6 May 2015

‘Architecture for All’ exhibition to open at Pitt Rivers Museum

On Saturday 16 May, the ‘Architecture for All: The Photography of Paul Oliver’ exhibition will open in the Long Gallery of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. The exhibition showcases a selection of photographs from the Paul Oliver Vernacular Architecture Library (POVAL), one of Oxford Brookes University’s Special Collections housed in the new Library.

Architecture for All flyer

Curated by Dr Marcel Vellinga in collaboration with a small team of dedicated student volunteers from the School of Architecture at Oxford Brookes and the School of Anthropology at the University of Oxford, the exhibition aims to capture the inclusive and cross-cultural understanding of architecture propagated by Professor Oliver in his many influential publications.

Throughout a career that spanned more than five decades, Oliver propagated an approach that acknowledges the intricate relationship between architecture, society and culture, and that recognises all buildings, not just those of specific cultures or those made by architects, as cultural expressions worthy of admiration, study and conservation. ‘Architecture’, he wrote, ‘is not the prerogative of a few nor the privilege of an elite; it is for all, and by all’.

Dr Vellinga, Reader in Anthropology of Architecture, said: ‘The selection of photographs capture this unique approach to architecture by including images of landscapes, buildings and architectural details from cultures around the world: monumental as well as ordinary; traditional as well as modern; everyday as well as unique. Taken from the early 1960s up to 2008, they showcase the variety of ways in which all cultures around the world continue to express their needs, beliefs, values and aspirations in architectural form. They remind us of the extraordinary richness, beauty and tenacity of the architectural heritage of the world and raise questions about how we should respond to and may learn from it’.

The opening of the exhibition will be accompanied by a Saturday Spotlight Talk by Dr Vellinga on Saturday 16 May, at 2.30pm (for details see the Pitt Rivers Museum website). A photo competition (#architecture4all), details of which can be found on the POVAL Facebook site, will be open for the duration of the exhibition. Educational activities, including two workshops for children, will be available, and a booklet and postcards accompanying the exhibition will be for sale in the museum bookshop.

The exhibition is generously supported by the School of Architecture and will run from 16 May until 11 October. Admission to the exhibition is free and open to all members of the public.

From 2012 onwards, all 22,500 35mm slides in the POVAL collection have been catalogued and digitised with the help of student volunteers and assistants. All images are stored on Oxford Brookes University’s Research Archive and Digital Assets Repository (RADAR). From 2016 onwards they will be freely available for teaching and research purposes at