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Mark Crinson

  • Overview


    This member of staff is currently on sabbatical.


    Mark Crinson is an architectural and art historian with strong interests in colonialism, historiography, industry, and post-1945 Britain. His many publications include six single-authored books, two co-authored books, and six edited or co-edited books. Crinson researched his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, after studying for his BA at Sussex and his MA at the Courtauld.

    He joined Birkbeck in 2016 after twenty-three years at the University of Manchester. Across both institutions he has supervised over twenty students to successful PhD completion, and he currently has five PhD students. He takes a strong interest in curriculum design and teaching methods, and since his arrival at Birkbeck he has devised the new MA in Architectural History as well as revising the core course for History of Art MA. He has acted as external examiner for the universities of Edinburgh, Essex, and Leicester, for Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin, and for the Open University-validated courses at the American College in Greece.

    From 2017 to 2021 Crinson acted as Assistant Dean for Research in the School of Arts at Birkbeck. In this role he coordinated the School's highly successful REF (Research Exercise Framework) return in 2021, when the School's three Units of Assessment each improved their position, with English, Theatre and Creative Writing achieving an unprecedented ranking of second nationally, while History of Art and Film Media and Cultural Studies achieved the unprecedented ranking of fourth nationally. At the University of Manchester, Crinson coordinated the 2008 and 2014 REF submissions for History of Art, achieving successively better national rankings (fourth and then third).

    From 2016 to 2020 he was, first, Vice-President and then President of the European Architectural History Network. From 2017 to 2021 he was Director of the Architecture Space and Society Centre at Birkbeck. His prizes include the Historians of British Art Prize (2014) and the Spiro Kostof Prize (2006). 

    Professor Crinson is on Leverhulme-funded research leave in 2022-23. 


    • PhD, University of Pennsylvania, 1989
  • Research


    Research interests

    • Architecture in Britain and the British Empire since 1800
    • Architecture and art in Britain post-WW2
    • The industrial city
    • Historiography of art and architectural history
    • Race and architecture, especially in colonial and post-colonial contexts
    • Internationalism and architecture
    • Peri-urban architectures and landscapes
    • Forms and functions of description

    Research overview

    Mark Crinson's research focuses on four broad and often overlapping areas. His work on colonialism and architecture has resulted in three books: Empire Building: Victorian Architecture and Orientalism (1996), Modern Architecture and the End of Empire (2003, winner of the Spiro Kostof Prize), and Rebuilding Babel: Internationalism and Modern Architecture (2017). In the area of British post-war architecture he has published monographs on Stirling and Gowan: Architecture from Austerity to Affluence (2012, winner of the Historians of British Art Prize) and Alison and Peter Smithson (2018), as well as a co-edited collection (with Claire Zimmerman) on Neo-Avant-Garde and Postmodern: Postwar Architecture in Britain and Beyond (2010). On the historiography of architectural history and its relation to other disciplines he has published (co-authored with Richard J. Williams) The Architecture of Art History – A Historiography (2019), and (co-edited with Charlotte Ashby) Building/Object: Shared and Contested Territories of Design and Architecture (2022). Finally, on industry and architecture he has edited Urban Memory: History and Amnesia in the Modern City (2005), and most recently he has published Shock City: Image and Architecture in Industrial Manchester (2022).

    More on these two most recent books.  Shock City: Architecture and Image in Industrial Manchester (published in September 2022 by the Paul Mellon Centre) is a major monograph whose research was supported by a BA/Leverhulme Senior Fellowship.  While making specific arguments about the significance of the visual and spatial aspects of the industrial city in our understanding of modernity, the book also attempts a rapprochement between the materials of architectural history and those of art history. The book's chapters take different methodological tracks across the material: one year in the development of the factory suburb Ancoats; the architectural achievement of the idea of a 'Free Trade' architecture across the Piccadilly and Mosley Street area; one canonic image of the city and how it established ideas of epochal change; the town hall analysed as a Gothic machine; smoke pollution understood as a way to cognitively map industry and culture across the city; and the Exchange building as a manifestation of globalism breaking and remaking the city.

    The co-edited (with Charlotte Ashby) book Building/Object: Shared and Contested Territories of Design and Architecture (Bloomsbury, July 2022) developed out of a major international conference co-organised (with Jeremy Aynsley) at Birkbeck in 2019 and supported by the Design History Society and the European Architectural History Network. As well as a selection of papers originally delivered at the conference, the book also published chapters commissioned by the editors. The book explores the relations between the disciplines of architectural and design history, including those grey areas, dissolved distinctions, and uneasy differences  that typify this inter-zone. As with a number of Crinson's other research projects, the work results from close collaboration with other colleagues in the editing and organising of creative academic work.

    Crinson's current major research project is on the architectures and landscapes of the Heathrow area. Funded by a Leverhulme Fellowship in 2022-23, the project spans the period 1945 to 2008 and looks at the airport’s development and its relation to the area around it (bounded by three motorways to the west, north and south, and by Hounslow Heath to the east). Through an episodic account, informed by recent theoretical approaches in literary studies, the environmental humanities, and environmental history, as well as work on the political economy of architecture and planning in postwar Britain, the project analyses the strong functional aspects of the flat landscape (reservoirs, carceral institutions, the airport) and their relation to certain examples of architecture (the Penguin headquarters, Stockley Park, Bedfont's New Square complex, the Heathrow Hilton, and so on) in and around Heathrow. This, it is contended, offers a refracted version of recent architectural history as salient aspects of modernism and postmodernism are differently angled in contact with the dramatically unbalanced relations between local and global interests in the Heathrow area. 


    Research Centres and Institutes

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching

    This member of staff is currently on sabbatical.


    I currently supervise or co-supervise five students, and welcome enquiries from prospective students in any area of architectural history in the 19th and 20th centuries.

    Current doctoral researchers


    Doctoral alumni



    Teaching modules

    • Dissertation BA History of Art (AHVM037D6)
  • Publications




    Book Section

    • Crinson, Mark (2021) What is Modern Architecture?. In: Lu, D. (ed.) Companion to Contemporary Architecture. London, UK: Routledge. ISBN 9781138940178. (In Press)
    • Crinson, Mark (2020) “Compartmentalized world”: Race, architecture, and colonial crisis in Kenya and London. In: Cheng, I. and Davis II, C.L. and Wilson, M.O. (eds.) Race and Modern Architecture. Pittsburgh, U.S.: Pittsburgh University Press. pp. 259-276. ISBN 9780822966593.
    • Crinson, Mark (2019) A fluvial regionality?. In: Chang, J.-H. and Tajudeen, I. b. (eds.) Southeast Asia's Modern Architecture. Singapore: NUS Press. pp. 297-304. ISBN 9789814722780.
    • Crinson, Mark (2016) Imperial Modernism. In: Bremner, G.A. (ed.) Architecture and Urbanism in the British Empire. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 198-238. ISBN 9780198713326.