Whiteley, Nigel

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Whiteley, Nigel


Education: Obtained Ph.D.


Office—Lancaster University, Bailrigg, Lancaster LA1 4YW, England. E-mail—[email protected].


Academic. Lancaster University, Bailrigg, Lancaster, England, professor of visual art and head of art department. Visiting professor, National Institute of Design, Ahmedaba, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, India, and Central Academy of Art and Design, Beijing, China; visiting scholar, Getty Institute, Los Angeles, CA.


Pop Design: Modernism to Mod, Design Council (London, England), 1987.

(Editor, with Michael Wheeler) The Lamp of Memory: Ruskin, Tradition, and Architecture, Manchester University Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Design for Society, Reaktion Books (London, England), 1993.

(Editor, with Russell Keat and Nicholas Abercrombie) The Authority of the Consumer, Routledge (New York, NY), 1994.

(Editor) De-traditionalisation and Art: Aesthetic, Authority, Authenticity, Middlesex University Press (London, England), 2000.

Reyner Banham: Historian of the Immediate Future, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.

Also author of essays published in Nigel Whiteley: Oblikovanje Za Drustvo, published in Croatia. Contributor to books, including Modernism, Gender, and Culture, 1997, Interpreting Visual Culture, 1998, and Utility Reassessed, 1999.

Contributor to journals and periodicals, including Architectural History, Art History, Cultural Values, Oxford Art Journal, and Design Issues. Columnist for Art Review. Associate editor of Journal of Visual Art Practice. Member of international editorial board for Arcos and Design Issues.


Professor of visual arts and the head of the art department at Lancaster University in England, Nigel Whiteley has published a number of scholarly books on design, consumerism, architecture, and art. His primary research interest revolves around historically embedded cultural ideas.

In 1993 Whiteley published Design for Society. The book examines British and European approaches to the ethics of design within the context of a consumer- driven society. Whiteley looks at the effects that abundance and marketing have had on design, as well as the green consumer movement. A contributor to Publishers Weekly pointed out that Whiteley, not adverse to style, "proposes that good design must also take into account a product's social usefulness and environmental effects." The same contributor decidedly called the book's topic "stimulating."

Whiteley edited The Authority of the Consumer, with Russell Keat and Nicholas Abercrombie the following year. The book looks at the concept of the consumer society, focusing particularly on the notion that the needs and wants of consumers are the driving forces behind providers of goods and services. The editors compile fifteen articles among three main sections of the book: consumption and social change, consuming culture, and the consumption of public services. The book takes a wide approach to the definition of what a consumer is.

Joel Herche, writing in Business Horizons, commented that "there is certainly some interesting reading in The Authority of the Consumer. However, most of the discussion is based on anecdotal evidence or previously published empirical work." Herche also observed that "many of the examples presented in this text may be unfamiliar to readers residing in the United States. For example, Thatcherism versus Majorism is not a debate that can be used to highlight a point among most [American] readers." Herche concluded that "although much written in the fields of sociology, philosophy, religion, and the arts is applicable to business managers, The Authority of the Consumer will provide only limited application opportunities (most in advertising) for those seeking insights into contemporary trends in consumption behavior."

Whiteley published Reyner Banham: Historian of the Immediate Future in 2002. While not a biography, the book looks at the published body of works of Reyner Banham, an renown architectural critic and writer. Professionally, Banham worked within British and American circles and was best known for his study on Los Angeles and its four ecologies. Whiteley comments not only on Banham's architecturally centered pieces, but also on his writings about popular culture, aesthetics, and modernity.

