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Image: The Liver Building (left) and Pier Head, Liverpool, built at the height of the British Empire and when the city was one of its principal ports.

This is a personal project I am sharing online as my research progresses.

The research project

My original research title: “A legacy in paper and stone: How the architecture, culture and urban planning of cities from Liverpool to Shanghai were shaped by the British Empire and its architects”

My research, which began in October 2018, will look at the way the British Empire (1700s – 1950s) was not just a commercial and military operation, but a transformative global network that enabled culture and architectural ideas to spread. It will aim to uncover and understand the influence of the empire and its architects on the architecture, culture and urban planning of its colonies and cities, and assess if this exchange was multi-directional and what is its legacy. Research will be carried out primarily by exploring the rich architectural collections of the RIBA, supplemented by visits to other institutions and via topographical studies.

It’s a fascinating topic – and a large subject to tackle. To manage it, my initial aim will be read widely and then to focus on specific cities, personalities and time periods that interest me or are most relevant to the research title. I expect the title and my thoughts to develop and change significantly over the two-year period. I’d like to share my research and findings somehow, both as I progress and at the project’s conclusion, but in what form is still to be decided and will be guided by what I discover. I hope that this website will be able show how it evolves via regular blog posts.

This research is funded by the RIBA Gordon Ricketts Fund.

Latest blog posts about the project:

  • May 2020: Research during the coronavirus lockdown

    May 5, 2020 by

    With the Covid-19 outbreak and ensuing lockdown, I’ve been able to give my Gordon Ricketts Fund-supported research more time. It has though mean the travel element of the project will be put on hold indefintely and I’m fully prepared for it not to happen. I was thinking of going to Shanghai or Delhi, an alternative… Read more

  • December 2019: Visiting Liverpool Central Library Archives

    May 5, 2020 by

    On the 30th December 2019, I made a fairly last-minute decision to go to Liverpool to research the Cunard Building. Over Christmas, I discovered to my surprise that the beautiful Liverpool Central Library was open soon after the festive break. The library held a great archive of material related to the Cunard Building and the… Read more

  • September 2019: Managing my research

    September 1, 2019 by

    I’ve done more reading than writing. I’m nearing the halfway point of the two-year research project. I’ll retain the list of 20 buildings and places I finalised in January 2019, but for the first phase of writing I’ve chosen five sites to focus on to make my research manageable. I’ll work on these one at… Read more

  • June 2019: New website

    June 30, 2019 by

    As of today, 30th June, I have moved and consolidated my online content to it own website. Formerly it had been crammed onto a single web page on my personal website http://www.wilsonyau.co.uk Up to this point I have been doing a lot of reading and attempting to refine my field of research. I hope creating… Read more

  • April 2019: Architecture can influence history

    June 30, 2019 by

    The quote “architecture can influence history” (1) was a reference to what one aristocratic woman in London thought of her mansion in Park Lane in 1900, Londonderry House, which she used extensively to entertain powerful and influential guests like imperialists Cecil Rhodes and Joseph Chamberlain.  The British Empire was building throughout its long history. In… Read more

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