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About Dr Rixt Woudstra

Dr Rixt Woudstra is an Assistant Professor in Art History. At New College of Humanities, she teaches a variety of undergraduate courses on architectural and urban history, material culture and cultural heritage.

Dr Rixt Woudstra joined NCH in 2020 after completing her PhD in History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture at the School of Architecture + Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her work has been supported by fellowships and awards from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Social Science Research Council, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, Harvard University’s Center for European Studies, MIT’s Center for International Studies, and the MIT Africa-Program.

In the summer of 2021, she will also be joining Liverpool University as a (part-time) Post-Doctoral Research Associate on a Leverhulme-funded project on the architectural and urban history of the United Africa Company in British West Africa.

PhD History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MA Arts and Culture, University of Amsterdam, cum laude
BA Art and Architectural History, University of Amsterdam, cum laude

Selected Academic Honours
Summer Study Grant. Awarded by the MIT Aga Khan Program (2020)
Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellowship. Awarded by the American Council of Learned Societies (2019-2020)
Short-Term Study Grant. Awarded by the Paul Mellon Center for the Studies of British Art (2019)
Architectural Histories Best Article Award for 2018-2019. Honorable mention.
Dissertation Research Fellowship. Awarded by the Center for European Studies, Harvard University (2018-2019)
International Dissertation Research Fellowship. Awarded by the Social Science Research Council, with funds from the Andrew Mellon Foundation (2018-2019)
Carter Manny Research Award for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertations, Citation of Special Recognition. Awarded by the Graham Foundation (2018)
Annual Conference Graduate Student Fellowship. Awarded by the Society of Architectural Historians (2018)
Summer Study Grant. Awarded by the Center for International Studies, MIT (2018)
Junior Fellowship. Awarded by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (2017)
Travel Award. Awarded by the MIT-Africa Program (2016)
Schlossman Research Fellowship. Awarded by the School of Architecture and Planning, MIT (2016)
Presidential Fellowship. Awarded by MIT (2013-2014)


Dr Rixt Woudstra's Research

Dr Rixt Woudstra’s research focuses on the history and theory of architectural and urban history, material culture and cultural heritage, with a specific focus on global encounters and histories of empire. She is currently at work on her first book project, titled Designing the ‘New Britain’: Colonial Architecture, Protest and the End of Empire which offers an alternative history of British post-war architecture. Building on extensive archival research, fieldwork and interviews in Ghana, Uganda, South Africa and the United Kingdom, this project explores the overseas ‘building boom’ in different parts of British Africa and the British West-Indies during the 1950s, or the last turbulent decade of imperial rule. The book argues that through designing modern, government-sponsored housing, community centres and schools, British architects, often together with sociologists and labour experts, aimed to curb anticolonial struggles for self-determination, and to win people’s ‘hearts and minds’ instead.

A second project, together with Professor Hannah Le Roux (University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg), focuses on the work and life of the South African liberal architect Betty Spence. Spence, who became active in the anti-apartheid movement, worked for and with disenfranchised Black township inhabitants on materializing alternative housing options in 1950s South Africa. This project explores Spence’s long-overlooked written works, including Build Your Own House, as well as her articles for the South African Architectural Record and her design for the family’s own home in Johannesburg’s suburbs.

Selected Publications
‘Betty Spence’ in The Bloomsbury Global Encyclopedia of Women in Architecture, Lori Brown and Karen Burns, eds. (London: Bloomsbury Publishers) [accepted, forthcoming in 2021]

‘Countering Independence: Architecture, Decolonization and the Design of Stability’ in Architecture and Action, eds. J. Meejin Yoon and Irina Chernyakova (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2019): 130-131.

“Exhibiting Reform: MoMA and the Display of Public Housing (1932-1939),” Architectural Histories (2018): Architectural Histories, 6(1). Honorable Mention for Architectural Histories’ Best Article Award 2018-19.

“Circulating Architecture. Rixt Woudstra in conversation with Lukas Feireiss” Thresholds 46 (2018): 66–67; 102-103; 144-145; 170-171; 208-209; 228-229; 262-263; 270-271; 318-319,

“Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital Project: An Investigation into its Structural Formulation by Mahnaz Shah.” Urban History 42, no. 1 (2015): 175-177.

Selected Presentations

‘Build Your Own House’: Betty Spence’s Design Research in 1950s South Africa’ with Hannah le Roux (University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg) V International Congress Architecture and Gender: ACTION, Feminisms and the Spatialization of Resistance, University of Lisbon, April 2021.

‘Build Your Own House’: Betty Spence’s Design Research in Apartheid South Africa’ with Hannah le Roux (University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain and Institute of Historical Research Seminar, October 2020 (invited talk).

‘Designing the ‘Multi-Racial City’: Leonard Thornton-White’s 1948 Plan for Nairobi’ Conflicted Narratives, Future Trajectories: Rewriting Critical Architectural and Urban Histories of Nationalism, Colonialism, and Modernity, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, 2019.

‘Countering Decolonization: Inter-African Co-operation and Housing Construction’ Canadian Center for Architecture, Mellon Seminar, Centring Africa: Postcolonial Perspectives on Architecture, University of Addis Ababa, Addis Ababa, 2019.

‘ ‘Culture Comes to Kampala’: Ernst May’s Designs for the African Postwar City’ Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, 2018 (invited talk).

‘Minimum Standards: Housing ‘Nie-Blankes’ in South Africa, 1947-1952’ Society of Architectural Historians, Saint Paul, MI, 2018.

‘Building the Minimum House: The South African Building Research Institute and the Social Survey, 1947-1952’ The Tools of the Architect, European Architectural History Network, Delft University, Delft, 2017.

‘Minimal Needs, Minimum Standards’ Standard Architecture: From Jean-Nicolas Louis Durand to BIM, Deutsches Architektur Museum, Frankfurt, 2017.

‘Public Housing on Display: MoMA, U.S. Housing Authorities and the Debate about ‘Architectural Excellence’’ Lecture Series Wohnen +/- Ausstellen, Marian Steegmann Institute, University of Bremen, Bremen, 2017 (invited talk).

Dr Rixt Woudstra's Teaching

At NCH, Dr Rixt Woudstra offers a variety of courses on architectural and urban history, material culture and cultural heritage, including a two-term survey course ‘Modern Architecture: 1851 to the Present’, as well as ‘The City in Contemporary History’ and ‘Architecture in London: Building A Global Metropolis’. Her courses combine visual analysis with class discussions and the close reading of (primary) texts. She encourages students to examine objects’ material and formal qualities, and to situate them within their socio-economic, historical and cultural contexts.

Together with Dr Kate Grandjouan and with assistance of Northeastern University’s Digital Integration Teaching Initiative, she is currently developing an interdisciplinary digital-humanities course called ‘Imperial Objects’, which explores the art, architecture and material culture of empire through the lens of London’s St Katharine Docks.