KSAP students present their research at Queens’ College, Cambridge

In the UK it is common for academic conferences to be held during April, with post-graduates and academic staff travelling to different places. This year four postgraduate students from KSAP had presented papers at the 10th Annual Conference of the Construction History Society. This was held at Queens’ College in Cambridge on 12 and 13 April 2023.

Three of these papers were given by students from the MSc Architecture and Sustainable Environment (MASE). The papers were based on original research that these students undertaken for module AR828 Rediscovery during the autumn term. This module, which I have been teaching for the last 10 years, is concerned with the study of environmental technologies in historic buildings. Every year students have been exploring different aspects of environmental design and examples from different periods. To gain insight into this more specialist area of architecture the students had to visit physical archives and libraries in the UK and study original documents. This included archives at different institutions, such as the Tate Britain and Canterbury Cathedral, as well as public archives. The latter included the Liverpool Record Office, London Metropolitan Archives and the National Archives.

The three papers Taban Shirani looked at the principles of natural lighting in the design of the 1862 International Exhibition in South Kensington, whilst Mathumitha Madalena Rohan, presented a paper that examined the history of the use of central heating in Canterbury Cathedral. Fatemeh Nikzare retraced the history of the use air-conditioning in the National Gallery in London, which was one of the earliest museums in the UK to be retrofitted with mechanically air-conditioning systems.

This conference gave these MSc students the opportunity to gain their first experience of the full process of participating in an international academic conference. It involving going through two stages of peer-review. Their full papers, each 5,000 words long, were published in the Proceedings, and each student also gave an oral presentation at Queens’ College on the first day of the conference. They presented at a specialist panel on environmental design, which was chaired by Dr Fiona Smyth, Associate Professor at the University College Dublin. Getting that far is not an insignificant achievement for an MSc student, as the majority of presenters tend be more experienced researchers, such as PhD students or academic staff.

Through this research the MSc have made a small contribution to academic scholarship in the field of architectural history from an environmental perspective, but it also yielded important practical insights into questions of architectural conservation. Indeed, next term some of the MSc students will undertake dissertation projects on sustainable design in heritage building. One of these projects, which is based on a collaboration between several students, is to develop a net-zero carbon strategy for the historic churches of St Martin and St Paul in Canterbury.

Written by Henrik Schoenefeldt, Professor of Sustainability in Architectural Heritage and Director of Graduate Studies