Culture, History & Theory

Research in the culture, history and theory area addresses a range of social, intellectual, environmental, and economic issues across the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design, employing a distinctive, critical, cross-cultural approach. 

Culture, history and theory

Architectural history and theory, a core area of architectural education, offers insights into the production of and engagement with the built environment of different people in different times and different places. We adopt a human-centred approach to the understanding and writing of the history and theory both of Western and non-Western cultures. Focusing on the intertwined history of modernity, researchers in this cluster offer a variety of new perspectives on the pre-, early, and post-modern traditions of Western and Non-Western peoples. 

Our research

Researchers in this area explore a range of cultural, historical, and theoretical issues across the disciplines of architecture, construction, landscape, and urban design, including: 

  • Migration and contemporary Australian architecture  
  • Early modernity and urbanism in the Arab world 
  • Cross-cultural perspectives on early modern material culture 
  • Transitions to modernity in Asia and the Middle East 
  • Australian-Asian/Middle Eastern exchange in art, architecture, and urbanism 
  • Architecture, construction and community-building in colonial and contemporary Australia 
  • Colonial modernity and decolonisation in the design and construction of the Global South 
  • Cross-cultural thinking in architecture 
  • Art, religion, and the environment 
  • Humanism, science, and sustainable futures 
  • Lead researchers in this area are currently focused on

  • Our research units and groups

    Centre for Asian and Middle Eastern Architecture (CAMEA) 

    Established in 1997, CAMEA is a research collective based at the University of Adelaide. It has long sustained international recognition for its leadership in promoting cross-cultural understanding of the intertwined histories of Western and non-Western peoples through the advancement of critical research on the architectures, landscapes, and urbanity of Asia, the Middle East, and their contemporary global diasporas.   

    Conceptions of Asia and the Middle East have shifted decisively in recent decades. The old spatial politics of national and regional boundaries and the intellectual framing of geographies and architectures of difference seem increasingly less relevant to the new political, cultural, and intellectual conditions of the 21st Century. Transformed, since the 1990s, by a veritable new revolution in spatial and technological connectivity, the world of the present is also a troubled one, mired again in civil wars, and social and economic upheaval on a global scale.  

    In this context, long-laboured concepts such as site, place, religion, and cultural identity need to be reconsidered by scholars of architecture and built environment if we seek to advance understanding of the past in ways understandable and relevant to the present and future. 

    Contemporary Architecture Research Lab (CARL) 

    The Contemporary Architecture Research Lab (CARL) is focused on mapping the unique developments of modern architecture and construction in South Australia. The research unit works closely with state institutions like the State Library of South Australia (SLSA) or the History Trust of South Australia (HTSA) which are tasked with preserving and promoting the history of the State’s people.  

    Research projects aim to interpret the historical archives housed at these institutions and communicate the importance of architectural and construction projects through public exhibitions and seminars. Additionally, the researchers also work to capture the memories and historical recollections of the people through oral history projects that ensure their preservation in the state archives. Finally, focusing on new technologies like immersive and interactive virtual environments or artificial intelligence, the research unit makes this historical information approachable and exciting for broader public consumption.  

    Accordingly, CARL sits at the intersection of historical information and new communication technologies to ensure that the recent history of our built environment is protected by the State and celebrated by the public. 

  • Recent and current funded research projects

    • The Australian Mosque Today: Architectural Collaborations – K. Bartsch with Deakin, Monash, UNSW and Nottingham Trent (UK), ARC Special Research Initiative (2020-2023) Jusour.  
    • Building Bridges between Australian and Tunisian Scholars of Art and Architecture – K. Bartsch with Deakin, ENAU (Tunisia) and Nottingham Trent (UK), Council for Australian-Arab Relations (CAAR) (2022) 
    • The Architecture of Australia’s Muslim Pioneers – P. Scriver & K. Bartsch with IIUM and SA Museum, ARC Linkage (2014-2019)   
    • Everyday Life in Extraordinary Times: Egyptian Images from Australia – A-M. Willis & S. Akkach, Council for Australian-Arab Relations (CAAR) (2018-2019) 
    • Islam and the Ethos of Science in Early Modern Islam – S. Akkach, ARC Discovery (2013-2018) 
    • ʿIlm: Science, Religion and Art in Islam – S. Akkach, Council for Australian-Arab Relations (CAAR) (2016-2017) 
    • ‘Lust for Lifestyle: Modern Adelaide Home 1950-65’ and ‘’ – James Curry & Amit Srivastava, ECMS Seed Funding Grant (2021-22) 
    • Building Memories: Developing Urban Information Architecture and Data Sovereignty for Australian Cities – Amit Srivastava and Aaron Humphrey, DIGI+ FAME Strategy Grant (2021-22) 
  • Researchers in this cluster

  • PhD researchers in this cluster

    Recently completed PhD research projects: 

    • 2022 Dr Mehbuba Tune Uzra. Purity, System, Comfort: A Micro-historical Study of Change in Built Form and Cultural Practice, with Particular Respect to Water Use in the Modern Residential Architecture of the Bengali Muslim Upper-Middle Class (1950 – 2000), Principal Supervisor Associate Professor Peter Scriver. 
    • 2022 Dr Sareh Abooali. Space, Gaze and Femineity: Representation of Women in Architectural Spaces in Persian Miniature Painting (Timurid to Safavid eras). Principal Supervisor Associate Professor Peter Scriver. 
    • 2021 Dr James Bennett. Making Art in Early Modern Java (16th-19th c.): A New Reading. Principal Supervisor Professor Samer Akkach. 
    • 2021 Dr Jade Riddle. Emotions in Place: The Creation of the Suburban 'Other' in Early Modern London. Principal Supervisor Prof Samer Akkach. 
    • 2020 Dr Mansoureh Rajabitanha. Woven Pleasure: Continuity and Change in Persian Carpet Making During the Safavid Period. Principal Supervisor Professor Samer Akkach. 
    • 2019 Dr Shaha Altaf Parpia. Imperial Hunting Grounds: A New Reading of Mughal Cultural History. Principal Supervisor Prof Samer Akkach. 
    • 2018 Dr Zahra Ranjbari. Botanic and Poetic Landscapes: A Reading of Two Persian Texts on Early Safavid Gardens. Principal Supervisor Professor Samer Akkach with Dr Katharine Bartsch. 
    • 2017 Dr Nadiyanti Mat Nayan. Conservation of Heritage Curtilages in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Principal Supervisor Dr Katharine Bartsch with Professor David Jones. 
    • 2017 Dr Fahmid Ahmed. To flow or to Fortify? Water, Development and Urbanism in the Building of a Deltaic Metropolis. Principal Supervisor A/Prof Peter Scriver 

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