Architecture is full of disappointments, but they are rarely acknowledeged. Disappointment is not a noble, nor a grand emotion. Unworthy, even shameful, it hardly registers on the scale of affect. Nonetheless it is commonplace and has become our default emotion for experiences of all kinds – it pervades modern life. How have writers and artists treated it? And, more particularly, how does architecture, more prone to disappointment than probably any other art, deal with its many disappointments? This is a talk for all who have known disappointment.

Practical info

Adrian Forty, Emeritus Professor of Architectural History at The Bartlett, the Faculty of the Built Environment at University College London, will give a lecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen on Monday 24 October, 2022 to share his ideas with students and professionals in both academia and the industry.

The lecture is sponsored by the OBEL AWARD. It is free and open for all.

Place: the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Philip De Langes Allé 10, 1435 Copenhagen.

Time: Monday 24 October, 2022 at 2-4 p.m..


Adrian Forty

Adrian Forty is an Emeritus Professor of Architectural History at The Bartlett, the Faculty of the Built Environment at University College London. He is also the former Programme Director of the master’s programme in Architectural History

In 2003, Forty was awarded the Sir Misha Black Award for Innovation in Design Education.


Research summary

My first book Objects of Desire (1986, still in print, and now translated into four languages) came out of my early and continuing interest in the part that artefacts, including buildings, have played in the social and mental life of societies.

In the 1990s, I started looking at how people mediated their knowledge and experience of buildings to each other through language, and on the fluidity of the relationship between architecture and language: this work culminated in my Words and Buildings (2000), since translated into Italian, Japanese and Chinese.

After this, my attention turned to the fabric of building, and I began a project on concrete, to which I was attracted partly because of the inconsistency and contradictoriness of much that was said and written about this remarkable substance, now second only to water in terms of the quantity consumed every year, and partly because of the absence of any coherent account of its contribution to modernity. The book Concrete and Culture, published in 2012, was the first study in any language to attempt an account of concrete as a global medium, and to offer an account of its role in the formation of twentieth century consciousness. My aim was to shift the study of a ‘material’ away from purely technical considerations, and towards its part in arguments about humans’ relationships to each other and to the ‘natural’ world. While my research has been closely concerned with the work of architects, who have carried the primary responsibility for ‘interpreting’ concrete, it is not exclusively architectural, but also deals with the uses made of concrete by politicians, entrepreneurs, artists, filmmakers, and writers. Work on this project has given me the opportunity to extend the range of my research to a global scale, to a degree unusual amongst architectural historians.