Dr Matthew Barac is Reader in Architecture and leads the PhD programme at the School of Art, Architecture and Design. He was the School Research Leader 2018-21, and chaired the Unit of Assessment (UoA) panel 32: "Art and Design: History, Theory and Practice" for the University's submission to REF 2021: Research Excellence Framework.
Dr Matthew Barac qualified as a UK-registered architect in 1992 following the completion of his studies at the University of Cambridge. He practised professionally in the UK, USA and South Africa where he ran a successful partnership until returning to his alma mater to pursue research in 2001. His doctoral research, which investigated the role of design at the interface between formal and informal urban orders, won plaudits including the RIBA President's Award for Research (best PhD category, 2007) and the International Bauhaus Award (2004).
I am involved in the work of several of our Research Groups but my primary affiliation is with the group EACHiD: Ecological, Architectural and Civic Humanities in Design, which I lead. I am a member of the Research Centre CUBE: Centre for Urban and Built Ecologies, and my projects and activities are listed on the CUBE webpage.
My core research asks about what the contemporary city is, in order to investigate the role of architecture within it. With a focus on contemporary urban Africa, this topic situates key strands of inquiry, including: interpreting the interlocking of spatial and social orders of informal settlement, the material culture of the shantytown domestic interior, theorising the encounter between ethnicity and Modernity in postcolonial cities, the challenge of an African urban analytic, cosmopolitan orientation in a the city of dispersal, the impact of consumerism on the architectural habitats of poverty, and the role of design in humanitarian and development practice.
These and other areas of study include the following main research strands:
- Cities in the Global South: Urban identity, informal settlements, theorising the architecture of unstable urbanity.
- Architectural Pedagogy: Comparative studies in architectural education around the world, knowledge transfer and international collaboration.
- Designing for the Third Age: Housing for an ageing population, urban change for an active older citizen.
- Spatial Interpretation and Representational Ethics: Architectural meaning and visual aesthetics, phenomenological hermeneutics.
- Hybrid WorkHome Future: Housing, architecture and space use for a post pandemic paradigm shift to our patterns of working from home.
My main role currently is leading Postgraduate Research (PGR) at the School of Art, Architecture and Design. When I took up a post at London Met it was as the course leader for the RIBA Part 2 course and our Architecture MA. I have since been the Postgraduate Taught (PGT) Programme Leader, School Research Leader, and in charge of delivering the REF 2021 Unit of Assessment 32.
Most of my London Met teaching has been at PGT or PGR level on the following courses:
- Architecture (RIBA 2) M.Arch
- Architecture MA
- Architectural History, Research and Writing MA
- PhD Architecture
- PhD Practice Research
- PhD Design Research
I have led the following M-level modules:
- AR7002: Theories
- AR7049: The Problem of Irony
- AR7030: Design Level 4: Subject and Context
- AR7021: Design Level 4: Process and Proposal
- AR7P24: Design Thesis Project: Specialisation and Proposition
- AR7P25: Design Thesis Project: Resolution.
- AR7P18: Design Thesis
My current teaching varies from studio tutoring (most recently in Unit 13) to architectural history and theory seminars. I dedicate a proportion of my time to my doctoral students and currently supervise seven; six of my research students have completed their PhDs. My current students are:
- Annisa Jabbour "Dubai in Place and Time: The Role of Cultural Memory in the Recent Architectural History of a Desert City"
- Jane McAllister "Socio-spatial Practices of Well-being: Authors of Civic Ecologies"
- Mahittichai Supatira "Towards Multicultural London: Urban Spaces of Thai Cosmopolitan Identity"
- Pau Bajet "Time Catalysts: Research by Design in Barcelona Loose Ends"
- Peter Newby "The Twentieth Century Renewal of the Catholic Church's Liturgy and the Church Designs of Francis Xavier Velarde"
- Samson Adjei "Phenomenological Attitudes and Post-digital Possibilities in Architectural Design Processes"
- Torange Khonsari "Designing the Cultural Commons"
This selection of research-focused publications ranges from mainstream books, magazines, online blogs and trade news to scholarly journals. Reflecting my interests, these works target an expanded readership, building upon editorial and journalistic experience at periodicals including the Architectural Review (pedagogy correspondent 2011-14) and Elle Decoration SA (Contributing Editor 1999-2002):
- Book Chapter: Barac, M., J. King, P. Moreira & E. Silva (forthcoming) "Conversations about Criticality" in Moreira, P. (ed) Critical Neighbourhoods: The Architecture of Contested Communities (Park Books) supported by a Graham Foundation Grant.
