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Posted May 7, 2024

Top reasons to study an Architecture and Sustainable Heritage MA

University of WestminsterArchitectural heritage serves as a vital link to our cultural, social and technological history embedded within the built environment. Preserving these sites is paramount in fostering historical connections, nurturing identity and fostering cultural appreciation, ensuring that future generations can benefit from the stories and traditions of the past. Through tourism, events and the development of sustainable communities, these heritage sites continue to enrich our lives and inspire curiosity.

As a leading provider of architecture education in the UK, the innovative Architecture and Sustainable Heritage MA at the University of Westminster provides a unique platform for students to advance their careers in heritage practice or engage in specialised research.

We spoke with Course Leaders, Dr Kate Jordan and Dr Maja Jović, who founded the course, about their experience and why you should study the Architecture and Sustainable Heritage MA at Westminster.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

University of Westminster Kate JordanKate Jordan: “I’m an architectural historian with a background in architectural conservation. Before I embarked on an academic career, I worked for a local authority in planning and conservation, so my research and teaching have always been grounded in heritage practice. I’ve always been drawn to looking at history from different perspectives, which led to me writing my PhD on the historical role of nuns in convent-building – something I had absolutely no previous knowledge of. This started an enduring interest in religious architecture.”

University of Westminster Maja JovicMaja Jović: “Similarly, heritage seems to be at the core of my work and research, though I took weaving routes in and out of it. My educational background is in architectural engineering, with some urban planning, but my doctoral research sat between architecture, post-conflict studies, tourism and marketing. I now enjoy the position of an interdisciplinary academic and consultant.”


As a professional and academic working within the architecture and heritage industries, what have been some of your career highlights?

Kate Jordan: “I think that research on heritage should have a practical application and real-world impact, so the contributions that I’ve made to protecting the historic built environment, through my work with statutory amenity societies and organisations such as Historic England, are important to me.”

Maja Jović: “Before I found my calling in architecture, I was running an early music festival in Montenegro, which helped me understand the power of education and events in activation and preservation of heritage sites. Kate and I share the view of insisting on practical application of research, so I try to take my research away from the pages, and equally, bring the experiences back to the lecture hall and studio. I recently thoroughly enjoyed working as a modern heritage lead on a large adaptive reuse project in the UAE. Collaborations of that scale really help build both skills and expertise, as well as an understanding of different working cultures.” 

Can you tell us about your areas of expertise or interest?

Kate Jordan: “My research expertise includes modern and contemporary faith, architecture and gender. Heritage theory, particularly concerning diversity and inclusion, underpins my approach to these subjects. Maja and I are both passionate about European post-war architecture – finding ways of understanding the more recent built environment, in the UK and beyond, is one of the many research interests that we share.”

Maja Jović: “I started questioning who gets to tell the story of a place during my postgraduate studies and pretty much never stopped! At first, I was interested in the process of creating new iconic structures, then in the way a story of a nation or a place is told after a conflict, and power structures behind this. I would say my area of expertise is post-conflict development, particularly large investments in the built environment and critical (and dark) heritage.” 

During your career you’ve worked on various research and professional projects. Could you tell us about one that stands out in your mind?

Kate Jordan: “The project that I’m currently working on, which looks at the reuse of cinemas as places of worship, certainly stands out as something I’m very proud of. I’m leading the project, which is funded by the Royal Institute of British Architects with Dr Julie Marsh who is a filmmaker and artist in the Westminster School of Arts. We’ve brought together two very different disciplines to explore how worshippers from different world faiths have engaged with former cinema buildings. We’ve been working alongside Historic England and hope to develop a policy brief as an outcome of the research.”

University of WestminsterMaja Jović: “I really enjoy projects that bring different disciplines and perspectives together. Recently I’ve been working with Dr Johannes Novy from the Westminster School of Architecture and Cities, and Prof Dr Maria Gravari-Barbas and Dr Sébastien Jacquot from Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, interrogating the role of tourism in a metropolis, editing a volume on global case studies. 

Separately, I investigated the preservation of urban creative capital in a metropolis which resulted in a curated exhibition. Speaking of metropolis, a research project with Dr Adam Eldridge, from the Westminster School of Social Sciences on dogs in densifying urban areas holds a special place in my heart – the subject is slightly different than my usual conflict culprits, but the question of who is left behind when planning and managing spaces remains the same. 

I also recently co-led research on motivations to visit a refugee camp and understand the relationship of outsider’s gaze and ephemeral heritage of the displaced communities, working with Dr Aya Musmar and Dr Lara Alshawawreh in Za’atari, Jordan.” 

Why do you enjoy teaching architecture and heritage at Westminster? 

University of WestminsterKate Jordan: “Without doubt, the best thing about Westminster is the diversity of our student body. I’ve learned a lot from students who bring their own cultures, backgrounds and perspective to their assignments – some of the most exciting conversations that I have had during my career have been with Westminster students.”

Maja Jović: “Yes, we are in a very privileged position of standing in rooms and delivering lectures to cohorts made up of incredible and diverse backgrounds, experiences and outlooks. Teaching at Westminster really helped me define who I am as a lecturer, and I find a lot of drive in being a facilitator of conversations – which is what we’re hoping to foster on the Architecture and Sustainable Heritage MA!”

What do you think makes the Architecture and Heritage MA stand-out?

Kate Jordan: “We conceived this MA as an opportunity to bring together academics, practitioners, and students from a range of backgrounds. We felt that the issues that heritage professionals are now confronted with – particularly those concerning the need to build sustainable communities and address climate change – are best tackled from a multidisciplinary position. We wanted the course to reflect this.”

Maja Jović: “In addition, we offer a distinct approach where the course aims will be reached through the core modules, but optional modules allow students to ‘choose their own adventure’.  They can mix and match three optional modules to build on the skills they have or try something new they haven’t had a chance to before. We are particularly looking forward to local, regional and international collaborations with our networks that will allow students to see the theory we discuss illustrated with real-life experiences at home and abroad.” 

What would your advice be to aspiring professionals or academics who would like to pursue a career within architecture and heritage industries? 

Kate Jordan: “Working collaboratively with experts in different fields is always productive. If we’re going to find ways of addressing the major challenges that we face today, it’s important to move away from a limiting silo mentality. Making contacts and building your networks across a variety of disciplines is going to equip you with the skills you need to embark on a successful career.”

Maja Jović: “A diverse set of skills is very useful, including technical proficiency, research abilities, and communication skills. Equally important is staying informed of the trends and best practices within the industries. Not only are the fields constantly evolving, but so is our understanding of these best practices… which brings me to the main point – question everything, from your own positionality to the adopted ways of doing things!”

Find out more about the MA in Architecture and Sustainable Heritage.

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