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PhD projects

Modern Architecture and Urbanism; Architectures of the Soviet and Socialist Worlds; Central and Eastern Europe; art and architecture of European avant-gardes

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Personal profile


Richard Anderson is Head of the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA), a post he has held since 2019. Richard’s leadership promotes the creation of low-carbon educational futures based on principles of environmental and social justice. Prior to his tenure as Head of ESALA, Richard held a variety of leadership positions, including a term as Director for Postgraduate Learning and Teaching for Edinburgh College of Art, ESALA’s home within the University of Edinburgh.

Richard’s research pursues two overlapping themes in the histories of art and architecture: the media of architectural representation and the relationship between society and built form. The focus of recent research has been the German and Russian avant-gardes. His writing attends to the ways architects represent and communicate spatial ideas visually. A current interest is the impact of practices such as abstraction and montage, and of technologies like printing, radio, and television, on the media of architectural representation.

Richard’s forthcoming book, Wolkenbügel (MIT Press, 2024) addresses new approaches to architectural design and communication in the early years of the Soviet Union through a study of El Lissitzky’s visionary project for the ‘Wolkenbügel,’ which translates as ‘cloud iron’ and is often described as a ‘horizontal skyscraper.’ The book describes how one of the most celebrated and influential architectural projects of the early twentieth century—imagined by Lissitzky as a translation of painting into architecture—helped define the contours of modern architectural culture in Europe. Wolkenbügel builds on the work presented in three previous books: Russia: Modern Architectures in History (2015); Ludwig Hilberseimer’s Metropolisarchitecture and Selected Essays (2012; second edition 2013); and, with Kristin Romberg, Architecture in Print: Design and Debate in the Soviet Union (2005). His essays have appeared in the journals AA Files, e-flux Architecture, Grey Room, GTA Papers, among others, and in many edited volumes. His writing has been translated into German, Russian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Richard co-chaired the Sixth International Conference of the European Architectural History Network (EAHN) in 2021.

Richard is a Fulbright Scholar, and his research has been supported by the Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Mellon Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the U.S. Department of Education, and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), among others.

Richard was born and raised in Los Angeles. Before college, he played guitar in several punk and hardcore bands, which toured California and had at least one fan as far away as Japan. In high school, he founded a chapter of the non-profit Food Not Bombs, a grassroots organization that distributes unwanted food to people in need. With the help of a community service scholarship, he studied art and art history at Pitzer College. As a Fulbright Scholar, he studied architectural history and theory at Berlin’s Technical University. At Moscow State University, he studied language and culture during his graduate education. Richard earned a PhD in 2010 from Columbia University’s Department of Art History and Archaeology, where he specialized in the history and theory of modern architecture and Russian art of the twentieth century.

Administrative Roles

Richard is Head of ESALA (Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture) at the University of Edinburgh.

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), The Future of History: The Cultural Politics of Soviet Architecture, 1928-41, Columbia University

Award Date: 1 Jan 2010

Master of Philosophy (MPhil), Columbia University

Award Date: 1 Jan 2006

Master of Arts, Columbia University

Award Date: 1 Jan 2005

Bachelor of Arts, Pitzer College

Award Date: 1 Jan 2002


  • NA Architecture
  • history
  • PD Germanic languages
  • PG Slavic, Baltic, Albanian languages and literature

College Research Themes

  • Cultural Heritage
  • Future Cities


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