Chris Abel is an English-born architectural theorist, critic and teacher, and Honorary Visiting Professor at the University of Ulster Belfast. A graduate of the AA School of Architecture, he first came to international prominence with a series of ground-breaking essays published in Architectural Design in the 1960s and 70s. In his essays, which explored such subjects as self-organizing systems and computer based methods of flexible manufacture, he anticipated many contemporary developments in design theory and building technology.
In the following years he taught at major universities in Canada (1978), the USA (1979-81), Malaysia (1981-82), Saudi Arabia (1982-85), Singapore (1985-86) and Turkey (1988-89). The outcome was a series of new teaching programmes and articles in The Architectural Review and other journals propagating a modern regionalism based upon a fusion of both local and global sources.
In 1989 he returned to the UK and after a short period at the University of Dundee joined the University of Nottingham School of Architecture in 1991. There he established a series of interdisciplinary theory courses and studios aimed at developing a radically new model of design education. In 1993 these were incorporated into the Design Research Studio (DRS), a research and team-based design course at Nottingham, followed in 1996 by the Bio-Tech Architecture Workshop, both of which experiments have been published.
In 1997 he left Nottingham University to live in Malta – his permanent home base for many years. He continued to write and to travel widely and was sponsored on conferences and lecture tours in the Far East by both the Commonwealth Association of Architects and the British Council. In April 2001 he was keynote speaker at the Fourth International Symposium on Asia Pacific Architecture at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. In 2004, sponsored by the late Harry Seidler he left Malta and immigrated to Australia under the special category of Distinguished Talent, where he lived for over seven years, the latter five as an Australian citizen. During this period he taught at both the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales and in 2008 also held the Hyde Chair of Excellence at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. In 2012 he was awarded a PhD by the University of Sydney for his thesis, ‘The Extended Self’ and in the same year returned to the UK. He now resides in Northern Ireland close to Belfast, where he continues writing and teaching as Visiting Professor at Belfast School of Architecture.
His books include two collections of his essays, Architecture and Identity: Responses to Cultural and Technological Change (2000, 2nd ed.), and Architecture, Technology and Process (2004). Other publications include two new chapters for the centennial edition of Sir Bannister Fletcher’s A History of Architecture (1996), numerous contributions to six volumes on the complete works of Norman Foster and introductions to three books on Seidler’s architecture. In 2003 he was co-curator with Lord Foster for the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition, Sky High: Vertical Architecture and is the author of the book of the same title. His latest book, The Extended Self: Architecture, Memes and Minds (2015), is published by Manchester University Press. An expanded version of his PhD thesis, the book draws upon research in philosophy, extended cognition and the neurosciences and presents a new approach to cultural and environmental studies.
PhD by the University of Sydney since 2012.