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Rosa Ainley

PhD Work

Writing Alexandra Palace: Plurivocity as a method of cultural recovery of buildings

My AHRC-funded PhD research, Writing Alexandra Palace: Plurivocity as a method of cultural recovery of buildings, uses the practice of imaginative/critical/historical writing to explore how a building can exist, and have its life extended, in words; and how writing can express immaterial traces (of memory) in the material (the building). Writing in this way is in itself a form of reuse, a means of recapture, re-presenting (and representing) – it is not only ‘about’ architecture, it seeks to contribute to it.

In distinction to the dustless, unpeopled buildings of much architectural publishing, the inclusion of the user and a focus on past, present and future uses of the case study – Alexandra Palace – in order to inform more responsive and meaningful programming than offered by market-led regeneration.

Plurivocity is a method of writing-the-building that developed out of the research. It involves the use of multiple voices, introducing the invented or fictional along with the ‘ventriloquised’ and interviewees. Additionally, it acknowledges and articulates the multiple voices of the author in thematic, critical and historiographic texts.

Other current research interests include waiting room and ‘audio-architecture’. 


  • Rosa Ainley
  • PhD


    School of Architecture


    Architecture Research, 2012–2016

  • I am a writer in architecture and text-based artist. Published work ranges from the short story to nonfiction to journalism, digital and print. My work often uses ‘audio-architecture’ as a means of creating spaces through sound narratives. 

    Recent commissions include Building 519, which focuses on the site of the sprawling Pfizer pharmaceutical complex just outside Sandwich in Kent (Whitstable Biennale 2014)and a book, entitled Building 519, and other Pfizer Tales.

    Other ongoing series of work focus on waiting room, including ‘While You’re Waiting’ (on RSH+P Cancer Centre, Guy’s hospital, London SE1, 2016), Chapter 1 of The Chronicle.  

  • Degrees

  • MA Photographic Studies, University of Westminster, 1997; BA (Hons) English and American Literature, University of Kent, 1981
  • Awards

  • Royal Society for Public Health, Arts and Public Health Commendation, 2011; Creative Leadership Programme, 2010/11, Wayfarer Collaborative Development; CABE, 2009, Sea Change funding for Vision for Leysdown, ‘a national exemplar of good practice’; Research Associate, Sidney de Haan Centre for Arts and Health, Christ Church University 2010; RIBA South East, Architecture Week Award, 2007 for Gateway Sounds: Sheppey Bridge and RSPB Purfleet (mp3 pilot project); Arts Council, R+D Award, 2007
  • Conferences

  • ‘From Experiment to Application in Writing Alexandra Palace: Plurivocity as a method of cultural recovery of buildings’, Writing Buildings, University of Kent Architecture School, forthcoming June 2016; ‘A Chorus of Writing: Developing the Plurivocal Method’, The Verbal and the Visual, University of Brighton, June 2015; ‘Uses and Users, Architecture and Writing’, Erasure and Displacement: urban memoryscape, LSE Cities, June 2015; ‘Ghost Buildings, Public Places: Re/writing the User Narrative’, Writingplace: literary methods in architectural research and design’ at TU Delft, November 2013; ‘Defining Questions: Writing on Ghost Buildings in London and Istanbul’, Literature and Urban Space, Mimar Sinan University, Istanbul, November 2013; ‘The View from the Threshold: Writing the House’, Spatial Perspectives: Literature and Architecture, 1850 – Present, Oxford University, June 2012
  • Publications

  • The Chronicle, Chapter 1: ‘While you waiting?’, Guy’s Hospital, Cancer Treatment Centre (RSH+P) commission with Future\City, forthcoming 2016; Building 519 and other Pfizer tales, Whitstable Biennale 2014, with audio installation; ‘A Babble of Allusions’ and ‘Future Past Tense’ in Houman Barekat and Alison Hugill (eds) Politics by Other Means: Selected Criticism from Review 31, Zer0 Books, 2014; ‘Defining Questions: Writing on Ghost Buildings in London and Istanbul’ in Literature and Urban Space, Efe Duyan, Ayse Gungor, eds, Mimar Sinan University, 2013; 2 Ennerdale Drive: unauthorised biography, Zer0 Books, 2011; Leysdown Rose-tinted, CABE-funded/ Kent County Council, Regeneration Vision for Leysdown, 2009, with muf art/architecture