Josephine (Josie) is a design historian with a special interest in pleasure, modernity and the architectural environment, from the nineteenth century to the present day.
Josephine teaches across the V&A/RCA History of Design MA and supervises doctoral students based in History of Design. Her teaching and writing is broadly concerned with the role of design in shaping the everyday experience of cities, past and present. She is currently developing a new project about the history of birds and the urban landscape.
Before joining the RCA in 2016, Josephine was British Academy Post Doctoral Fellow (University of Westminster, 2009-2015), and Lecturer in Contextual and Theoretical Studies (UAL 2015-2016). Josephine has a BA in Modern History from the University of Oxford (1999), a Masters in History of Design and Material Culture (RCA/V&A, 2002) and gained her PhD from The Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL, 2007).
Josephine ‘s interests span a range of ‘recreational’ designed spaces, from the pleasure gardens, travelling fairs and seaside resorts of the 1800s to Edwardian leisure complexes and modernist cinemas in the twentieth century.
Much of Josephine’s research has focused on the history of thrill-seeking and the design of early amusement parks in Europe and North America. Her book, The Architecture of Pleasure (2013) spotlights the cultural significance of spaces such as Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Coney Island by exploring the role of machine landscapes in redefining commodified pleasure. In particular, her work shows how the amusement park provided a space for women of all classes to participate in cultures of technological modernity in the early twentieth century.
More recently, Josephine has focused on the contemporary pleasurescape and the current enthusiasm for architectural novelties – such as the London Eye and the ArcelorMittal Orbit – which promise embodied, spectacular experiences of the neoliberal city. An interdisciplinary collaboration with Dr. Davide Deriu (University of Westminster) in 2015 investigated how the concept of vertigo is shaping the ongoing transformation of the urban experience. Vertigo in the City brought together the work of artists, architects, clinicians and scientists in a special issue of the journal Emotion Space and Society (Deriu & Kane, eds. 2018) which traces the relationship between feelings of disorientation and dizziness and the material, emotional and representational landscape of the modern city.
Three core approaches drive Josie’s wider research practice. First, a focus on role of transience in architectural and design history and, in particular, the use for rigorous primary research to shed light on lived experiences of the past. Second, a commitment to methodological strategies which seek to disrupt dominant narratives about modernity and the built environment. And finally, embracing interdisciplinary and dialogic modes of working.
Outside her role at the RCA, Josephine has served as a founding editor of the European Architectural History Network’s Architectural Histories Journal (2011-2020) and as Trustee and Secretary of the Design History Society (2017-2020).
She has written catalogue essays for artists including Simon Terrill (Nouns of Assembly 2016) and Catherine Yass (Falling Away 2021), and published articles in international publications including LA+ Interdisciplinary Journal of Landscape Architecture and Pleasure Garden magazine. She is a peer reviewer for Architecture and Culture Journal and, in 2018, for the HERA Joint Research Programme ‘Public Spaces: Culture and Integration in Europe’ (Horizon 2020).
British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellowship, University of Westminster, 2009 –2015
AHRC Doctoral Award, 2004-7
Oliver Ford Scholarship (Victoria & Albert Museum) 2000-2002
Publications, exhibitions, other outcomes
Kane, J. (2013) The Architecture of Pleasure: British Amusement Parks 1900-1939 . Farnham: Ashgate
Kane, J. (2017) Mechanical Pleasures. In: J. Woods ed., The Amusement Park: History, Culture and Heritage. Routledge, pp. 31-57.
Kane, J. (2012) The Pleasure Garden Reborn? The Edwardian Amusement Park, In: J. Conlin ed., The Pleasure Garden from Vauxhall to Coney Island. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 217-245.
Kane, J. (2009) The Construction of a Modern Pleasure Palace: Dreamland Cinema, Margate, 1935. In: C Frayling, E. King and H Atkinson eds. Design and Popular Entertainment. Manchester: MUP, pp. 57-78.
Kane, J. (2020) Pleasure Garden on Sea. Pleasure Garden, 7, pp. 22-25.
Kane, J and Deriu, D (2018) Guest editors' introduction: Towards a vertigology of contemporary cities. Emotion, Space and Society, 28,pp. 79-83
Kane, J. & Beyts, J. (2018) Sick in the City: A Clinicians’ Perspective. Emotion, Space and Society, 28, pp. 84-88.
Kane, J. (2015). Dream City: London’s Pleasurescapes. LA+ : Interdisciplinary Journal of Landscape Architecture, 2, pp. 38-45.
Exhibition Catalogue Essays
(2016) Simona Terrill: Nouns of Assembly. Sutton Gallery. Fitzroy, Australia.
(2021) Catherine Yass: Falling Away. Ambika P3. London, UK.
(2011—2020) General Editor of the European Architectural History Network’s Architectural Histories Journal.
(2017—2020) Trustee and Secretary of the Design History Society.