Perspectives on Architecture - For Fairs: Four Fairs


April 1 2014 • 6.15pm
to 7.15pm



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This talk by Dr Stephen Walker will present four aspects of work-in-progress from a larger project generously funded by an RIBA Research Trust Award: 'Understanding the Architecture of the Travelling Street Fair'

The travelling street fair is a compelling event that offers us transport away from our everyday surroundings. But behind the overwhelming lights, noises and smells of fairground experience is a carefully orchestrated temporary architecture of rides and spaces that this project is studying. Often coincident with the establishment of thousands of settlements in the UK and beyond, the fair has been overlooked by conventional histories of architecture and urbanism because of its ephemeral nature and lowbrow associations. Linked to this oversight, there are no readily available tools or techniques for analysing the environment of the fair. As literary and cultural theorists Stallybrass & White note:

“In the [street fair] pure and simple categories of thought find themselves perplexed and one-sided. Only hybrid notions are appropriate to such a hybrid place.” ('The Politics and Poetics of Transgression', 1986, London: Methuen, p.27.)

Based on a number of pilot studies, the broad aims of this project are to develop an appropriate range of ‘hybrid concepts’ and corresponding tools with which to understand both the architectural organisation and the fairgoer’s experiences of this temporary environment. Studying three street fairs that have remained in their original town centre locations since the thirteenth century —Oxford St. Giles, Ilkeston and Loughborough—this project explores the architectural environment of the street fair as an event and as a whole, and examines its spatial and institutional interaction with its host town.

This short talk will be organised around four possible responses to the question what (or when, or where) is the fair? Four separate accounts—of the ride, the visit, the fair, and the 'longue durée'—with four different scales of interest, will be presented.


Dr Stephen Walker is a Reader in Architecture at Sheffield School of Architecture (SSoA), where he is Director of the Graduate School. His research broadly encompasses art, architectural and critical theory, and examines the questions that such theoretical approaches can raise about particular moments of architectural and artistic practice.


Free event.
Advance booking (using the contact details below) is essential.




Hayley Russell
020 7307 3678






Loughborough Waltzer 

Loughborough Waltzer. Photograph by Dr. Stephen Walker