Postdoctoral Fellow, August 2020 – May 2021
Project Title: The Global Adam Style: Robert Adam and British Neoclassical Architecture beyond Britain, 1760-1830
Sydney Ayers is an historian of British art, architecture and design, specializing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She completed her PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 2019, funded by a PhD Scholarship from the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain (SAHGB). Sydney’s research has also been funded by the Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the H. Allen Brooks Travelling Fellowship (awarded by Dartmouth College).
Her research focuses on the afterlife of British neoclassical architecture—especially the eighteenth-century architect Robert Adam—in Britain as well as globally, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In particular, her doctoral thesis looked at Adam’s afterlife in Britain—it examined the ebb and flow of his reputation, as well as the changing reception of his works, from his death in 1792 until the first published book on Adam in 1904. Sydney’s research has a particular interest in themes and ideas such as: reputation, reception, taste and tastemakers, national identity, memory, the canon and canonisation, historiography, and architectural history writing.
As a Postdoctoral Fellow at IASH, Sydney will be working on her new project The Global Adam Style: Robert Adam and British Neoclassical Architecture beyond Britain, 1760-1830. This project aims to understand the use of the Adam Style across the globe from 1760, when Adam rose to prominence, until 1830 when the dominance of neoclassical architecture ended. It will first identify where and when Adam Style buildings and designs were built or appeared; after which it will focus on why and how they were constructed or created. Significantly, it will question what properties of this distinctive ornamental style encouraged such widespread emulation—raising larger questions about the making of taste. This research will show how the Adam Style was not simply adapted or diluted, but actively developed in new locations, creating new meanings, and further illuminating the local, regional, national and imperial contexts in which it operated. Such a perspective will explore the interconnectedness of global design networks, and significantly re-evaluate the borders of ‘British’ architecture and design in this period.