Romy Golan, writing in the Art Bulletin, noted that "this is the first book that aims to examine the entirety of Banham's output," adding that "Whiteley is the first scholar of a younger generation to write on Banham from an analytic point of view, relying on archival and secondhand anecdotal information for his account." Golan observed, however, that "Whiteley's was not an easy task. It is particularly hard to write about a man whose every quote is a gem and who always aimed to write intensely in the present tense, sucking his reader into the here and now even when he wrote about things of the past. To characterize Banham's thought is to feel that one is merely paraphrasing in a minor key. It was also impossible for Whiteley to give us a real sense of the extraordinary range not only of Banham's eight or so books on architecture but also of the more than seven hundred articles he wrote, often on a weekly basis, for at least ten different journals." Golan continued, saying that "like other recent academic books on the 1960s and 1970s, Whiteley's account suffers, despite its attempt to step back from the writings, from a lack of historical perspective. It is not that Whiteley is uncritical of his subject. He lucidly points to Banham's self-delusion in thinking that he could stand beyond ideology and write, as he would say, ‘an almost value-free’ history of architecture just by keeping his eyes fixed on technology. Purporting to be non-ideological is itself an ideological position." Golan added: "Whiteley is also plainly aware of how difficult it must have been for Banham, who had managed to circumvent a midlife crisis by embracing the youthful group Archigram in the late 1960s, to relinquish his position as enfant terrible in the history of architecture." Golan conceded, however, that "Whiteley writes admirably about Banham's ins and outs with academe."

Thomas Muirhead, writing in Building Design, noted that the way Whiteley wrote about Banham, it seems as if technology was "the only thing he was interested in." Muirhead suggested an alternative approach to the study of Banham, lamenting: "Rather than read Whiteley's opinion of Banham's opinions of Watkin's opinions of something that maybe isn't even there, read the man himself, and form your own opinion. Banham's ability to comprehensively subvert what is supposed to be true was enormously refreshing. We need a lot more of that." Colin Davies, writing in the Architectural Review, observed that, "despite its limited scope, this book turns out to be a surprisingly good read. It is not a dry textual analysis but more like a quirky history of postwar, mainly British, architectural and design theory."



Acta Sociologica, April, 1995, Lawrence Treeland, review of The Authority of the Consumer, pp. 102-104.

Architects' Journal, July 29, 1992, Roderick Gradidge, review of The Lamp of Memory: Ruskin, Tradition, and Architecture, p. 49.

Architectural Record, May, 2004, Eric Mumford, review of Reyner Banham: Historian of the Immediate Future, p. 71.

Architectural Review, May, 2002, Colin Davies, review of Reyner Banham, p. 95.

Art Bulletin, June, 2003, Romy Golan, review of Reyner Banham, p. 401.

Building Design, February 1, 2002, Thomas Muirhead, review of Reyner Banham, p. 14.

Business Horizons, May-June, 1995, Joel Herche, review of The Authority of the Consumer, p. 87.

Graphis, July 1, 1994, Hugh Aldersey-Williams, review of Design for Society, p. 23.

Journal of Consumer Affairs, winter, 1995, Julia Marlowe, review of Design for Society, pp. 504-507.

Listener, July 2, 1987, Carl Gardner, "An Explosion of Style," pp. 30-31.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 18, 2001, Tom Vanderbilt, "L.A.'s Offramp Historian," p. 3.

New Scientist, November 13, 1993, Roger Bridgman, "Visualisers for Society," p. 46.

Publishers Weekly, June 13, 1994, review of Design for Society, p. 57.

Sociological Review, August, 1995, Rob Shields, review of The Authority of the Consumer, pp. 579-583.

Technology and Culture, October, 2002, review of Reyner Banham, p. 798.

Times Higher Education Supplement, July 26, 2002, "Take a Closer Look at That Black Leather," p. 27.

Times Literary Supplement, June 12, 1992, Michael Wheeler, review of The Lamp of Memory, p. 19; April 5, 2002, Thomas S. Hines, "Knock Down, Throw Away: Reyner Banham and the Expandable Building," p. 3.

Washington Post Book World, November 25, 2001, Robert Fishman, "Forsaking History," p. 9.


Department of Fine Arts, Allen R. Hite Institute, University of Louisville Web site,http://www.art.louisville.edu/ (January 30, 2008), author profile.

Lancaster University Web site,http://www.lancs.ac.uk/ (October 7, 2004), author profile.

Virtual Lancaster,http://www.lancasterukonline.net/ (January 30, 2008), Michael Nunn, author interview.

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