Archaeology of Public Buildings


Module leader: Kate Giles


The purpose of the Assessed Seminar is to build upon the seminar skills developed in the 1st and 2nd years and, working together as a group, to allow students to organise and run a seminar on a subject of their own choice, within their seminar option.

The Assessed Seminars aim to develop students’ understanding of the topic (particularly a critical understanding of the key themes, approaches and opinions), improve their knowledge of the subject area (through reading and preparation for their own seminar, their seminar contributions and involvement in the seminars), and develop their skills in chairing a seminar, presenting material and being involved in discussion (including ‘thinking on their feet’ about the topic being discussed, how to engage interest in the topic and stimulate debate).


The aim of this module is to encourage students to explore the different disciplines, theoretical perspectives, issues research methods and interpretations associated with the study of 'public' buildings in the UK. In terms of its chronological scope, the module will focus on the construction of 'public' buildings from the medieval period to the present day. The module will explore various kinds of 'public' architecture, from civic buildings such as guildhalls and townhalls, to leisure buildings such as assembly rooms, baths, theatres and museums to instutional structures, including prisons, asylums and hospitals and schools and even railway stations!

During the module we will consider the definition of 'the public' - how was it identified - by people themselves, or others, in the past. We will think about the function and meaning of different kinds of public buildings, exploring their architecture and the ways in which the structure and space of buildings could be designed and controlled to create particular kinds of meaning or experience for the 'publics' who used them. The module will involve multi- and inter-disciplinary study, engaging with theoeries drawn from architecture, history, philosophy and the social sciences.

Learning outcomes


By the end of the module, students should:

• Understand the philosophical concept of the ‘public sphere’ and its significance for the archaeological study of public buildings
• Be familiar with the literature relating to the study public buildings within the historical period
• Have a solid understanding of the theoretical and methodological issues relating to the archaeological analysis of public space
• Be aware of a range of case studies of public buildings from different time periods
• Demonstrate in depth knowledge of a topic of their choosing
• Identify the key issues in their chosen topic
• Prepare a worksheet which sets out key reading and issues for presentation, debate and discussion, and support the group in the preparation of the seminar
• Chair a seminar, engage interest in the topic, stimulate debate and structure discussion
• Have a critical awareness of the process of collective debate on a specific topic
• Be able to judge the general 'success' of the seminar, and to be able to reflect on this, through a written summary of a seminar
• Present PowerPoint presentations on other subjects within the general theme and contribute informed ideas and information to the other seminars


In this module you will develop key skills in presentation and chairing which should be of immense value in your future careers:
  • Self management: in this module you need to develop the ability to take initiative and you will need the will to succeed! There will be a lot of self management required whilst you plan your topic through the spring term- you should be spending about 3-4 days a week on this module and balancing this with finalising your dissertation (and any other commitments)
  • Communication: communication skills are vital and they will be assessed- through the previous 2 years you will should have practised and developed these skills in order to present clear and succinct PowerPoints. Your writing skills will be tested further in your self assessment document. Most importantly, you will have the chance to chair a seminar and you will need to be able to judge when to listen to your team mates, and how to encourage and stimulate debate, particularly from quieter members of the group
  • Team working: it is essential you can bring the team together to tackle your topic in depth and to create a stimulating and enlightening debate. It may be a wise move to set up your own study groups.
  • Problem solving: you will be faced with a lot of reading and it is essential that you develop the skills for retrieving information from relevant sources as well as critical evaluation
  • Creativity and innovation: this module enables you to be creative in your ideas of what topic to develop and how you plan to run the seminar
  • World of work awareness: this module will set you up for similar situations in the world of work where you might need to chair a meeting and will have to keep the team to the point and to time- you should understand the pressures of such meetings and think about ways of coping with them
  • Social, cultural and global awareness: many of you will be considering the international dimensions of your chosen subject, and in many cases you might want to think about the diversity of issues from other cultures and countries, as well as ethical issues related to your research
  • Application of IT: you will be tested on your effective use of PowerPoint as well as word processsing skills. You will also be expected to use the internet effectively with your research
 Boston GUildhall interior