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Dr Harriet Harriss

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  • Dr Harriet Harriss is a Senior Tutor in Interior Design and Architecture at the Royal College of Art in London.
  • Biography

  • Harriet's teaching, research and writing are largely focussed upon pioneering new pedagogic models for design education, particularly those that respond to specific community challenges: as captured in her most recent publications, Architecture Live Projects: Pedagogy into Practice (Routledge, 2014); and Radical Pedagogies: Architecture & the British Tradition (RIBA Publishing, 2015). In 2015 Harriet was awarded a PhD entitled ‘Community-engaged learning for the acquisition and application of ‘practice-ready’ architectural knowledge’ (Oxford Brookes University). 

    Harriet has won a range of awards for teaching, research and practice. These include an Oxford Brookes Teaching Fellowship (2010–12) for excellence in teaching, a Winston Churchill Fellowship (2011); a Higher Education Academy Internationalisation Fellowship (2012) for research excellence; and most recently two Santander Awards for scholarship & development respectively. Previously, in 2004 Harriet won a public funding commission (NESTA) to establish and co-direct Design Heroine Architecture (DHA); a niche practice that focused on public participation in architecture and co-created both innovative and responsive spatial projects and design research publications. DHA also specialised in developing 'participation prototypes’, for a diverse range of public and private sector clients. 

    In 2007, Harriet was awarded a British Academy Rome Scholarship enabling her to pursue a research interest in the Baroque theatre of an abandoned abattoir and establishing her trajectory into academia. In January 2013, Harriet was selected as one of just 60 women nationally for the BBC Expert Women database project and has made appearances on BBC Breakfast, BBC News online and on the Radio 4 Today programme.

    As well as teaching design, architectural history, theory and representation, her other areas of interest include film and animation, the history of British social housing, the growth of seventeenth-century London estates, participatory design methods, the power stations of London repurposing of post-industrial space and the future of design education.

    Harriet also campaigns for making architecture a better understood, more publicly inclusive and accessible profession, since – despite the errors of the past – Harriet believes that architects can enable people to live better lives and that the public or ‘end users’ should be given a more active role in shaping the spaces and communities in which they live and work.  

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  • Practice

  • Harriet currently co-directs GRAPH; a small interior design studio focussed on using emergent neuro-scientific intelligence to inform the functional & experiential efficacy of the spaces in which we live, work, and learn.

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  • External collaborations

  • Board and Committee Memberships

    Advisory Board member, RIBA Building Futures Fellow of The Goodlab, 2016–

    Member of the Scientific Advisory Committee, Department of Architectural Design, Form and Colour Studies, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), 2016–

    External Examiner and Lecture Roles

    External Examiner, Newcastle University, Architecture & Urban Planning, 2016–

    Visiting Lecturer, The Architectural Association, Building Conservation Course, 2007 – on-going

    External Examiner, University of the Arts Bournemouth, 2013–16

    Education consultant e.g. Open University, Norwich University of the Arts, Hull College, UEL and others.

    Award Judge

    World Architecture News Emerging Practice of the Year Judge, 2015 and 2016

    RIBA Presidents Medals Dissertation Judge, 2016

    Judge for Ebola Tent International Design Competition (April 2015), Habitat for Healing 

