Architecture, Culture and Tectonics Research Group

Currently within the Architecture, Culture and Tecontics Research Group (ACT) there are 12 students. All our students are skilled in multiple research areas such as:

  • contemporary architecture
  • innovative methodologies
  • cultural values
  • culture and history
  • architectural design process
Xijing Chen

Xijing Chen

PhD title: Enactive Visitor Engagement in an Industrial Heritage Museum

Supervisors: Prof Jonathan Hale and Dr Laura Hanks

Research summary
This PhD study aims to explore the meaning of ‘activated’ within an industrial museum. The Museum of Making supports active engagement in learning industrial history, because this museum fills the gap between two traditional learning programmes, academic and apprenticeship learning; it also can be seen as a third learning space. Due to cultural changes in the post-industrial era, most industrial buildings are converted into social spaces to engage visitors, and museum experience can be interpreted and exemplified in two ways. Firstly, it could be seen as a space containing objects, embodied experiences follow linear time with different historical periods becoming an encounter. Secondly, the building itself could be seen as an object, an integrated space to make collections accessible instead of simply curating and displaying them. 

Arif R Wahid

PhD title: Inscribing [in] the Art Museum Landscape: Resonating Reader's Voices Towards Post-Museum Paradigm

Supervisors: Prof Jonathan Hale and Dr Laura Hanks

Research summary
This research investigates the potential of inscriptive practices to enhance visitor experience in the art museum and gallery context. It observes Johnson Chang's 'Yellow Box' model as an alternative to the 'White Cube' to push forward the notion of post-museum. Inscription here is defined as a perceived human-made marking that leaves traces on a surface. Inscription also appears in many scales—from objects to buildings to natures. When human action interacts with nature, a landscape is constructed. Using York Sculpture Park as a case study, this research seeks the rich markings in its mixture of outdoor and indoor galleries, small to large objects, and different stakeholders that influence the park's existence.
Hailin Chen

Hailin Chen

PhD: Textual and Non-Textual Communication in Exhibitions – A Comparative Study of the Pitt Rivers Museum

Supervisors:  Prof Jonathan Hale and Dr Laura Hanks

Research summary

Museums are exhibitory complexes which communicate using aggregated space, objects, and people. For the visitors of museums, two distinctive modes of communication – “textual” and “non-textual” formats – stand out and are in conversation with one another. One might expect these communicative formats to have contradictory aims, or be mutually exclusive, but the distinction between the two has not always been clear or rigid. This research will take the Pitt Rivers Museum as a subject and embed a 3D virtual thematic exhibition – Rites of Passage – to illustrate the relationship between the two formats, which might further help us grasp the substance of replying to future generation of museums.



 Rakhmat Aditra

Rakhmat Fitranto Aditra

PhD title: Development of Novel Soft Pneumatic Adaptive System using Switching Mechanism

Supervisors: Dr Poalo Becarelli and Robin Wilson

Research Summary

Soft pneumatic adaptive system (SPAS) is one of long developed and promising adaptive system in building that uses pressurized flexible chamber as the actuator. Despite variety of SPAS built examples; SPAS was rarely discussed independently. This thesis review and classify built examples of SPAS. From the review, Pneufin, an external shading, was proposed and investigated.  

Experiments and simulations were used to test the structural performance of Pneufin and its effect on building performance. The actuation pressure result supported the main assumption of this research: Pneufin could be actuated under 1 kPa of pressure or vacuum. The result of the structural and building performance analysis has shown the potential of Pneufin. This research also shows that there are various types of soft pneumatic adaptive system that could be further researched in different building context and purpose

xue zheng

Xue Zheng

PhD title: The future role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in architecture and the construction industry



Research Summary

This research investigates how the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) could improve the future building and construction industry. The goal is to transform traditional architectural design practices and manufacturing methods into autonomous intelligent systems using state-of-the-art digital technologies. The digital transformation generates large amounts of data difficult to use by humans or traditional computer programs. Using AI to implement a systematic analysis of this data can offer the opportunity to develop innovative building and structural designs to improve safety, reduce energy demand, and lower construction costs.






Jiarui Sun

PhD title: A Study Towards the Possibility of Uncovering the Scientific and Social Value of Private Paleontological Collection by the Concept of Adaptable Museum in China

Supervisors:  Dr Laura Hanks

Research Summary
In China, there is a long geologic history and rich in paleontological fossil resources. At present, paleontological fossils are kept well in many professional paleontological research institutions. Except for those official institutions, there are large quantities of private fossil collectors, which may threaten the protection of the paleontological heritage. The value of the private paleontological collection is unknown and difficult to be explored. In these cases, developing adaptable museums as an architectural concept may be one way to solve the problems. Movable, temporary and changeable are the most typical features of adaptable museums. It is much more flexible and easier to collect the private collections, support the research opportunities for experts and spread the exhibition for public temporary. 
Diandra Pandu Saginatari

Diandra Pandu Saginatari

PhD title: In search of Architectural Porosity: Exploration of urban heritage wall as a historical, ecological and social assemblage

