Claudia Dutson, PhD (RCA)

PhD Work / Thermal Performance - The politics of environmental management in architecture

The research takes as its premise the ambiguity of environmental design within the organisational management discourses of the knowledge economy. The failure of new buildings to perform as environmentally as they were designed, has been termed the 'performance gap'. I trace the concept of performance in architecture and models of 'sustainable' design and connect them to post-Fordist performance-oriented management processes. //more

Image: The discursive field of metaphors for heat, mapped onto a Sankey diagram for the steam-engine.

In 1979, Lisa Heschong proposed a thermal environment ‘rich in cultural associations’ celebrating ‘delight’ and the ‘bonds of affection and ceremony'.1 She described throughout her book Thermal Delight in Architecture an obsolescence of thermal symbolism in the mechanically controlled contemporary interior.

Through analysis of metaphors, idioms and synonyms of heat used in English as a global lingua franca for business, economics and politics brought together in a database of over 1000 entries drawn from dictionary sources, I propose that our thermal culture is not primarily one of cosiness and comfort, but a contested and layered discursive field of power, economics, desire, love, productivity and war. These are not poetic embellishments, they are actively used in everyday communication.

1 Lisa Heschong, Thermal Delight in Architecture (Cambridge, MA: MIT press, 1979)

Thermal Database
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Heated Exchange Performance

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contact / claudia.dutson@rca.ac.uk