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Dr Joel Robinson

Profile summary

Professional biography

I joined The Open University as an Associate Lecturer in 2008. Since then, I have tutored on many of the undergraduate and postgraduate modules in the Arts and Humanities, including A216 Art and Its Histories, AXR272 The Art History Residential School and A344 Art and Its Global Histories. Between 2008 and 2012, I was a part-time member of the Department of Art History. In this post, I assisted on the production of A226 Exploring Art and Visual Culture, co-edited the anthology for that module (Art and Visual Culture: A Reader), chaired the summer school in art history, sat on a number of other module teams, and edited the second issue of The Open Arts Journal on the subject of pavilions in modern architectural culture. Since 2012, I have been an Honorary Associate in Art History at The Open University. In 2017, I became a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA).

Prior to joining The Open University, I acquired teaching experience at a number of institutions, both in the United Kingdom and abroad. I taught courses on art theory and twentieth-century architectural culture at the University of Western Ontario (London, Canada). I was an English language trainer in Japan (mostly Tokyo) for four years, working with professionals and young adults alike.  For the University of Essex, I taught an undergraduate module on contemporary art and architecture, as well as an interdisciplinary postgraduate seminar on the aesthetics of decay and destruction. For three years, I lectured on nineteenth-century garden history at Birkbeck College. More recently, I have also developed and taught modules in my research area for The New College of the Humanities.

As for my own education, I earned my BA Honors in Art History (1995) from the University of Alberta. Whilst there, I wrote a dissertation on the rhetoric of the sublime in twentieth-century art, theory and criticism. My MA studies (1995-97) at the University of Western Ontario saw a shift toward research in the history of modern and contemporary architecture, with a particular interest in questions around historical representation, memory/monumentality and museology. After a break from studies (in which I worked in language education, travelled extensively, and started writing art criticism), I resumed my academic career at the University of Essex. My doctoral project explored the aesthetics of ruin and decay in late twentieth-century commemorative and funerary spaces, and was published under the title Life in Ruins: Architectural Culture and the Question of Death in the Twentieth Century (2008).

Research interests

After publishing my PhD thesis, I pursued some of the avenues opened up by Life in Ruins: Architectural Culture and the Question of Death in the Twentieth Century, developing a special interest in what I termed ‘the elegiac landscape’. I glimpsed this in late eighteenth-century painting and poetry, as well as contemporary photography and video, no less than landscape architecture and art. Most recently, my research interests have gravitated toward the architecture festivals and biennials happening in European and Asian capitals (e.g., Venice, Rotterdam, Shenzhen, Seoul). My forthcoming book on this topic, The City on Display: Architecture Festivals and the Urban Commons (2022) investigates how these events use their host cities as a stage for putting urbanism on display, in order to address the most pressing issues of ‘planetary urbanisation’ (e.g., regeneration, heritageisation, ecocide, migration).  I am intrigued by – but also critical of – the claims of such events to be engendering a ‘cultural public sphere’ where 'the urban commons' and ‘the right to the city’ can be championed.


Impact and engagement

For further information about publications and outputs, see


The City on Display: Architecture Festivals and the Urban Commons (2022-08-19)
Robinson, Joel
Routledge Research in Architecture Series
ISBN : 978-0-429-46877-3 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London