Dr Yasmina El Chami

BArch, AA MPhil, PhD Cantab

School of Architecture

Lecturer in Architectural Humanities

School Decolonial Lead

Yasmina El Chami
Profile picture of Yasmina El Chami

Full contact details

Dr Yasmina El Chami
School of Architecture
Arts Tower
Western Bank
S10 2TN

I am an architect and architectural historian and I joined the University of Sheffield as a Lecturer in Architectural Humanities in 2022. I completed my PhD at the University of Cambridge in 2022, funded by the Cambridge International Scholarship (2017–20), a Scouloudi Junior Fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research in London (2020–21) and a Funds for Women Graduates Doctoral Completion Grant (2020–21). Prior to my PhD I was a practicing architect in Lebanon and part-time faculty at several architectural schools.

My work examines the intersections of colonial and imperial histories with the production of the built environment, focusing in particular on informal/covert imperial actors and processes in the long nineteenth and early twentieth century. This includes my research on the architectural history of informal imperialism in the Ottoman Middle East (PhD), and the geopolitics of American campus-building in the post-WWI Eastern Mediterranean (current project). I am particularly interested in the socio-political and economic processes that undergird the conception and production of the built environment, and I adopt an expanded understanding of architectural history that integrates insights from political/IR history, environmental history, and postcolonial/development studies.

My research has been supported by several competitive fellowships and awards, including the Graham Foundation Research and Development Grant supporting my current project (2023), the Presbyterian Historical Society’s Annual Research Fellowship (2020), and the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain’s Hawksmoor Essay Medal (2020).

At Sheffield I have led several undergraduate humanities modules that I have redeveloped to align with the School's broader decolonial agenda, which I also lead. I am also module leader for MArch Dissertations, and I contribute to humanities teaching across the School. In 2022-23 I led a Faculty of Social Sciences Education Project Grant (£7,500) aiming to establish a decolonial architecture network across UK Schools of Architecture, which culminated in a 2-day workshop in July 2023. This year I am leading the decolonial pedagogical strategies within the School, including implementation of decolonial learning outcomes across all modules, and several staff-facing talks and activities.


  • PhD in Architecture, University of Cambridge, 2022
  • MPhil in Architecture and Urban Design, Architectural Association London, 2013
  • BArch in Architecture, American University of Beirut, 2010
Research interests

My work is at the intersection of Architectural and Urban History/Theory and Postcolonial Studies, and I am particularly interested in the socio-political and economic processes that undergird the conception and production of the built environment, especially in colonial/postcolonial settings.

I am currently at work on two book projects. The first is a book project based on my dissertation, titled ‘Collective Colonialism: Missionary Competition and the Project of the City in Ottoman Lebanon’. It examines the colonial nature and role of the two oldest and most important universities in Lebanon, the Syrian Protestant College (today, American University of Beirut) and the Université Saint-Joseph, as evidenced by their architectural and urban development. Contesting the view of missionaries as primarily religious, and therefore ambiguous, imperial actors, the project relies on archival research in over ten institutional and diplomatic archives in Lebanon, France, and the United States, as well as mapping and site analysis, to highlight the complex material, economic, and imperial networks underpinning the architecture and construction of their campuses. By demonstrating that architecture and political influence were mutually constitutive in this scenario, the book develops the innovative concept of ‘collective colonialism’ to describe the ways in which competition between marginal and ‘informal’ imperial actors embedded a divisive order in the modern foundations of the city. The project therefore reconsiders both the limits of architecture’s political agency and the nature of colonialism in Ottoman Lebanon. Parts of this project have been published or are forthcoming as articles in Architectural Theory Review, ABE Journal: Architecture Beyond Europe, and JSAH, the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians.

My second project, titled 'Building “International Goodwill”: American Campuses in the “Near East,” 1919–1964', builds on the first project and delves deeper into the interplay between politics, education, and the racial-religious ideologies that underpinned American campus-building in post-WWI Lebanon, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Greece. Focusing on four American campuses built between 1919 and 1964, the research explores the role of architecture within America’s broader geopolitical ambitions for the ‘Near East’, and questions how these campuses were designed to shape a new spatial and regional political imaginary, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. I am currently developing this project through a Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts Research and Development Grant (2023-24).

I am currently the special issue editor (with Sara Honarmand Ebrahimi) for issue 28:3 of Architectural Theory Review: Architectures of Informal Empire and I am a general editor for Architectural Histories, the EAHN's journal.


Journal articles


  • El Chami Y (2019) The Place Beyond the Coast: A Spatio-Political History of Mount Lebanon’s Interior In Younes H (Ed.), The Place That Remains Recounting the Unbuilt Territory (pp. 176-183). Milano: Skira. RIS download Bibtex download

Theses / Dissertations

  • El Chami Y Beirut, From City of Capital to Capital City: Reconstructing a Lebanese State Identity Within Neoliberal Economy. RIS download Bibtex download
Research group
  • Graham Foundation Individual Research Development Grant, Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago, USA ($7,500), 2023-24  

  • Faculty of Social Sciences Education Project Grant: ‘Decolonial Architecture Network’, University of Sheffield, UK (£7,500), 2022-23

  • Scott Opler Emerging Scholar Conference Grant, Society of Architectural Historians, USA, 2022-23

  • Global Urban History Project Emerging Scholar Annual Fellowship, GHUP, 2022–23 

  • Institute of Historical Research Scouloudi Junior Research Fellowship, 2020-21 

  • Funds for Women Graduates Doctoral Grant, FfWG, UK, 2020-21 

  • Presbyterian Historical Society Annual Research Fellowship, Philadelphia, USA, 2019-20 

  • Graduate Research Funds Grants, multiple, Christ’s College, Cambridge, 2018–20

  • Faculty Fieldwork Grants, multiple, Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge, 2018–19

  • Cambridge International Scholarship, Cambridge Trust, University of Cambridge, 2017-20 

Teaching activities
  • ARC103 - Humanities I
  • ARC104 - Humanities 2
  • ARC204 - Humanities 4
  • ARC556/596 - MArch Dissertation
  • ARC566/696- MArch Dissertation
Professional activities and memberships
  • Editor, Architectural Histories, EAHN Journal, 2023-27
  • MA Dissertation Prize Juror, SAHGB, 2022, 2023
  • Emerging Scholar, Global Urban History Project, 2022-23