Stephen Cairns completed an undergraduate degree in anthropology and classical studies at the University of Otago. He trained in architecture at the University of Auckland, and practiced as an architect in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific, designing the award-winning Headquarters for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in Noumea. He subsequently undertook doctoral studies at the University of Melbourne writing a thesis on the colonial architecture in Java, with an emphasis on aesthetics and the politics of representation. On completion of his PhD he was appointed to a Lectureship at the University of Melbourne. He took up a Senior Lectureship at the University of Edinburgh, and was appointed Professor of Architecture and Urbanism there in 2009. He served as Head of Department of Architecture, and Director of the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. He is currently based in Singapore where he his Programme Director of the Future Cities Laboratory.
Stephen Cairns’ research is focused on architecture, design and urban planning, and takes theoretical and practical forms. His books include Drifting: Migrancy and Architecture (edited) (Routledge 2004), and The Sage Handbook of Architectural Theory (Sage 2012, edited with Greig Crysler and Hilde Heynen). His co-authored book (with Jane M Jacobs) Buildings Must Die: A Perverse View of Architecture (MIT Press) was published in 2014. His current work is focused on the complex patterns of settlement emerging in the predominantly rice-growing hinterlands of many large cities in Southeast Asia, India and China. His practice-oriented research takes the form of the Tropical Town project, a planned/unplanned low-energy, high-density settlement for such urbanising hinterlands. This work builds on a number of research projects funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and the Environmental and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). These include: Cultures of Legibility: Emergent Urban Landscapes in Southeast Asia (2007-2010) that investigated so-called ‘desa-kota’ landscapes on the fringes of the city of Jakarta; Difference and Repetition: An Investigation of the Residential High-Rise as a Global Form (2004-2007); and Orienting the Future: Design Strategies for Non-Place (2005-2006). Material from these projects was published in journals such as Urban Studies, Journal of Architecture, SLUM Lab and Geographical Research, and was exhibited at the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR) in 2010 and 2012, and at the AEDES Gallery, Berlin in 2013.