Imogen Lesser: multimedia PhD research

Imogen Lesser, PhD student and architect

Imogen Lesser is an architect and doctoral researcher at the University of Kent. Her PhD thesis will include architectural drawings, plaster models and large maps which visualise Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast landscape.

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I could not have done the research without the drawing and models because they are so inherent in the discipline, I don't feel it's an architectural PhD without them.

Imogen uses traditional architectural design methods - drawing large sections of particular spaces and making individual cast models - to turn Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast vision into a reality, using his language as the basis for everything. Using only his descriptions, she has drawn what he shows us in his imaginary landscape. 

Through her experience in architectural education she observed a conflict in language between the technical vocabulary of the architect and the poetic expressive language used when we describe our current or desired space. Imogen suggests that by using Peake’s poetic language as a key for expressing phenomenological aspects of architecture, the gap between the technical and the ephemeral can be bridged.Imogen Lesser take on Mervyn Peake Architectural Drawings

For Imogen’s PhD thesis she has produced three A1 size maps,six 2-metre long sectional drawings, plaster cast models of individual spaces, and fragment drawings. She'll need to write a more traditional text-based thesis as well. She plans to put small representations of the non-text items into the flow of the text in the thesis and larger printed copies in an appendix at the back. 

If Imogen could choose how her work would be viewed, in an ideal digital repository, she would include digital copies of all of the drawings at very high resolution which the viewer could resize to see all of the detail. She would have 3D scanned representations of the cast models that the viewer could navigate as if walking around them and zoom in and out of to explore the space. All of these multimedia outputs would also be available in the flow of the text for greater understanding by the reader. 

Imogen considers the non-text elements of her PhD more accessible to non-academics. Through showing her work in an exhibition she is has been able to have discussions with a wider audience of varying knowledge and experience of her subject.  Consequently her research has benefited from greater impact and reach

Imogen feels non-text and multimedia research outputs are integral to her work. The architecture discipline is entirely practice-based, and student architects are taught to communicate ideas through drawings and designs. For Imogen, producing a purely text PhD would conflict with the need to draw and express herself – which through Imogen’s architecture education has become ingrained. 

"That is how I think now, through drawings and examining spaces, through hand-drawing and computer drawing. To then revert to a purely language base is very difficult particularly when the conversation between architecture and language is already so confused”.

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Key points

  • The nature of PhD theses is changing - maps, websites, creative expression and apps are all valid outputs
  • Non-text theses can be challenging to submit, store and manage for future researchers
  • Imogen’s PhD will be listed in the Library’s EThOS thesis service when it’s completed