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PhD Architecture

Braden Engel

Colin Rowe in studio at the the University of Texas, Austin. 1950s

Braden Engel / PhD Architecture

Dr. Braden Engel has recently completed his PhD at the Leeds School of Architecture with the thesis ‘The Gospel According to Rowe: Modern Architecture in Postmodern Education’. Congratulations to him!


The thesis was supervised by Dr. Doreen Bernath (Director of Studies), Prof. Ian Strange (Second Supervisor) and Dr. Teresa Stoppani (External Advisor). It examines one of the most influential architectural historian and educator Colin Rowe (1920-1999) who worked across UK and USA in the latter half of the C20th; and who coincidentally was from Yorkshire. The thesis reveals unique methods that made him so influential, and his strategies of pedagogy of uncovering meaning in the built environment. Braden’s dissertation argues that Rowe was a successful teacher because he understood the value of engaging students with modernism’s gift of free invention. Rowe paralleled the promises of modern architecture to faith in Christian salvation, leading his students into the temptations of modernism through historical analyses in order to test their convictions in architecture through design. Rowe’s use of the Bible is thus a key that unlocks both the value of his teaching and our interpretation of his historiography. Braden’s dissertation identifies a different postmodern device deployed by Rowe for each chapter, beginning with irony and paradox, and ending with ambiguity and refutations. The aims of these devices were to produce curious and critical students. These are qualities of relative scarcity today, and Braden hopes his doctoral work enables a more balanced appreciation of Colin Rowe while also serving to rethink attitudes to design education at large. 

In parallel to the development of his PhD research, across a number of years Braden has established and coordinated a tremendous undergraduate curriculum of history and theory at the Academy of Art University, San Francisco. This endeavour was built from his previous role as a lecturer at the University of Greenwich in London, working closely with Teresa Stoppani, Fred Scott and Brian Hatton, teaching a course that was structured by the examination on four architectural historians – Emil Kaufmann, Colin Rowe, Reyner Banham and Manfredo Tafuri.  

Throughout 2014-2016, Braden was part of the international conference organisation committee, working closely with me, Teresa Stoppani, George Themistokleous and Giorgio Ponzo, for the 12th annual AHRA international conference This Thing Called Theory at The Leeds School of Architecture (19-21 Nov 2015), and we published a book, a special issue journal and established an ongoing research collective of the same title. The book is part of the Routledge Critiques series (London: Bloomsbury, 2016) and journal is the special themed issue of Architecture and Culture (London: Taylor & Francis, Nov 2016). Braden and I worked as co-editors especially for the Architecture and Culture special issue ‘This Thing Called Theory’ which continues to influence contemporary discourses on history and theory, such as being referenced in the recent international conference ‘Architectural Theory Now?’ at UPenn in 2019, and in collaborative international projects such as ‘Theory’s Curriculum’ launched in 2019 supported by the e-flux Architecture platform.