Supervisors: Dr Jonathan Hale and Tim Collett

Research Summary
This PhD study aims to propose a new definition of architectural porosity – one that could unfold architectural phenomena as an assemblage of the built, the context and the users at a range of different scales, from material to spatial scales. 
The architectural porosity proposed in this study attempts to see how porosity operates in the material and spatial scales and how their assemblage in socio-cultural and environmental contexts constructs architectural phenomena. This exploration will look at walls in urban heritage areas that arguably provide an intimate site to relate the material and spatial scales. The heritage status of the wall provides complexity in both material and spatial practice with socio-cultural and environmental dynamics. In particular, this exploration will look at the collected wall data of Semarang Old Town in Indonesia and attempt to capture porosity through drawings traces of events on and around the walls and draw the existing historical, ecological and social assemblage of the wall. 
Architectural porosity views porosity as the ability to absorb and contain, as opposed to transmitting (for example, to allow moisture to pass through) - it is the ability of the built environment to offer a perceivable space that contains events in a period of time. This perceivable space is viewed as an assemblage of material and spatial conditions in both socio-cultural and environmental contexts that will build up thickness beyond material thickness upon the built environment as a form of spatial production.

Sara Saliba

Sara Saliba

PhD title: Transitional Shelter for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Supervisors: Dr Paolo Beccarelli and Dr Katharina Borsi

Research Summary

My PhD study, titled “Transitional Shelter for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon”, merges the themes of displacement, architecture, and sustainability. Nowadays, around 1% of the world’s total population is displaced, particularly due to wars. Since 2014, Syria has been the main country of origin of millions of refugees. These refugees have fled to more than 126 countries, with Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon having welcomed the biggest numbers of Syrian refugees worldwide. Most notably, Lebanon has been hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees per capita in the world.

For refugees, life is tough and filled with challenges. One of the most prominent issues that they struggle with is getting access to safe shelters that would allow them to live their lives in dignity. Indeed, most often than not, shelters provided for the displaced are quickly created, with no considerations for security, safety, or protection. In other words, survival is the only factor that is regarded. Moreover, many refugees are obliged to jump from temporary shelter to temporary shelter before permanently settling down. As these transitional and/or temporary shelters end up being used for months or years at a time, it then becomes imperative that they provide refugees with a sense of safety and dignity.

Therefore, I have chosen to focus my study on designing T-shelters which would enable Syrian refugees to feel safe, secure and at ‘home’. They would be created by using green building materials that are durable, reusable, or recyclable and that are locally sourced to benefit Lebanon. These T-shelters are meant to be easy to assemble, dissemble, and transport, making them suitable options at times of emergency. Their design would also be adapted to reflect the culture of Syrian refugees, thus encouraging and promoting cultural diversity. 

Charlotte Simpson (1)

Charlotte Simpson

PhD title: Visitor Collecting Practices: Photographic Reproduction and the Changing Cultural Value of the Exhibited Museum

Supervisors: Prof Jonathan Hale and Dr Laura Hanks 

Research Summary

Social media has changed how the museum audience responds to and values exhibited material culture.

General observation of images posted to Instagram by museum visitors suggests that, armed with their own smartphones and social media, visitors are equipped to collect, exhibit, and certify museum-things themselves, and this may de-centralise the authoritative voice of the museum. Literature suggests that visitor photography allows the museum visitor to make meaning, and consequently, museum art, artefacts and spaces transform, they become polysemic; they work for the museum, but through exhibition on social media, they also work for and are owned through reproduction, by the visitor. 

This doctorate will use data from social media with grounded theory to develop the idea of ‘instant collecting’. The research aims to understand the motivations behind personal photography, to develop photographic collecting profiles of the digital museum visitor and better understand how museums may best react to changing consumption patterns of their audience.

hatice-sule-ozer (1)

Hatice Sule Ozer

PhD title: The language of house-museums

Supervisors: Prof. Jonathan Hale, Dr. Laura Hanks

Research Summary

Hatice Sule Ozer is a PhD student in the research group of Architecture, Culture, and Tectonics in the Department of Architecture at the University of Nottingham, which she joined in July 2019, under the supervision of Professor Jonathan Hale and Dr Laura Hanks. Previously, she received a Bachelor Degree in Interior Architecture from the University of Selcuk in Turkey (2011-15) and worked for a year as an interior designer of hotel-museums. She also has an MA in Interior Design from the University of Portsmouth (2017-18).

Research Aim: The research focuses on the nature of the house-museums representation as an encounter between the private and public, investigating artist-studio houses involved in the transformation from a semi-private/semi-public home to a public museum. 

Methodology: The research goes on to evaluate the effectiveness of the museum curators' communication strategies in two contrasting case studies of artists' house-museums, one of which was originally a personal and private living and working space, and the other was a semi-public combination of home, studio and gallery. To identify the most effective interpretive approaches adopted by each of the museum design teams (directors, curators, designers etc.) used in each case, a process of mapping, spatial analysis, visitor surveys and theoretical methods is used. 



Architecture, Culture and Tectonics

The University of Nottingham
Faculty of Engineering
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 74 86257