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International fellowships to build an architect's view of humanities

20 April 2017
From the grand architecture of Italy, to the desolate detention centres of Australasia

Two prestigious, Harvard University affiliated fellowships have been awarded to Professor Andrew Leach and Dr Jennifer Ferng in the School of Architecture, Design and Planning.

Professor Leach and Dr Ferng, recipients of two prestigious international fellowships.

The Villa I Tatti near Florence, Harvard’s Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies, awards Professor Leach a residential fellowship that will see the Professor of Architecture spend six months in Italy in 2018.

He has received one of four Wallace Fellowships dedicated to exploring the history and impact of the Italian Renaissance in the modern world (19th-21st centuries).

His fellowship will investigate the ‘afterlife of mannerism’—the style of European art that rose to prominence after the Italian High Renaissance and in the context of events like the Protestant Reformation and Sack of Rome, and gained renewed interest after the Second World War among notable architecture and art history scholars.

“There is nowhere better to study the way that mannerism found an audience among 20th century historians of art and architecture,” said Leach. “The Berenson library at the Villa I Tatti is an incredible resource and the scholarly community there provides an excellent setting for pursuing this research.

“Studying the way that history writing has filtered ideas of the past for architects makes the Renaissance, for example, much more of a force on contemporary Australian architecture than we might assume,” he added.

A prolific writer, Professor Leach’s broad research interests extend from the history of baroque architecture, to the contemporary architecture and urban history of the Gold Coast in Australia. His latest book, Rome, provides an unconventional guide to one of the great cities of the world, revealed by the history of the buildings, monuments, topography, streets and gardens of the ancient metropolis.

In stark contrast to the grand architecture and history of Italy’s great cities, Dr Ferng’s fellowship brings into focus the architecture of the desolate offshore detention centres in Australasia.

She has been awarded a Transregional Research Junior Scholar fellowship by the Social Science Research Council, an international not-for-profit organisation and the world’s first social science association set up in 1923. As part of the fellowship, Dr Ferng is a visiting scholar at the Harvard Asia Center at Harvard University from 2017 to 2018.

Dr Ferng will investigate how detention centres, which were once thought a temporary answer but have since become permanent fixtures, defy the boundaries of human ethics. She will also consider how border politics have contravened the mandate of architects to build and provide humane shelter.

“I am honoured to receive recognition for a project that will address the current geopolitical problems faced by asylum seekers and refugees, not only in the Pacific but in other countries around the globe,” she said.

"The history of architecture and the built environment can shed light on contemporary political situations in Oceania and southeast Asia, including Australian government policies such as the Pacific Solution and Operation Sovereign Borders.”

“The fellowship will enable me to gain additional expertise in Southeast Asia, which builds on previous work related to Christmas Island and Manus Island from 2013 to 2014 and will culminate in a monograph," added Dr Ferng.

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