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The Martin Centre for Architectural and Urban Studies

- the research arm of the Department of Architecture

Studying at Cambridge


Modern Public and Institutional Architecture

Institutional Buildings

Dr Alistair Fair‘s research examines the history of public and institutional buildings since the nineteenth century. A longstanding interest in theatre architecture is one focus; it has resulted in articles in leading journals (Architectural History, Twentieth-Century Architecture) plus a book, co-written with Alan Short and Peter Barrett (University of Salford), Geometry and Atmosphere: Theatre Buildings from Vision to Reality (2011). Recent work on post-1920 hospital architecture has formed part of an EPSRC-funded project, ‘Design and Delivery of Robust Hospital Environments in a Changing Climate’. A third interest is post-war university architecture. One article (on the origins of the Sidgwick Site) is in press and another is under review; also in press are invited contributions to the architectural history of Somerville College, Oxford.

In October 2012 Alistair took a new position in the Department as a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellow, an award won in national competition and co-funded by the Newton Trust. Alistair is investigating the environmental history of the non-domestic building since the middle of the nineteenth century, exploring how and why the art and science of often complex passively conditioned designs has been displaced by mechanical solutions, through examination of case studies from Europe and North America. The work includes the exhumation of pre-Modern ventilation and heating strategies developed for public buildings, often apparently sophisticated and, in some cases, anticipating present-day low-energy design. These strategies will be contextualised within a broader understanding of attitudes to ventilation and infection, and will be considered with colleagues in the Department for their potential revivification in contemporary practice.

Alistair Fair