styles. Through studying and writing about architecture, Rickman transformed his identity from depressed bankrupt exile to successful professional architect. Rickman was closely associated with reformist circles, his architectural research was informed by methods of classification learned from the natural sciences and he was a pioneer of new methods of construction, but as a successful practitioner he worked for a wide range of clients, from wealthy industrialists, to Anglican parishes, municipal corporations and Cambridge colleges. His career - and the associated buildings and archive - provides a connecting thread across this project, a springing point for addressing broader research questions and engaging the general public through a touring exhibition, website and associated workshops and walking tours devoted to his life and work. Many of today's debates about the contribution of buildings, both new and old, to societal wellbeing have their counterparts in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century discourse and juxtaposing the two will contribute a historical dimension to discussion of modern planning and heritage policies. Through networking symposia in Liverpool and London, and research workshops with site visits to buildings in Liverpool, Bristol and Birmingham, the Network will address how, in addition to its existing role as the most prestigious public site of display, architecture became a site of social experiment, embodying decisive shifts in medical, penal and educational theory, to be tested through the impact of new building forms. These debates intertwined buildings and books in a virtual sphere but the public sphere also had a spatial dimension: the new libraries, news rooms and lecture theatres in which such debates were encountered and performed and the transformation of towns through public and private investment (actual and anticipated) through which modernity was imagined and experienced. These involved changing patterns of patronage, funding and building, contributing to the professionalisation of the architect and the emergence of general contracting. The Network aims to frame public discourse about architecture in relation to the transformation of the public sphere, both through changes in print culture and contemporary economic and social changes wrought by war, capitalisation, industrialisation and urbanisation. Through print and travel, this discourse had a global dimension and the Network will develop international connections in order to enable a globally comparative approach. Our objective is to build capacity for ongoing collaboration and future international comparative research.

Planned Impact

The proposed Research Network aims to generate impact in terms both of informing policy and encouraging local people to increase and enhance their interaction with heritage.
POLICY IMPACT: The Network website will form the main vehicle for Policy impact. The research will feed into existing debates over the significance of buildings and townscapes of historical - but not necessarily aesthetic - value and their contribution to strong and sustainable communities. The PI and CI will produce briefing documents on the comparative historic value of buildings visited on the site visits, to be posted as blog postings on the Network website in order to contribute to debates over their future use. We would use this research as the basis for a 'History and Policy' document (http://www.historyandpolicy.org/) as well as liaising with the Georgian Group and the University of Liverpool's Heseltine Institute to enhance the policy impact of our research. This will also be supported by the PI's involvement in the future Historic England Framework for Research on the Historic Built Environment.
Local stakeholder groups (see Pathways to Impact attachment), will be contacted as part of the organisation of site visits in order to identify any particular local concerns, and will be alerted to the blog postings to ensure that our activities are relevant to specific users and beneficiary groups likely to be interested in the research.
HERITAGE IMPACT:
Through the touring exhibition and Rickman website, local people will be encouraged to visit and learn about buildings by Rickman and how architecture transformed his life. The exhibition will be used as part of the 2017 and 2018 annual Heritage Open Days event, the UK's largest heritage festival. The website will feature a virtual exhibition, an interactive map of Rickman-related sites, a blog, downloadable self-guided walks and a digital edition of An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of Architecture. Rickman's 1817 book was a popular best seller, offering an easy method to classify and date buildings working only from the fabric of the building. This empowered readers to find out more about their own local buildings and articulate their historic value. The exhibition, website and public outreach events will encourage use of the Liverpool Record Office and enhance public knowledge of archive research and architectural analysis by showing visitors how to 'discriminate' buildings, thus providing a transferable skill in helping them to articulate architectural value, useful for neighbourhood planning and heritage asset management. Archive events will be publicised via the Liverpool University Centre for Archive Studies.
The events and website will encourage architectural research by the public and will show how findings can be disseminated via Historic England's register of listed buildings. This will enhance awareness of listing and heritage policy and, via contributions to the list, learning outcomes of our research will also contribute to knowledge about heritage assets and thus inform policy. Our findings on individual buildings visited during the site visits will also be submitted to the register, to raise public awareness of their value and encourage meaningful interaction with heritage.
Potential sites for the visits are listed in the Pathways to Impact attachment and include all 18th- and early 19th-century sites currently deemed 'at risk' as well as others whose future is uncertain.
Members of the public will be invited to attend both Symposia, offering opportunities for more advanced learning, supported by the links identified in the Pathways to Impact attachment.
Public feedback on the exhibition and events will feed into our 'History and Policy' paper.
By partnering in our research, Lambeth and the Georgian Group will raise awareness of their roles and resources. Their involvement and that of our international partners will enhance impact in the heritage sector and internationally.
 
Description Research has informed two exhibitions at the University of Liverpool Sydney Jones Library and the Liverpool Record Office. Findings have also led to catalogue enhancement and have been used to create self-guided walks.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description 'Thomas Rickman: Architect and Antiquary' Exhibition at Liverpool University Library Special Collections and Archives 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Exhibition held in the Sydney Jones Library at the University of Liverpool. Primary audience was Library users (undergraduates, postgraduates and academic staff); the exhibition was also publicised beyond the University
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description 'Thomas Rickman: Architect and Antiquary': Exhibition at Liverpool Central Library 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Exhibition of materials from Liverpool Central Library and elsewhere showcasing the life and work of Thomas Rickman, whose career exemplifies the themes being explored as part of the Architecture and Society project. Staff at Central Library reported new awareness of the significance of Rickman and his relationship to other key figures in Liverpool's history.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
 
Description Conference: Thomas Rickman and Liverpool 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 2-day conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.thomasrickman.org/content/?page_id=21
 
Description Panel discussion at Institutions as Actors, University of York 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Participation as part of discussion panel at workshop organised as part of the AHRC Networking Grant-funded project Institutions of Literature 1700-1900
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://institutionsofliterature.net
 
Description Website - Architecture and Society in an Age of Reform 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Website created to capture and disseminate the activities of the network.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
URL http://www.architectureandsociety.org