September 2019: Managing my research

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 a time, and since some of these sites are potentially big projects in themselves, e.g. the Bund in Shanghai, I will focus on a particular building and write more generally about the buildings around it if together they form an ensemble, and then also the city it’s in. Each building will be used as a way of analysing the architectural and cultural impact of British architects and the British Empire. 

Union Assurance Company of Canton Limited building, corner of the Bund and Guangdong Road, Shanghai, China. Image credit: Edward Denison / RIBA Collections

This is a list of the first five sites I will look at:

  • Imperial Institute, London  
  • Commonwealth Institute, London
  • New Delhi
  • Bund, Shanghai 
  • Pier Head, Liverpool

The history of the Imperial Institute and Commonwealth Institute are very much intertwined and they reflect some of the changing attitudes to empire and architectural taste between the height of the empire in the 19th century and it’s end in the 20th century. New Delhi was a costly overseas and symbolic showcase for the British Empire, whilst the buildings of the Bund and Pier Head were the signs of commercial success brought on by international trade. These five buildings, I hope will cover many, although I admit not every, aspect of how the “architecture, culture and urban planning of cities from Liverpool to Shanghai were shaped by the British Empire and its architects”. 

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