As a writer, researcher and educator my work – individual and collaborative – over the past 25 years has explored various interdisciplinary intersections and transdisciplinary crossings: feminist theory and architectural history, fine art and architectural design, autobiographical writing and criticism, psychoanalysis and architecture, ethics and situated practice. This website contains all kinds of writing: including excerpts and abstracts of refereed articles, books, chapters, catalogue essays and transcripts of walks and talks to descriptions of projects and workshops.

I started out as an architectural designer, working in practises focusing on social housing like Anthony Richardson and Partners, and the feminist co-operative Matrix. I came to architectural history later, following my MA in Architectural History at the Bartlett (1992-3), and my PhD supervised by Prof Lynda Nead at Birkbeck (1994-7). I then moved into teaching public art, architectural design practice, textile art, architectural and urban history, working at Winchester College of Art, Chelsea College of Art and Design, the University of Nottingham, and then at the Bartlett, which I now teach art, architectural and cultural critique, architectural history/theory, critical spatial practice and site-writing. I have established history/theory courses which bring processes from fine art practice and architectural design to inform the production of writings and that operate between history/theory/criticism and design exploring the creative potential of critical writing as a form of critical spatial practice, most recently co-writing the MA Situated Practices at the Bartlett School of Architecture, with Dr James O’Leary, the Course Director.

My early work on gender and architecture sought to develop a feminist practice of architectural history, and to draw autobiographical concerns into academic writing, specifically in an essay called ‘(Un)doing Architecture’ from 1998. Key publications in this area include a sole authored book, Jane Rendell, The Pursuit of Pleasure:  Gender, Space and Architecture in Regency London, (2002) and a reader, Gender, Space, Architecture, (1999), co-edited with Iain Borden and Barbara Penner. More recently I have returned to considering feminist critical spatial practice in three articles, ‘Feminist Architecture: From A to Z’ (2018) and ‘Only Resist: A Feminist Approach to Critical Spatial Practice’, The Architectural Review (2018), and a new essay, ‘Feminist Architectural Figurations,’ which gives an overview on feminist architectural theory was commissioned for Elie Hadid (ed) The Contested Territory of Architectural Theory (Routledge, 2022). 

In response to my teaching of site-specific art, as the Course Director of The Theory and Practice of Public Art and Design (1998-2000) at Chelsea College of Art Design, I first coined the term  ‘critical spatial practice’ in ‘A Place Between Art, Architecture and Critical Theory’, Proceedings to Place and Location (Tallinn, Estonia, 2003), pp. 221-33 (published in English and Estonian), to describe works that operate between art and architecture, that test disciplinary limits, and intervene into sites in order to critique embedded power relations. I developed and consolidated these ideas in an authored book, Jane Rendell, Art and Architecture: A Place Between, (London: IB Tauris, 2006) and have recently been curating a website of related projects – I recently reflected on the shift from critical spatial practice to situated practice in relation to the new MA I co-initiated and teach on, in ‘Sites, Situations, and other kinds of Situatedness’, Bryony Roberts (ed), Expanded Modes of Practice, Special Issue of Log. 48, (2020), and in the Foreword: Critical Spatial Practice: Introductions and Adjustments’, and ‘Postscript: From Critical to Ethical Spatial Practice’, to the wonderful book co-edited by Susannah Dickinson, Aletheia Ida and Jonathan Bean, (eds), The Unexamined, Critical Practices in Architecture and Place-Making (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2020).

In writing ‘about’ various art and architectural projects, I became aware the criticism was itself a form of critical spatial practice, and I developed the practice of ‘site-writing’ as a form of situated criticism. I have used ’site-writing’ as a pedagogic tool for the past two decades, starting with the site-specific writing modules I have led at the Bartlett from 2001, and also as a mode of spatializing art-writing in Jane Rendell, ‘Site-Writing’, Sharon Kivland, Jaspar Joseph-Lester and Emma Cocker (eds), Transmission: Speaking and Listening, vol. 4, (Sheffield Hallam University and Site Gallery, 2005), pp. 169–76. Site-Writing: The Architecture of Art Criticism (London: IB Tauris, 2010) brought together my own essays and text-works, and now presents a collection of related projects by writers and artists, including a quarterly review site www.reading, which releases dialogic and situated book reviews every equinox and solstice. My reflections on the first 12 issues has appeared as ‘Site-Reading Writing Quarterly,’ in a special issue of ARCH+ edited by Torsten Lange, Charlotte Malterre-Barthes, Daniela Ortiz dos Santos, and Gabrielle Schaad (2022), and in Meike Schalk, Torsten Lange, Andreas Putz, Elena Markus (eds) Species of Theses and OtherPieces (Transcript Publishing, 2022). 

