Translating the concept of sustainability into architectural design practices: London’s City Hall as an exemplar

Research output: ThesisPhd Thesis 4 Research NOT TU/e / Graduation NOT TU/e)


This thesis is a Science and Technology Studies (STS) inspired exploration of the design practices that brought London’s City Hall (1997-2002) into being. The minister responsible for finding a suitable building for the Greater London Authority (GLA) ambitiously declared it to be an exemplar project of “environmentally progressive objectives, the principles of sustainability”. Since there is much contestation about how to enact such an ambitious agenda, I as a form of theory in practice retrospectively follow architects, engineers, clients and others through the complexities of design process to investigate how the concept of sustainability and environmental problems were interpreted from the outset and then transformed into environmental (and other) design challenges and targets in order to guide and align the diverse practitioners who worked towards materialising City Hall.

In order to develop a better understanding of how environmental challenges were addressed during City Hall’s contingent and unpredictable practices, I draw on the concept of translation to analyse how design problems were defined in the joint action plan to house the GLA, how design practices expanded through the concurrent production of design knowledge and association of additional heterogeneous elements, and how City Hall increasingly took shape through negotiations, choices, conflicts, transformations and adaptations. Through many translations the design briefing, building forms, landmark building requests, technological devices, specific interests, environmental performance targets, facade specifications and many other issues became reciprocally modified, reordered and stabilised.

I then use post-occupancy data to explore City Hall in operation (2002 to 2011) to develop an understanding of how its facility management produced knowledge about the headquarters’ environmental operations. Thus I develop an account to what extent environmental performance targets were translated from the world of the design studio to the world of actual building operations.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Burdett, R., Supervisor, External person
  • Savage, M., Supervisor, External person
  • Sklair, L., Supervisor, External person
Award date31 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • architectural design
  • Architectural Analysis
  • design practice
  • sustainability
  • Translation
  • science and technology studies
  • Design research
  • Design research methods
  • architecture
  • sustainable architecture
  • STS
  • Michael Callon
  • London City Hall


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