Matthew Wells is Lecturer in Architectural Humanities at University of Manchester and member of the Manchester Architecture Research Group (MARG). His research uses architecture and visual culture to examine society, institutions, and individuals in the long nineteenth century. Particular focus is given to the intersection between representational techniques, technology, and professional expertise in the built environments of Britain and Europe.
He studied art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art and completed his doctorate in the History of Design Programme at the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Royal College of Art. Before his appointment at Manchester he was junior faculty at the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta), ETH Zurich.
Wells is the author of two monographs Modelling the Metropolis: The Architectural Model in Victorian London (2022) and Survey: Architecture Iconographies (2021) and co-editor of An Alphabet of Architectural Models (2021). Recently his research has been published in Architectural History, the Burlington Magazine, JSAH, and the Journal of Art Historiography, as well as contributing to the Paul Mellon Centre’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition: A Chronicle, 1769-2018.
His most recent book, Modelling the Metropolis, provides a new understanding of how Victorian London was conceptualised, debated, and constructed through architectural models. At a crucial moment of the London’s development, models were a vital medium of communication that enabled architects, politicians, and the wider public to conceive the city’s expansion of buildings and spaces. The research was awarded the Theodor-Fischer-Preis (2019) from the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte in Munich and commended in the RIBA President's Awards for Research (2017).
Additional research is concentrated in two areas. First, ‘Things of Modernity’, a new history of modern architecture researched through its material culture. Second, ‘Lines of Communication’ examines the relationship between architecture and the new forms of media that emerged in Britain and further afield.
Dr Wells welcomes enquiries from potential PhD students with interests in Victorian and Edwardian architecture in Britain; material and technical history of architecture; architecture and empire in the British World; any aspect of architectural professionalism and construction labour.
Key publications include:
WELLS, Matthew: Modelling the Metropolis: The Architectural Model in Victorian London (Zurich: gta Verlag, 2022)
WELLS, Matthew: Survey: Architecture Iconographies (Zurich: Park Books, 2021)
HORSFALL TURNER, Olivia, Simona VALERIANI, Matthew WELLS, and Teresa FÄNKHANEL eds.: An Alphabet of Architectural Models (London: Merrell, 2021)
MINDRUP, Matthew and Matthew WELLS eds.: ‘The Architectural Model as Tool, Medium and Agent of Change’, special edition of Architectural Theory Review 24, no.3 (Spring 2020)
WELLS, Matthew: ‘1847: J.B. Bunning and the Coal Exchange Model’, in M. Hallett, S. Turner and J. Feather, eds. The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 1769-2018, Paul Mellon Centre / Royal Academy (2018)
WELLS, Matthew: ‘Architectural Models and the Rebuilding of the Royal Exchange, 1839 – 1844.’ Architectural History 60 (2017) 219-241.