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Mhairi McVicar  PhD, NCARB (USA), M Arch, BSc Hons in Architecture Studies

Professor Mhairi McVicar


PhD, NCARB (USA), M Arch, BSc Hons in Architecture Studies

Project Lead of Community Gateway, Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

Welsh School of Architecture

+44 29208 74634
Bute Building, Room 1.33, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3NB
Available for postgraduate supervision



Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion -

Project Lead, Community Gateway,

Higher Degree supervisor (MPhil / PhD)

Unit Tutor MArch2 Architectural Design - Value Unit

External activities

Board Member, Grange Pavilion Charitable Incoporated Organisation

Affiliate Member, Royal Institute of British Architects; Chair of RIBA Research Grants Sub-Committee

Fellow of the RSA (Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce)

Other information

I am Project Lead of Cardiff University's Community Gateway, a community-university engagement platform which develops partnership projects between Grangetown and Cardiff University, including the 2020 launch of a £1.8 million community-led partnership redevelopment of a vacant civic building, Grange Pavilion.

My research interests include concepts of Value in the built environment; community development and community asset transfers; critiques of processes of architectural practice; critiques of live teaching, co-production and participatory design; the University as a civic anchor; theories of architectural technology and construction; and architectural history and theory, particularly UK and USA 19th-21st century. Recent publications include the book Precision in Architecture: Certainty, Ambiguity and Deviation (Routledge, 2019) and 'Gathering-in-action: the Activation of a Public Space', Architecture and Culture (2020).

I joined WSA in 2006, following architectural practice in the USA and UK. I am a RIBA Affiliate member and sit on the RIBA Research Grants Sub-Committee. I have acted as juror on the RIBA President's Medal for Dissertations and the National Eisteddfod Gold Medal for Architecture and am a peer-reviewer for Architectural Research Quarterly, Architecture and Culture, Ardeth, FormAcademisk and Bloomsbury Publishing. I have presented my research in the UK, Europe, USA, Canada and China. In 2017, Community Gateway was awarded the Professor Sir David Watson International Award for community-university partnership development and I received Leading Wales' Leadership in the Public Sector award.

Please contact me regarding research, engagement and teaching related to community-university partnerships, civic value, the production of civic space, the role of the architect in community development, and analysis of professional architectural practice.











  • Kite, S., McVicar, M. T. and Odgers, J. A. eds. 2011. Economy : abstracts. Cardiff: Cardiff University, Welsh School of Architecture.






Book sections







Research interests

My research links closely to my role as Project Lead of Cardiff University's Community Gateway, a long place-based partnership between Cardiff University and Grangetown, Cardiff. Since 2012, I have facilitated engagement partnerships and have embedded live teaching and research activities within these partnerships, support ongoing development and observing and reflecting on the role of the architect and of the University within community development.   Recent publications emerging from this work include 'Gathering-in-action: the Activation of a Public Space', Architecture and Culture (2020) and 'Engender the confidence to demand better? The value of architects in Community Asset Transfers', Architectural Design (July 2020).

My research in progress includes an analysis of the first eight years of a university-community partnership, and a proposal (in peer review) for an edited book, Architecture and Generosity (with editors Professor Stephen Kite and Dr Charles Drozynski), and interests in concepts of value in Architecture and the role of architects, architectural pedagogies and professional architectural practice in community-led development and participatory design processes.

    My prior research includes the close analysis of the processes and values of architectural practice, published as Precision in Architecture: Certainty, Ambiguity and Deviation (Routledge, 2019). This publication investigates the pursuit and consequences of precision in architectural practice, interpreting technical drawings, specifications and correspondance accompanying constructed architectural details by Sigurd Lewerentz, Mies van der Rohe, Caruso St John Architects, and OMA.


    Teaching profile

    My teaching in Architecture embeds within community-university partnerships in Grangetown, Cardiff, facilitated through my role as Project Lead of Cardiff University's Community Gateway.

    Working with the support of a long term partnership between Cardiff University and Grangetown which begins with community led ideas, skills, and expertise to inform and develop university teaching and research, my teaching builds upon established engagement partnerships with a geographically defined local community, encouraging students to collaborate and to build on previous interdisciplinary research and ideas within design and dissertation work.

    I am currently the year chair of the Masters of Architecture (Year2), and module lead of the Design Thesis, leading a design Unit on Value. I supervise Masters of Architecture Dissertations and PhD Theses.

    I have previously taught Architectural Technology and Architectural Design in the BSc in Architectural Studies, and contribute to a range of Undergraduate and Postgraduate modules in Design, Technology and History and Theory.

    I have a PG Certificate in University Teaching and Learning (2009) and previously taught as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Illinois. I am an external assessor at Newcastle University, and have been an invited external reviewer or speaker at numerous institutions including UCL (London), London Metropolitan University (London), IIT (Chicago), UIC (Chicago) and Dalhouise University (Canada).


    I joined WSA in 2006, following architectural practice in the UK and USA where I worked on a range of social housing, theatrical, ecclesiastical,  commercial and private residential architectural projects, including a Heritage centre and a self-build residence in the Orkney Islands as Director of a private practice.

    I completed a PhD at Cardiff University on ’Precision in architectural production.’

    Prior to this, I graduated with a Masters in Architecture from Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, and a BSc First class Honours from Scott Sutherland School of Architecture, Aberdeen. I previously taught at the School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Chicago.


    I am interested in supervising PhD students in the areas of:

    • Participatory design and co-production in Architecture
    • Critiques of the processes of professional architectural practice
    • Concepts, definitions and measurements of value and quality in architecture
    • Civic space and community-led development
    • Architectural History and Theory

    Current supervision

    Irini Barbero

    Irini Barbero

    Research Assistant

    Hester Buck

    Hester Buck

    Graduate Tutor

    Lu Cheng

    Lu Cheng

    Research student