Modern Interiors Research Centre


Research Projects


Cat Rossi: China’s Creative Communities: Making Value and The Value(s) of Making (2016)

This AHRC Newton Fund-supported cross-disciplinary research project brought together practitioners and academics in the UK and China to network, research, workshop and publicly disseminate ideas and innovations around the multi-faceted value of making in China. Focusing on four values – entrepreneurialism, sustainability, community/agency and creativity – it aimed to strengthen China’s multiple maker communities in partnership with the UK, as part of the UK’s broader support for China’s creative industries and knowledge economy.

Conceived as a scoping project to enable future, larger international collaborations, the project consisted of a series of activities in London and Shenzhen that critically explored the relevance and worth of these values in China’s design, craft, industry and maker communities, identify other values shared with the UK’s own creative communities and consider what the maker movement in China reveals about this global phenomenon.


This research project built on Living Research: Making in China an AHRC/British Council sponsored research visit to China’s makerspaces in October 2015.


Cat is currently working on developing and disseminating the project's findings. More information can be found on the project website.


Patricia Lara-Betancourt: Collaboration with Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Merida (Mexico), funded by the Santander Research Mobility Scheme

Talk and Workshop at the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Merida (Mexico), 19–23 Sep 2015.


My visit to Mérida (Mexico) to participate in the ‘Semana de la Arquitectura’ (Architecture Week) titled ‘Voces de la Ciudad’ (City Voices), aimed to further develop academic and research collaboration between the Modern Interior Research Centre MIRC, represented by myself, and the Faculty of Architecture at the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, represented by Dr Gladys N. Arana Lopez. The specific aim was to promote knowledge exchange on the study of the domestic interior and its material culture in Latin America.


1. Talk (21 Sept 6.30pm): An overview of approaches to the study of the modern interior to an audience of undergraduate and postgraduate students in Architecture and Habitat Design, and postgraduate students in Conservation, Urban Design and Architecture.


2. 20-hour Research Workshop (19–21 Sept) (to undergraduate and postgraduate students): It covered the discussion of ideas, themes, resources and methods relevant to the study of the modern interior in general and domestic interiors in particular. As part of our lectures we discussed and compared Colombian and Mexican interiors in the nineteenth century.


Fiona Fisher and Rebecca Preston, The Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Public House in Bristol, a research study on behalf of Historic England (Project: NHPP 4A1 6942) 2014-15


The research was commissioned by English Heritage (now Historic England) within the National Heritage Protection Plan (Historic Towns and Suburbs NHPP 4A1) to increase knowledge and appreciation of Bristol’s urban and suburban public houses and to highlight the current threat to the city’s pubs. The research was carried out by Fiona Fisher and Rebecca Preston in 2014 and employed a mixed methodology, comprising archival research, fieldwork visits and interviews.


The public house is a nationally significant building typology and has played an important role in shaping British national identity. Although three out of every five UK adults visited a pub in 2013 (Mintel 2013), pubs are among the most threatened commercial building types, particularly within urban and suburban areas, where numbers in England and Wales have fallen rapidly in recent years. The effects of these changes are reflected in the loss of historic buildings and interiors as pubs have been demolished or converted for housing and other uses.


Covering the period from 1800 to 1985, with a focus on pubs constructed between 1918 and 1970, the research explored a broad cross-section of Bristol’s public houses: city centre pubs, pubs in Bristol’s inner and outer suburbs, backstreet pubs and pubs on major thoroughfares, businesses in residential and commercial districts and those that were built to serve the new private and corporation estates that were erected around the city after the Second World War.


The research examined the architectural development of the city’s public houses through an analysis of building plan forms, exterior and interior design, and the social, cultural and regulatory forces that shaped them across the period of enquiry. Buildings that still trade as pubs were considered alongside those which were originally designed as pubs but have since been converted to other uses.


The research identified a number of less well protected and vulnerable categories of public house: suburban pubs of c.1900, which lend themselves to residential re-use, or to demolition for residential development; large suburban pubs of the interwar period, which are similarly attractive to developers for both retail and residential development; and pubs on postwar housing estates, which, at the time of the research were disappearing more rapidly than any other type in Bristol. The research also identified a number of buildings of interest for further detailed study.


The full project report was published in September 2015 and can be downloaded from the Historic England website.


Space Electronic: Then and Now at the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale

Space Electronic: Then and Now was a collaborative and multi-disciplinary research project undertaken on the invitation of Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas for Monditalia section at the 2014 14th Venice Architecture Biennale, which was devoted to architectural research into the current state of Italy.


Curated by Dr Catharine Rossi, the installation tells the story of Space Electronic, a disco opened in Florence in 1969 by Gruppo 9999. These lesser-known members of Italy’s Radical Architecture movement created one of its most important spaces: in the 1970s Space Electronic was a hotbed of multimedia international experimentation in architecture, live music, theatre and technology. The disco is still going today and is still run by one of the original architects; only now its radicalism has been replaced by a more commercial vibe and its earlier history forgotten. Drawing on primary research material, including oral histories, 9999 drawings, footage and photographs of the club in the 1970s and today, the installation reimagines the disco to bring to light this little-known episode in Radical Architecture and raise questions about the movement’s legacy and relevance today.