My recent research is concerned with the practice of ethics, and develops a mode of critical spatial practice that engages with the institutional structures that position writing subjects, from places of home to those of work, including the university itself. See, for example, ‘Critical Spatial Practice as Parrhesia’, special issue of MaHKUscript, Journal of Fine Art Research (2016) and ‘Activating Home and Work’ in Sandra Loschke’s edited volume Non-Standard  Architectural Production: Between Experience, Action and Critique, (2019). 

Following the home-related strand, one particular site-writing project entitled ‘May Mo(u)rn’ takes a collection of abandoned black and white photographs of modernist architectural icons found in a derelict arts and crafts house called ‘May Morn’ as a starting point for a discussion of London’s post war social housing projects. This forms one part of a tri-partite book on architecture, psychoanalysis and transitional spaces, published as The Architecture of Psychoanalysis by IB Tauris, in 2017, while Reactivating the Social Condenser, a special issue of The Journal of Architecture, co-edited with anthropologist Michal Murawski, traces the history of the soviet social condenser as a radical concept and practice of social housing. 

During the COVID19 lockdown in the UK Jonathan Green from Blueprint on Australian ABC Radio interviewed me about The Architecture of Psychoanalysis. We discussed how spaces of analysis have changed in response to the pandemic crisis; while Michal asked me to contribute to a fantastic online portal piramMMMida, a project which engages power, planet, and plague, and curated by Denis Maksimov, Masha Mileeva, Michal Murawski, and David Roberts, which gave me the chance to share a new visual work, revisiting D. W. Winnicott’s notion of transitional space as a holding environment Seven Studies for ‘A Holding’, (23 March–31 May 2020). I also consider the picket line as a transitional space in two part essay, ‘After the Strike,’ published as part of a special issue of Architecture and Culture, co-edited by Igea Troiani and Claudia Dutson, which reflects on the strike actions colleagues and students at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL took over a 14 day-period in winter/spring 2018 as part of the University and College Union (UCU) Pension Strike, weaving together textual materials taken from the Strike chronicle, edited by Barbara Penner, and website, designed and produced by David Roberts.

As part of my collaborative work on ethics, working between The Bartlett Ethics Commission and The Ethics of Research Practice, for KNOW, I published Hotspots and Touchstones: from critical to ethical spatial practice’ as part of a special issue of Architecture and Culture, Architecture and Collective Life, edited by Lorens Holm and Cameron McEwan, which tells the story of my entry into ethical theory and practice. With David Roberts, and led by Yael Padan and Vanesa Castán Broto, we have recently published in the creative writing journal Axon,‘ A “Minifesta” as the Promise of Collective Voice’, a piece which describes the collective writing of a manifesto for urban equality by an international and interdisciplinary team of researchers who met in Kampala, Uganda, in November 2019. And led by David Roberts, with Yael Padan, Ariana Markowitz and Emmanuel Osuteye, ‘Practising ethics: guides for built environment research,’ published in The Journal of Architecture, (2022), describes the thinking behind the Bartlett Ethics Guides conceived of by David for the project.

Currently I am exploring the relation of ethics and poetics, drawing on Foucault’s work around writing’s ‘ethopoietic function’ and Joan Retallack’s, and following her, Denise Ferreira da Silva’s, ‘poethics’ through my own autobiographical writing, such as the fictionella Silver from 2016, part of the 40-book series, Lost Rocks, commissioned/curated/edited by A Published Event. ‘Silver: A Courtroom Drama’, is the script for a performance of ‘Silver’ specially configured for the courthouse of Zeehan’s West Coast Heritage Centre in Tasmania, for Sites of Love and Neglect, at which the Lost Rocks was first launched, and later published in Gabu Heindl, Michael Klein, and Christina Linortner’s edited collection Building Critique, (Leipzig: Spector Books, 2020),.

I am currently starting to research a history of auto-theory/fiction in feminist spatial and architectural writing, tentatively titled Selvedges. My recent essays ‘Marginal modes: Positions-of-architecture-writing’, and ‘Fragments of the Imagination,’ for the Architectural Review, (September 2020), are moves in that direction.

‘For quite a while I have been following your research and writings with great interest and admiration. Your contributions to the expansion of theory and practice have been an important source of inspiration and encouragement for my own personal art/architectural research and curatorial investigations, and have helped bolster the ever-evolving trajectory of our organization. Thank you :)’

Carolyn Strauss, SLOW RESEARCH LAB

‘Your writings offer unending inspiration for both theoretical and design explorations into feminist, situated practice … both your previous scholarship on experimental feminist practices and your pedagogical work on Situated Practice at the Bartlett.’

Bryony W Roberts

‘Critical spatial practice has shaped so much of my thinking and approach to making art, teaching, and studying with and through the built environment.’

Dr Shauna Janssen, Assistant Professor | Specialization in Performance Creation | Department of Theatre, Affiliate | Department of Geography, Planning & Environment, Director | Institute for Urban Futures , Concordia University Research Chair | Performative Urbanism (2018-2023)

Site developed by SM