Paul Shepheard (born 24 November 1947) is a writer living in London, UK. He qualified as an architect in 1973. He taught at the Architectural Association in London from 1973 to 1983. He practiced as an architect in solo practice and in the offices of James Gowan and then Hodges and Haxworth.
In 1983 he started writing, first a book of essays about people who had become buildings; then, in 1986, a life of Nicolas Owen, builder of priest holes at the time of the Jesuit conspiracy, and then a novel, Jack and Jill, in 1989. None of these was published. In 1990 - 1993 he taught in design studio at Kingston University’s school of architecture, Surrey, UK, and developed there a strong aversion to the invasion of architecture by literary theory. The resulting study, What is Architecture? An Essay About Landscapes, Buildings and Machines was published by the MIT Press (Cambridge, USA) in 1994.
What is Architecture? describes architecture as the art of the land, and consequently different from music, the art of the self, and literature, the art of other people. Each requires its own theoretical base. In architecture, landscape is the strategy into which buildings and machines are set down: machines do what buildings do but are more closely tailored to their purpose, and have a different relationship with time. Shepheard’s following two books for the MIT Press continue this theme. The Cultivated Wilderness, or, What is Landscape? (MIT Press, Cambridge, USA 1997) is a book “about things that are too big to see”. In this proposition the wilderness is the world without humans and cultivation is everything humans have done to it since. The book is a collection of six essays about six landscapes of different scales from global (The Seven Wonders of the world) to continental (Antarctica) to national (Scotland) to regional (The Polders) to as far as the eye can see (London Basin) to local (Cemeteries of the Western Front). Landscape is figured as the outcome not always of intention but also of big events.
During the period 1996 – 2002 he was teaching a design studio as a visiting professor at the University of Texas at Austin school of architecture, USA, as well as a short period as visiting professor at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. It was in these locations that he wrote Artificial Love, a story of machines and architecture. (MIT Press, Cambridge, USA, 2003). The book has more of a fictional narrative than the other two MIT Press books, using the gathering of a family for thanksgiving in Houston Texas and the Shakespearean trope of the seven ages of man as a vehicle for writing about different generational approaches to machines. It also contains (on pp 79 and 80) a one sentence definition of architecture: It is “reshaping (architectonic) material (stereotonic) for human (chronotonic) purposes (tachytronic)”.
Shepheard’s current phase of study is non-critical. His inclination towards fiction and popular philosophy has tended to separate him from the academies, but he was engaged in 2005-2006 by the Academie Van Bouwkunst in Amsterdam, Netherlands, as Writer in Residence, out of which came the book How To Like Everything, which will be published by Zero Books in London in early 2013. Lately he has been employed by Artesis Hogeschool in Antwerp, Belgium, to run courses in urban morphology, which have formed the basis for another book of essays on structure, which is currently in progress.
Follow this author: