Robin Schuldenfrei

Robin Schuldenfrei


  • Strand, Somerset House

    WC2R 0RN London

    United Kingdom


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Personal profile


Robin Schuldenfrei’s research and teaching focuses on the history and theory of European and American modern architecture and design. She received her doctorate from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and previously held positions at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Dr Schuldenfrei is interested in discursive questions—theoretical and practical—of how discourses and practices of design are shaped by a given period’s own cultural and theoretical critique of its media and objects. Her work asks broader questions about how architecture and its objects relate to other products of society’s design: to works of art, to the production of images, to media and technology. She focusses on objects’ subjectivity, materiality, political agency, and social impact and meaning, seeing them as deeply embedded in their period, culture, and intellectual/theoretical climate. To that end, she utilizes both objects and architecture as cultural indices of society at large in order to illustrate the conscious and unconscious perspectives and values of the society that generated them.

She has lectured widely, including: Columbia University, ETH Zürich, Harvard University, MIT, Royal College of Art, Universität für angewandte Kunst Wien, University of Edinburgh, University of Hong Kong, and Yale.

Research interests

  • European 20th-century Architecture
  • Interior Architecture and Design
  • German Modernism
  • Architectural Theory
  • History and Theory of the Object

Fellowships, Awards and Honours

2020-21 Gerda Henkel Stiftung, year-long fellowship for book project Objects in Exile.

2019 Waterloo Centre for German Studies 2018 Book Prize Finalist, for Luxury and Modernism.

2019 Association of American Publishers 2019 PROSE Awards Finalist, architecture and urban planning category, for Luxury and Modernism.

2016 SAH (Society of Architectural Historians) / Mellon Author Award

2008 College of Architecture and the Arts Research Prize, UIC, for research in Germany.

2007-2008 Graduate Society Fellowship, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University.

2007 Citation of Special Recognition, Carter Manny Award program, Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

2007 Center for European Studies, Harvard University, Graduate Summer Travel Grant.

2007 SAH Junior Annual Meeting Fellowship to present a paper at the Society of Architectural Historians' 60th Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, April 11-15, 2007.

2006-2007 Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) Graduate Scholarship, for dissertation research, held at the Technische Universität Berlin (granted 2005, deferred). 

2005-2006 Frederick Sheldon Traveling Fellowship, Harvard University, for dissertation research in Berlin. 

2005 ADM-HEA Student Bursary, The Art Design Media Subject Centre, Brighton, England, to present a paper at The Annual Design History Conference, London, England.

2005 “Design~Recline” exhibition awarded second place in the “Best Architecture or Design Show” category by New England AICA (International Associations of Art Critics) for 2004.

2005 “Design~Recline” exhibition publication awarded second place in the NEMA (New England Museum Association) design competition.

2004 Pre-Dissertation Prospectus grant, Graduate Society Fellowship, Harvard University.

2003 Graduate Student Council, Harvard University, Summer Research Grant for dissertation research in Vienna.

2003 Honorable Mention, Effective or Innovative Use of Technology in Teaching, “19th Century Architecture and Urbanism,” Northeastern University.

2002 Bok Center Certificate of Distinction in Teaching, “Landmarks of World Architecture,” Harvard University.

2002-2003 Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellowship, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University.

2002 Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) Language Fellowship to attend the Goethe Institute, Berlin.

2002 Jens Aubrey Westengard Scholarship, Harvard University, for summer research travel.

2002 John Coolidge Student Fellowship, Society of Architectural Historians, for summer research travel.

2001-2005 Graduate Fellowship, Harvard University.

2001 Kress Foundation Scholarship to attend the Attingham Summer School in England, Summer 2001.

1998-2000 Tuition Grant, Williams College.

1995 Phi Beta Kappa.

Professional Affiliations

  • Society of Architectural Historians
  • Association of Art Historians
  • College Art Association
  • Historians of German & Central European Art & Architecture
  • Gesellschaft für Designgeschichte.


  • BA History of Art Year 1: 19th – and 20th-century Architecture and Design
  • BA History of Art Year 1: The Global Political City: Urban Issues in Contemporary Art

  • BA History of Art Year 2: The Modern Interior
  • BA History of Art Year 2: Frameworks for Interpretation
  • BA History of Art Year 3: Lessons in Critical Interpretation
  • MA History of Art: Experiencing Modernism: Utopia, Politics, and Times of Turmoil

PhD Students


Bethany Claus Widick, ‘Rooms of her Own: a Gendered Spatial Analysis of Women’s Professional and Social Clubs in Victorian and Edwardian London’. Supervisor (The Courtauld).

Laura C. Jenkins, ‘Civilising Decoration: Historicism and Elite Identity in the Gilded Age Interior’ (The Courtauld, second reader, first reader: Prof. Katie Scott).

Emily Christensen, ‘The influence of “the Orient” on Kandinsky’s early abstract paintings’ (The Courtauld, second reader, first reader: Dr Gavin Parkinson)

Elina Axioti, 'Hotel Rooms: Politics of Isolation - Rules of Hospitality' (Supervisor, Humboldt University Berlin)

Kathrin Engler, 'Patterns of Life – Andrea Zittel's "A-Z Enterprise"', with Prof. Gregor Stemmrich (Free University of Berlin)

Recently completed

Friederike Schäfer, ‘Claiming Space(s): Locating Suzanne Harris’ Dance Practice and Ephemeral Installations within New York City in the 1970s’ (Humboldt University Berlin, 2020)

Lena Hennewig, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, ‘“Uralt, ewig neu” Oskar Schlemmers Bild von Mensch, Raum und Kunstfigur während seiner Tätigkeit am Bauhaus’ (Humboldt University Berlin, 2020)

Nico Janke, 'Die Möbelkunst an der sudlichen Ostseekuste Deutschlands ca. 1780-1850' (Humboldt University Berlin, 2016) 

Sandra König, 'Albinmüller (1871-1941) – Kunstgewerbe zwischen Jugendstil und Werkbund', supervised with Dr Annette Dorgerloh (Humboldt University Berlin, 2015)

Monica Obniski, 'Accumulating Things: Folk Art and Modern Design in the Postwar American Projects of Alexander H. Girard', supervised with Prof. Robert Bruegmann, Prof. Pat Kirkham, Prof. Jonathan Mekinda (University of Illinois at Chicago, 2015)

Sarah M. Dreller, 'The Time, Life, and Fortune of Time Inc.’s Architectural Forum magazine, 1932-64', supervised with Prof. Robert Bruegmann, Prof. Esra Akcan (University of Illinois at Chicago, 2015)

Erica Morawski, 'Designing Destinations: Architecture, Urbanism, and American Tourism in Puerto Rico and Cuba', supervised with Prof. Robert Bruegmann, Prof. Esra Akcan, Prof. Kathryn O'Rourke (University of Illinois at Chicago, 2014)  

Education/Academic qualification

'Luxury and Modern Architecture in Germany, 1900-1933.', Harvard University

… → Jun 2008

Harvard University

… → 2003

'Etiquette, Anxiety and Artistry: A Gorham Martelé Glove Box', Williams College

… → 2003

'Manufacturing Practices of Late 19th & Early 20th Century Decorative Artists using works from the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design', Brown University

… → 1995

External positions

Humboldt University, Berlin


University of Illinois at Chicago


Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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