Designed by Kingston University Research Fellow Ben Kelly and realised by Kingston alumnus Jack Neville, it features a film directed by artist Gilly Booth and original soundtrack from Kingston graduate Mike Silver. The project was realised with the collaboration of Dr Fiona Fisher and assistance of colleagues, research centres and workshops in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture and Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing.


This is an ongoing research project. Together with Sumitra Upham, Cat co-curated Radical Disco: Architecture and Nightlife in Italy, 1965–1975 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (December 2015 - 2016). More information on this ongoing research project can be found on the Kingston University Research Showcase.


The Picker House and Collection

The Project

This cross-disciplinary research project, undertaken on behalf of The Stanley Picker Trust, furthered knowledge of the design of the home of its founder, Stanley Picker, and of Picker’s collection of twentieth century furniture, painting and sculpture.


The research was carried out by members and an associate of Kingston University’s Modern Interiors Research Centre (Professor Penny Sparke, Dr Fiona Fisher, Dr Rebecca Preston) in conjunction with colleagues from its Visual and Material Culture Research Centre (Professor Fran Lloyd, Dr Jonathan Black) and the Director of The Stanley Picker Gallery (David Falkner). 


Working in collaboration across the disciplines of art and design history and historical geography, the project team drew on the private archives of Stanley Picker and his architect, Kenneth Wood, to chart the development of the Picker House as a luxury home for its owner and for the collection of modern and contemporary art that he amassed from the late 1950s until his death in 1982. The research revealed the concurrent histories of the house and its collections and the complex relationships between art, architecture, interior and landscape that were imagined and negotiated through the design process.



The research is published as Jonathan Black, David Falkner, Fiona Fisher, Fran Lloyd, Rebecca Preston, Penny Sparke, The Stanley Picker House and Collection: A Late 1960s Home for Modern Art and Design (Philip Wilson, 2012).



The Stanley Picker House and Collection: A Late 1960s Home for Modern Art and Design was launched at the opening of an exhibition of work inspired by the Picker House, ‘The Occupants: Contemporary Perspectives on the Picker House’ which ran at The Stanley Picker Gallery in Kingston from 5 October-24 November 2012.


Picker House Tours

In conjunction with the exhibition, the co-authors of The Stanley Picker House and Collection: A Late 1960s Home for Modern Art and Design led a series of public tours of the Picker House in October and November 2012.


Dr Fiona Fisher, ‘Modernism in the Suburbs: A Critical Study of the Architecture and Design of Kenneth Wood, 1955-1984’


Arts and Humanities Research Council Early Career Fellowship [Grant Number: AH/I002928/1] held in 2011/12. The research explored the architecture and design of Kenneth Wood (1921 - ), a significant, hitherto unacknowledged English modernist architect and designer. Wood trained at the Polytechnic School of Architecture in Regent Street and worked for Eric Lyons before establishing his architectural and design practice at East Molesey in Surrey in 1955. Although little-known today, Wood’s work was published and exhibited in Britain and internationally in the 1950s and 1960s and was critically well-received at that time. Projects from that period include street improvement schemes at East Molesey and Chertsey, church halls and church extensions around Kingston upon Thames and in North London, a village centre at Oxshott, a youth club and a school at Kingston, and a new district headquarters for the Forestry Commission at Santon Downham in Suffolk. Wood’s firm became best known for the design of private houses in the modern style, most of which were completed in Surrey. The research explored the work of Wood’s practice and the suburban context within which it operated.  



Jonathan Black, David Falkner, Fiona Fisher, Fran Lloyd, Rebecca Preston, Penny Sparke, The Picker House and Collection: a Late 1960s Home for Art and Design (Philip Wilson Publishers, 2012)


Short Film

Fiona Fisher and Gilly Booth/hijack, ‘A Modernist in Suburbia: Kenneth Wood, Architect’ (2012)


Fiona Fisher and Rebecca Preston, ‘A Living Green Background to the Works of Art’: The Site and Gardens of a Late 1960s Home for Art and Design (Institute of Historical Research, University of London, May 2013)

Fiona Fisher, ‘Kenneth Wood: A Humanist Architect in a Brutalist Age’ (The Kingston Society, June 2012)



The short film ‘A Modernist in Suburbia: Kenneth Wood, Architect’ was screened at The Stanley Picker Gallery throughout the group exhibition The Occupants: Contemporary Perspectives on the Picker House (5 October - 24 November 2012).

In conjunction with the above activity historical material relating to Kenneth Wood’s Surrey projects was displayed at Kingston Museum (September-November 2012).


Heritage Open Days 

Three Surrey buildings designed by Kenneth Wood - Emmanuel Church, Barnfield Youth and Community Centre and the Picker House – opened to the public as part of the National Heritage Open Day event in September 2012. ‘A Modernist in Suburbia: Kenneth Wood, Architect’ was screened at the three venues and Dr Fisher conducted public tours of the Picker House and Gallery across the four Heritage Open Days.

Space Electronic: Then and Now at the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale

Space Electronic: Then and Now at the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale


The Picker House and Collection

The Picker House and Collection


Kenneth Wood, Rowan Bentall and Sir Hugh Casson at the opening of the Architecture Week exhibition at Bentalls Department Store, Kingston 1961.

Kenneth Wood, Rowan Bentall and Sir Hugh Casson at the opening of the Architecture Week exhibition at Bentalls Department Store, Kingston 1961.