Home Book publication Past, present and future architecture explored in the publication of a double book

Past, present and future architecture explored in the publication of a double book


Two books – one exploring homes over the past 400 years, the other the future of cities – have been published by architecture scholars from Northumbria University.

Professor Ruth Dalton’s new book, live in houses, is a personal history of English domestic architecture in which she explores nine of the houses she has lived in throughout her life. Properties range from a 1650s Leicestershire cottage to a 1980s Camden housing estate.

Meanwhile, Professor Emeritus Bob Giddings’ publication, The Future of Downtown – Global Perspectivesexplores the challenges facing cities around the world and considers the changes needed to ensure thriving city centers in the future.

Both Professor Dalton and Professor Giddings are based within Northumbria’s Department of Architecture and Built Environment.

The future of downtown book was produced following a two-year research project, led by Professor Giddings and Dr Robert Rogerson of the University of Strathclyde, during which they traveled to four cities on four continents – Newcastle in United Kingdom, Newcastle in Australia, Pretoria-Tshwane in South Africa and Joao Pessoa in Brazil.

In each city, they brought together representatives from local government, universities, charities and community organizations and businesses to discuss the changes taking place in city centers and different visions for the future of the city centre.

As Professor Giddings explains: “Each of the towns we studied had very different historical backgrounds, but we were surprised to see how much commonality there was between them in terms of the challenges they faced regarding the future of their town centres.

“The reduction in demand for retail and commercial properties in city centers is happening all over the world and has been exacerbated by the global pandemic and the increasing digitalization of the retail sector.

“The real debate now is how to encourage residential communities to return to city centres. With that comes the question of the conflict between residents and the commercial and nightlife economy, and the need for more green space for the physical and mental well-being of downtown residents, as well as visitors from elsewhere in the downtown.

“What we’ve found is that the appetite for change is there, but the investment needed to implement the ideas discussed during our research is a real issue.”

Professor Dalton’s book was more of a personal project, carried out during the Covid-19 lockdown and exploring the architectural stories behind nine properties – from the 17th-century rural cottage she lived in as a child, to the market town Regency Villa which she restored and currently resides.

As she explains, “I realized that the houses I have lived in throughout my life span approximately 370 years and range from villages to towns, purpose-built to converted buildings, and cover a wide variety of materials and construction styles.

“As an architect, it provided a fascinating opportunity to explore what this collection of houses could tell us about the history of housing in England, the importance of place, the meaning of home and, in a architecturally, what I could learn from living in each of them.

Each chapter of live in houses reflects on Professor Dalton’s experience of living in each of the properties, exploring the building’s history, design and layout, illustrated with architectural drawings and photos. There is also a discussion around the lessons learned from each house and historical period and a comparison with contemporary houses that use similar materials, construction techniques or ideas.

Northumbria’s Architecture and Built Environment Department is based in new state-of-the-art architecture studios, designed by PagePark Architects, which have won over 150 national and international design awards. An extension of Northumbria’s historic 19th century Sutherland Building, the new studios opened in early 2019, offering world-class facilities for students of architecture.

Architecture and the built environment in Northumbria encompasses teaching, research and enterprise in the fields of architecture, interior design, quantity and construction, property and housing .

The department was ranked 11th in the UK for research power in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework, with its building/construction programs ranked in the top 10 of all major UK university rankings.

To learn more about the Future of the City Center research project, visit www.futurecitycentre.com/

Learn about the background of Professor Ruth Dalton’s book live in houses in this blog post.