ASSC is pleased to announce that Anne-Françoise Morel and Claire Zimmerman will be our two visiting researchers for the academic year 2019-2020.

Anne-Françoise Morel is assistant professor in History of Architecture at KU Leuven, Department of Architecture. Her main research interest focuses on the church architecture of Stuart England. She also works on architecture as a tool of cultural diplomacy. In 2019 her first monograph Glorious Temples or Babylonic Whores: the Culture of Church Building in Stuart England through the Lens of Consecration Sermons was published by Brill.

Morel is a member of the Board of the Society of Architectural Historians Great Britain and of the Scientific Committee of Academia Belgica in Rome. Thanks to the financial support of the charitable trust of the Belgian Embassy in London, she will hold the annual “Belgian Chair at the University of London” at Birkbeck’s History of Art Department for the academic year 2019-20.

Her research topic is entitled ‘Towards a World History of Architecture in Restoration in England: Discovery of “Exotic” Architecture, Conceptualization and Design’. The aim is to investigate the perception and conceptualization of “exotic” architecture by British architects between 1660 and 1730. The proposal is based upon the idea that – under
influence of empiricism and travel – there was a genuine scientific interest in “the exotic”, not yet biased by colonial consumerism and domination. This resulted in attempts to write a global history of architecture, stretching beyond the borders of the classical canon referring to Roman-Greek Antiquity. Hence the importance of investigating how these new architectural references were conceptualized and how the overall process influenced architectural theory and thinking and (by so doing) had repercussions on British architecture.

Preliminary results will be discussed in a reading group session and presented during a study-day that will be held by the end of May (details TBA).


Claire Zimmerman teaches architectural history at the University of Michigan. At Birkbeck she will be researching a book that details the transformations in twentieth-century architecture prompted by large scale industrialization, the production of internal combustion engines and other machines, the mobility thereby made possible in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and the consequences of all three for architecture today.

The US military-industrial complex grew from seeds planted during this “Second Industrial Revolution,” watered by plentiful war capitalism in two world wars. More recently, global power imbalances have been closely tied to fossil fuels, and connected to current environmental threats. The impact of the oil economy and of global warming have been visible in the built environment for well over a century: in auto factories, transit lines, and transnational infrastructure constructed throughout the world. Closely tied to the networks of past colonial systems, this infrastructure also helped shape more recent political and economic empires. An important episode in this story, one to which Zimmerman will devote much of her research in London, unfolded through the commercial networks of the British Empire, tapped by Detroit industrialists to spread the gospel of automotive manufacture (and consumption) worldwide.

Her current book project investigates Albert Kahn Associates, the architecture firm that provided Ford Motor Company with its first moving assembly line factory in 1913. Founded at the end of the nineteenth century by a German Jewish émigré, it was one of a necklace of family businesses based in Detroit, producing buildings and systems for use across the globe. The most significant of these is the least well-known: a proprietary reinforced concrete technology invented in 1905, franchised in London by 1907, and disseminated worldwide in the following decade. Using networks of the British Empire in Africa, Australia, southeast Asia, and New Zealand, Detroit spread its technology over the world. This is a crucial “global formation”, if ever there was one.

Speaking about the impetus of her current work, Zimmerman writes that ‘Research on architecture may be most effective when concerns for built space connect politics, economics, and environmental justice, in new analyses of the spaces that connect us all. In a period of increasingly hegemonic politics across the globe, study of the built environment can provide much-needed ballast against the abrogation of the rights of civil society and human rights.’