- Report: Barac, M. & F. Holliss (2021) "Housing Space Use in the Pandemic and After", (London: London Metropolitan University)
- Commissioned news article: Barac, M. (2021) "Young female South African architect reinvents Serpentine Pavilion in London" The Conversation.
- Commissioned industry blog: Barac, M. (2020) "A HAPPI Chapter in the Story of Design and Practice Research" Housing-LIN: Learning & Improvement Network.
- Book chapter: Barac, M. (2019) "Technologies of Belonging: Object Relations in the Architecture of Reconstruction" in J. Royo Olid & S. Fennell (eds) Building, Owning and Belonging: from assisting owner driven housing reconstruction to co- production in Sri Lanka, India and beyond (EU and UN-Habitat: free to download)
- Book chapter: Barac, M., S. Fennel & J. Royo Olid (2018) "Tracking the Transition from 'Basic Needs' to 'Capabilities' for Human-Centred Development: The Role of Housing" in F. Comim, S. Fennell, P. B. Anand (eds) New Frontieres of the Capability Approach (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
- Book chapter: Barac, M. (2015) "Changing Places: Navigating Urbanity in the Global South" in Sternberg, M. & H. Steiner (eds) Phenomenologies of the City (Farnham: Ashgate)
- Commissioned news article (industry journal): Barac, M. (2015) "When We’re 65", RIBA Journal, vol.122(3): 72-74.
- Commissioned essay (consultancy): "Making Connections in Practice" in An Ageing Nation: Are We Planning for Our Futures? (Reading: Barton Willmore)
- Transformation Fund, LMU (2020) "Research Centre capability development – CUBE: Centre for Urban and Built Ecologies and CREATURE: Creative Arts, Cultures and Engagement." £13,886.00
- Strategic Priorities Fund (2020) with Dr Frances Holliss. "Housing Space Use in the Pandemic and After: The Case for New Design Guidance" UKRI funding administered by the RPO, LMU. £4,983.40
- Team member (Design: lead author, London South Bank University), AHRC Block Grant Partnership: Capacity Building stream (BGP: CP), New London Graduate School (2011-15)
- RIBA Research Trust Award (2009) £10,000
- Homes & Communities Agency competitive tender (2009), practice-based research consultancy, £60,000 (Pollard Thomas Edwards Architects & Levitt Bernstein Architects)
- African Centre for Cities Visiting Research Associate (2005)
- UAC of Nigeria Travel Fund, Centre for African Studies, Cambridge (2005)
- International Bauhaus Award, (2004) First Prize €5,000
- Smuts Fund, Cambridge (fieldwork travel costs, Khayelitsha, 2004)
- South African Government: Department of Foreign Affairs, Cultural Delegation: est. ZAR 200,000 (1995) XIX Triennale di Milano.
- Course Validation Panel at Central St Martins, MA-Cities. Documentation review, consultation meeting and ratification. (February 2020)
- Advisory Examiner and observer monitoring as validating partner, London School of Architecture (July 2017)
- External Examiner at Sheffield University School of Architecture for PGT programme. Subject Standards; MArch-Archit., MArch-Archit. & Landsc. Arch., MArch-Collab. Practice, MArch Archit. & TRP. (2013-17)
- Editorial board member for journal Architecture & Culture (since 2013)
- Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (since 2015)
- Editorial board member for Architectural Review (2012-15)
- RIBA Research Awards Jury member (2014-16)
- Assessor for MA Architectural and Urban Design, Cambridge (2013)
- External and Internal Examiner for PhD candidates, London Metropolitan University, Julia King (2015), Rachel O’Grady (2017)
- PhD Viva Chair, London Metropolitan University (2018, 2019); London South Bank University (2016)
- Dissertation examiner for undergraduate (BA [Hons]) and graduate degree (Dip.Arch and MSt - IDBE), Cambridge University (1999-2012)
- Forum Chair, Human Habitat and Social Responsibility, Oxford Conference 50 Years On: Resetting the Agenda for Architectural Education, Oxford (2008)
- Asia–Link, consultant for EU-funded study of teaching models for development with partners in Paris, Ahmedabad and Cambridge (2005-07)
- Chairman of the Board of Trustees for UK registered charity Architecture Sans Frontieres-UK, (2007-15)
- University Staff Awards, LMU: Best Mid-Career Researcher category (2020)
- Student Union Awards, LSBU: Staff Prize for Teaching Excellence (2014)
- RIBA President’s Award for Research, Category: Best PhD (2007)
- International Bauhaus Award: First Prize €5,000 (2004)
Dr Matthew Barac
Reader in Architecture