Born in 1959, Jonathan Charley studied architecture in Portsmouth, London and Moscow, and subsequently worked in a design and build collective specialising in community architecture for seven years. He completed his PhD in 1994, was formerly the Director of Post Graduate Studies, and is currently Director of Cultural Studies in the Department of Architecture at the University of Strathclyde. He has been a lecturer, tutor and guest speaker in both academic and public institutions across the world from Moscow, to Berlin, London, Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte. Having run award winning design studios for fifteen years, his teaching activity at present concerns the broad history of urban culture and the relationship between architecture, politics, film and literature. There is a direct and symbiotic relationship between his research and teaching activities.
Alongside exhibitions and media projects, such as Spaces of Labour 2009, Foreign Bodies, 2004, and the award winning G.L.A.S project 2001-5, he writes mainly about the political and social history of architecture and cities. He has published over a hundred separate pieces ranging from reviews, to journal essays, catalogue entries, conference papers, book chapters and authored books. His most recent works are Memories of Cities: Trips and Manifestos (2013), and with Sarah Edwards, Writing the Modern City: Literature, Architecture and Modernity (2011). In 2012 he was appointed as the Project Director for Scotland at the Architecture Biennale in Venice and the resultant collaborative project Critical Dialogues won the Royal Scottish Academy medal for architecture in 2012. He is been an external examiner at South Bank University, the Bartlett, UCL, Mackenzie University Sao Paulo, and the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil where he also a visiting Professor.
He is currently engaged in three new image-text projects. The first, The Monologues of City X (2016), combines his exploration of the architectural dimensions of the literary imagination with his long-standing work on the critique of the capitalist city. The second is a collaborative project with colleagues in Belo Horizonte Brazil on the history of urban and rural cultures of resistance in the state of Minas Gerais. The third is a major new research companion for Ashgate on Architecture, Literature and the City, due to be published in 2017.
“Everything always begins with a long hot summer and a confession. It was July 1975 and it was my first job on a building site as a scaffolder’s mate. It was the beginning of an accidental career in architecture and building that somehow has continued for nearly 40 years. My confession is that unlike some of my contemporaries, who swear they woke up one day at an impossibly early age with a driving ambition to redesign the world, I fell into architecture almost by default. Like the drunk labourer who, after tumbling three stories from the scaffold, landed at my feet and then got up virtually unscathed, it was a lucky fall, in that architecture rather suited my wayward and diverse engagement with the world. In true renaissance fashion, it has allowed me to play music, read, write, travel, make pictures, design, build and teach. In other words, it has been more of an immersive osmotic field rather than a professional vocation.”
From the Preface to 'Memories of Cities'
Visit Jonathan Charley for a complete list of projects, writings and visual work.