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  • Awards and Grants

  • 2013 Santander Staff Development Award

    2013 Santander Scholars Award

    2013 Higher Education Academy HEA Seminar Award

    2013 Higher Education Initiative Funding (HEIF) Award

    2013 BBC Expert Women Award

    2012 Higher Education Academy (HEA) Internationalisation Award

    2011 Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Traveling Fellowship

    2010 Oxford Brookes Associate Teaching Fellowship (2010-2012)

Selected work

Research

Research interests

Harriet's teaching, research and writing are largely focussed upon pioneering new pedagogic models for design education, particularly those that respond to specific community challenges: as captured in her most recent publications, Architecture Live Projects: Pedagogy into Practice (Routledge, 2014); and Radical Pedagogies: Architecture & the British Tradition (RIBA Publishing, 2015). In 2015 Harriet was awarded a PhD entitled ‘Community-engaged learning for the acquisition and application of ‘practice-ready’ architectural knowledge’. Previously, Harriet won a public funding commission (NESTA) to establish and co-direct Design Heroine Architecture (DHA); a niche practice that focused on public participation in architecture and co-created both innovative and responsive spatial projects and design research publications. DHA also specialised in developing 'participation prototypes’, for a diverse range of public and private sector clients. As well as teaching design, architectural history, theory and representation, her other areas of interest include film and animation, the history of British social housing, the growth of seventeenth-century London estates, cognitive design, participatory design methods, the power stations of London repurposing of post-industrial space and the future of design education. 

Current and recent research

Harriss, H., (2015) Radical Pedagogies: Architectural Education & the British Tradition, London: RIBA Publications

The anticipated reduction in the duration of architecture education in the UK and across Europe has encouraged a sense of collective openness to exploring other models of professional education delivery. There’s never been a better time to be thoughtfully innovative and take the initiative. This book provides a much needed debate about the future of architectural education, placing it within its unique historic tradition and raising questions as to where architecture schools should be situated, who should be teaching it and whether it should be treated as an interdisciplinary, rather than silo-based subject. This is not just a book for academics. It comprises voices from those who are doing as well as talking; students, recent graduates, practitioners, educators and developers, consolidating academic and well as practice-based evidence into a set of actionable insights which should question, provoke and inspire.


Harriss, H., Penin, L. Staszowski, E. (2015) ‘Towards a ‘border pedagogy’ for civic engagement in Service Design Teaching.’ Chapter Geo-Located Media: Reflections on Hybrid, Physical and Digital Spaces /  Le média localisé géographiquement:des réflexions sur les espaces digitaux, physiques, et hybrids, Volume 24 Numbers 1 & 2, 2014

In this paper the authors describe a project whose principle aim was to ‘amplify’ the engagement and stewardship of local residents in the development and care of Soundview Park, in New York City. The project Amplify Soundview was conducted as a core studio course within Parsons Transdisciplinary Design MFA Program in Fall 2012 in collaboration with New York City’s Partnerships for Parks. The project integrated the Open Locast U platform (created by the MIT Mobile Experience Lab) into four proposals for Soundview Park, developed by Parsons students’ teams. Through the narratives of their students and project partners this paper will describe and reflect upon both analogue and digital tools for civic engagement. In particular, these narratives consider how digital tools such as Locast have the potential to engage the public in a process of asset realization and articulation within an otherwise disadvantaged urban context.


Harriss, H., & Widder, L. (2014). Architecture Live Projects: Pedagogy into Practice, London: Routledge

Architecture Live Projects provides a persuasive, evidence-based advocacy for moving a particular kind of architectural learning, known as Live Projects, towards a holistic integration into current and future architectural curricula. Live Projects are work completed in the borderlands between architectural education and built environment practice; they include design/build work, community-based design, urban advocacy consulting and a host of other forms and models described by the book’s international group of authors. Because of their position, Live Projects as vehicle for simultaneously providing teaching and service has the potential to recalibrate the contesting claims that both academia and profession make to architecture. This collection of essays and case studies consolidates current discussions on theory and learning ambitions, academic best practices, negotiation with licensure and accreditation, and considerations of architectural integrity. It is an invaluable resource to current and future Live Projects advocates – whether they aim to move from pedagogy into practice or practice into pedagogy.


