Hilary French

Personal statement

Hilary French trained as an architect at the AA in London and worked in practice as an architect and interior designer for many years. She worked in London for RMJM, Martin Richardson and MaCormac and Jamieson, amongst others on commercial and residential projects. She also worked in Paris for Terence Conran on the expansion of the Habitat brand, and Reichen et Robert on diverse projects including Francois Mitterand’s first Grand Projet and a new French embassy and residence in Doha, Qatar.

Since taking up full time academic work Hilary spent 16 years at the RCA as Head of the School of Architecture & Design and academic lead for the world renowned Design Products course alongside eminent Industrial designers Ron Arad and Tord Boontje. Other institutions where Hilary has held teaching roles in various design subjects, from HND courses to Masters level, as associate lecturer, visiting tutor and course leader, include:

  • The American College in London - Drawing, Interiors
  • Bournemouth and Poole, College of Art and Design - Spatial Design
  • Hong Kong Design Institute, HK - Interiors and Product Design
  • Kingston University, Surrey - Architecture
  • Oxford Brookes University - Architecture
  • Parsons School of Design, Paris - Interior Design
  • Ravensbourne - Architecture
  • Royal College of Art - Critical and Historical Studies

As well as contributing to research training courses, acting as internal examiner and mentoring new supervisors, Hilary has acted as Director of studies or supervisor for a number of completed, mostly practice based, MPhil and PhD projects including:

  • Julia Lohmann, PhD, 2017 - The Department of Seaweed
  • Gilian Russell, PhD, 2016 - Re/staging: critical design and the curatorial. An analysis of emerging product design and the museum as context
  • Roland Lamb, PhD, 2014 - The Seaboard: discreteness and continuity in musical interface design
  • Jorge Roberto Lopes dos Santos, PhD, 2009 - 3D Modelling Tools: The experimental application of digital model making technologies in fetal medicine
  • Richard Liddle, MPhil, 2006 - Can New Manufacturing Processes and Technology be Developed to use Recycled HDPE Plastic Effectively in Product Design?
  • Natalie Woolf, PhD, 2004 - Plastic: a material metaphor
  • Lois Walpole, PhD, 2004 - Grown Home, An exploration of processes for the manufacture and cultivation of willow products
  • Ming-Huang Lin, PhD, 1999 - Bamboo, Dragon and Phoenix: The influence of cultural icons on the aesthetic language of everyday objects, especially when applied to Taiwanese product design

From time to time Hilary also writes book and exhibition reviews for the professional press, contributes to other HE courses as an external advisor and examiner, and regularly carries out reviews as a member of the AHRC Peer Review College. 

Academic qualifications

  • PhD, Architecture - University of Brighton, 2016
  • MSc, History of Architecture - The Bartlett, University College London, 1994
  • Architecture - The Architectural Association School of Architecture, London, 1980 

Professional memberships

  • RIBA - Royal Institute of British Architects
  • RCA (Royal College of Art) Fellow 
  • FRSA - Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts

Teaching specialism

Design: practice, history and theory. 


Hilary has published several books about the design of housing and the development of the apartment block as a new early-twentieth-century building type. Her work steers away from the well-known buildings and biographies of famous architects and the politics of provision to focus on design issues at the scale of the individual dwelling and the urban landscape. Aimed largely at a practitioner audience, her work makes extensive use of drawings, the main tool of the architect. More recently varied research interest has shifted from the domestic realm to explore another under researched early-twentieth-century building the glamorous and often hidden spatial type of public dance halls and ballrooms.

Research and academic outputs

Go to ResearchSPAce

Patterns of living: Hong Kong’s high-rise communities

French, H and Lee, Y (2013) Patterns of living: Hong Kong’s high-rise communities. Hong Kong Design Institute/New Talents Press, Hong Kong. ISBN 9789881232441

Key urban housing of the twentieth century: plans, sections and elevations

French, H (2008) Key urban housing of the twentieth century: plans, sections and elevations. Laurence King, London. ISBN 9781856695640

Accommodating change: innovation in housing

French, H (2018) 'Accommodating change: innovation in housing.' In: Menteth, W, ed. Competition culture in Europe: voices. Project Compass CIC, London, pp. 102-109. ISBN 9780993148156

Entries on 39 housing projects

French, H (2012) 'Entries on 39 housing projects.' In: 20th-century world architecture. Phaidon, London. ISBN 9780714857060

Glamorous spaces: public ballrooms and dance halls, 1890 – 1950

French, H (2015) 'Glamorous spaces: public ballrooms and dance halls, 1890 – 1950.' Interiors: Design/Architecture/Culture, 6 (1). pp. 41-57. ISSN 2041-9120

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