Ms Vanessa Vanden Berghe

Research project: Setting the Scene: Reassessing the interiors of Oliver Hill


This study explores the interior designs of the British architect Oliver Hill (1887-1968) from 1920 to 1951, a period of significance for his architectural practice. Taking Hill's interiors rather than his architecture as a starting point offers a revealing point of entry into various design languages that were developing in the first half of twentieth century Britain. My research will focus on how mise-en-scene in interior design was produced, mediated and consumed during that time. Hill's oeuvre will therefore be used, not as point of comparison with other contemporary architects, or as an analysis of style, but will rather be used as a departure point to reassess design approaches as they developed during the interwar period and after.

Drawing on the Oliver Hill papers, contemporary magazines and photographs, this thesis aims to broaden the historical narrative that has been built upon Hill's oeuvre. 

  • Research degree: PhD
  • Title of project: Setting the Scene: Reassessing the interiors of Oliver Hill
  • Research supervisor: Professor Penny Sparke
  • Other research supervisor: Dr Fiona Fisher


I am currently working as a lecturer in Architectural History and Theory at the University of East London and in my fourth year as a part-time PhD researcher. I have previously studied History of Art at the University of Ghent, Belgium, completed an MA in the History and Theory of Architecture at the University of East London in 2001 and have recently received an MPhil (gained at UEL) researching the enigma of British Modernism through the work of Oliver Hill.

My research interests mainly focus on Interwar design and the relationship between architecture, art, design and fashion.

Areas of research interest

  • Interwar modernism
  • Modern interiors
  • Popular culture in interwar Britain
  • Domesticity
  • Architectures of display
  • Commerce, objectivity, visual communication and mediation


  • MPhil Oliver Hill and the Enigma of British Modernism, University of East London
  • MA in History and Theory of Architecture, University of East London
  • BA in History of Art, University of Ghent, Belgium
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Funding or awards received

  • Kingston University Bursary (2014 - Present)


Book Chapter: 'Oliver Hill: A window on Regionalism in Britain during the Interwar Period' in Regionalism and Modernity. Architecture in Western Europe 1914-1940, KADOC Artes (2013)

Conference papers

'Architectural photography, the media and the paradigm of objectivity in the work of Oliver Hill' Paper presented at the conference: Inter - photography and architecture, University of Navarra, Pamplona, 2016

'Marketing Modernism: Consumerism in the work of Oliver Hill' Paper presented at the Historians of British Art's Young Scholars Session at CAA, New York, 2013

'Alternative Moderns: The Nostalgic in the work of Oliver Hill' presented at the 38th Annual AAH Conference, The Open University, Milton Keynes, 2012