Forthcoming publications (2016 only – 10 outputs scheduled, 3 listed below)

Harriss, H. (2016) ‘Goodbye Mister Bond:  007’s critical advocacy for feminism & modernism’, April [Paper, Association of Architectural Educators Conference]

Could James Bond be considered both a feminist and modernist advocate? If not, then why would an architect and a feminist find the way in which women and modernist buildings are represented in all 24 Bond films both politically affirming and professionally inspiring - as opposed to simply sexist or oppressive. In the spirit of auto-ethnographic curiosity, this paper will consider whether the way in which Bond films represent both women and modernist architecture amount to negative stereotyping – or instead - a critique of their mutually problematised status within society. It will consider the extent to which Bond strategically incorporates second-wave feminist discourses, which are intended not to alter Bond’s attitude to women, but rather to alter the attitudes of women around him to Bond himself.


Brown, J, Harriss, H., Morrow, R., Soane (eds) (2016) A Gendered Profession, London: RIBA Publications  [Book]

For a profession that claims to be so concerned with the needs of society, the continuing gender imbalance in architectural education and practice is a difficult subject. Difficult, because it’s been stagnant for some thirty years. This book seeks to change that. Beyond the profession, the emergence of fourth wave feminism has broken a twenty-year drought in the discourse. A new generation of feminist critique is emerging, characterised by a broader civic commitment, one fuelled by the recognition that time and again, women and minorities have been the first casualties of neo-liberalism. Whereas after World War II the architectural profession rallied around its obligation to fulfil a social need, today architecture has all but capitulated its absolute servitude to capitalism. Recognising that feminist thinking is a meaningful response to the inequalities of capitalism, A Gendered Profession will be a forum for a discussion about the failure of our profession – one that is so explicitly concerned with the design of inclusive environments – to resolve its own inequalities.  Contributions have been sought and responses elicited from all corners of the discipline to propose strategies, attitudes and solutions to this crisis in representation. At stake is more than just the lack of female representation. Male architects suffer from the same ingrained mechanisms of gender stereotyping, obliged to place professional commitments above those to their family and children. And while three quarters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual architects report being comfortable about being open about their sexuality in the workplace, that number drops to just sixteen per cent when on the building site. A Gendered Profession will aim to perform a diagnostic check of the architecture profession from one end of the spectrum to the other. Whereas much has been written on feminism and architecture, the majority is produced exclusively by women. A Gendered Profession has worked hard towards  gender parity in both its contributions and editorial structure and therefore does not limit its understanding of gender to an either/or analogue. The chapters featured in the book are written by artists, academics, practitioners and students. Through its diverse authorship, this book will provide the first ever attempt to move the debate beyond the tradition of gender-partitioned diagnostic or merely critical discourse on the gender and wider inclusivity debate towards something more propositional, actionable and transformative.


Harriss, H., Farhan K. (ed) (2016) The Routledge Companion of Architecture and Social Engagement

The handbook provides a comprehensive framework to examine socially engaged architecture’s socio-political, professional, and philosophical aspects through critical discussion of theories and case studies from around the globe. Organized around specific case studies from the United States, South America, the United Kingdom, Africa, Australia, China, and South and Southeast Asia, the handbook documents and builds upon the most important recent theoretical developments of socially engaged architecture. Socially engaged architecture is a broad and emerging architectural genre that promises to redefine architecture from a market driven profession to a complex mix of social business, altruism, and activism that intends to eradicate poverty, resolve social exclusion, and construct an egalitarian global society. This handbook gathers a wide range of articles that interpret and analyse different subgenres of socially engaged architecture, such as: public interest design, humanitarian architecture, pro bono architecture, participatory architecture, design-build projects, and/or community architecture. The handbook presents a critical survey of socially engaged architecture’s working method along with competing views and debates around the issue of whether this architecture actually empowers the participators and alleviates socio-economic exclusion or if it instead indirectly sustains an exploitive capitalism. It is the objective of this handbook to examine and explore contesting views and parallel debates of the field. Bringing together a range of theories and case studies, this handbook offers a platform to facilitate future lines of inquiry in education, research, and practice. Harriet Harriss's chapter provides a comparative analysis of the historical development of Live Projects in the UK and in the USA. 

Research students