Prof Kester Rattenbury

I am an architectural journalist, critic, author and teacher, and Professor of Architecture at the University of Westminster.

I trained as an architect, before completing my PhD in 1990 on the representation of architecture in the UK national press -- still the only study of its kind, published as part of my book This Is Not Architecture (Routledge, 2002). I have worked as an architectural journalist (full-time and part-time) in both specialist, national and international press and UK newspapers. In 1992 I began teaching architectural design, first on Degree at the University of Greenwich, and then from 2000 on Diploma (now MArch) at the University of Westminster, in a long term teaching collaboration with Sean Griffiths, founder of Fashion Architecture Taste (FAT), leading the experimental Design Studio 15.

In 2003, I set up EXP, the Research Centre for Experimental Practice in the University of Westminster. EXP's inventive projects include the Archigram Archival Project, a new kind of online design archive making the full range of the work of the hugely influential design group Archigram available online for both academic research and casual media users. I was Principal Investigator on this widely acclaimed project. EXP's other major project is the Supercrits series, which I set up, co ran and co-authored with Samantha Hardingham until 2010, and with other collaborators since.

I have written and contributed to many books including the Supercrit series (2007-12), Architects Today, The House Book, the tourist guide to the London Eye, and books on architects including Cedric Price, O'Donnell and Tuomey and Terry Farrell, as well as writing hundred of articles, reviews and building studies. My latest book is The Wessex Project: Thomas Hardy Architect (Lund Humphries, 2018) which is the first time the works of this seminal writer have been explored from the perspective of his first career, architecture, and which has been acclaimed as offering a totally new perspective on Hardy's work.

I also run a new PhD stream at Westminster which uses the 'By Practice' methodologies developed at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and am also involved with the RMIT programme and collaborations between them, Westminster and other European partners.  I have written and spoken widely on design methodologies considered as research, to international and cross-disciplinary audiences including literary and neuroscientific communities.

My individual research began in the 1980s with my PhD on the way that architecture was covered in the UK national Press, and is still the only study of its kind. I later recieved Arts Council funding to develop this as a book, and it became the basis of my collection of essays exploring the relationship between architecture and representation, This Is Not Architecture, (Routledge, 2002).

In 2003, I set up the Research Centre for Experimental Practice at the University of Westminster, which was designed to research, archive and support the experimental projects through which architectural practice and thinking evolves.

One of the first projects which EXP set up was the popular Supercrit series, in which we brought leading architectural figures including Rem Koolhaas, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, Richard Rogers and Bernard Tschumi, back into the studio to present one of their most famous projects to a studio 'crit' panel of international experts and an audience of students.

These events were then recorded and developed for publication-- extending both the descriptive information and the critical debate. Supercrits #1-#4 were published by Routledge as books which I co-wrote with Samantha Hardingham. Supercrits#5-#7 are available in annotated online format from October 2013, in a new website which now presents the whole series.

EXP's other major project is the widely acclaimed Archigram Archival Project, which made the works of the seminal experimental architectural group Archigram available free online for an academic and general audience. It was a major archival work, as well as a new kind of academic archive, being purely digital -- displaying material held in different places around the world and privately and variously owned.

It was aimed at a wide online design community, discovering it through Google or social media, as well as a traditional academic audience, and it has been widely acclaimed in both fields. The project was funded by an AHRC grant of £304,000. I was Principal Investigator on the project.

My latest book is The Wessex Project: Thomas Hardy Architect, Lund Humphries, 2018. The book comes from two decades' ongoing work into the worlds of classic English novels seen from an architectural perspective, and many other writings on this are ongoing. My book has been called the first systematic exploration of a subject in the overlap of literary and architectural cultures -- as well as the time this famous writer's work has been studied in detail from the point of view of the architectural culture from which he came.  The book has been acclaimed by Hardy scholars, for providing a totally new perspective on Hardy.

I am a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (FRIBA) and a member of the international committee of Architectural Critics CICA.

  • Experimental Practice
  • Representation, Fabrication, Computing