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Student Showcase Archive

Claude Dutson

PhD Work

PhD work

Thermal Performance: The politics of environmental management in architecture

In this PhD by practice, I explore, through J.L. Austin’s concept of ‘performative’ speech, how thermal management in architecture becomes entangled with the imperative of organisational management. The project work – a video performance and a database – investigates the interconnected concepts of performance and heat as they materialise in the  workplace of the knowledge economy at a moment of convergence between smart technology with architecture. Where notionally, agency is given over to autonomous environmental systems to do the right thing, and where work environments are embedded in performative-discursive company cultures that urge their occupants to ‘do the right thing’.

The concept of thermal delight proposed by Lisa Heschong in 1979, ‘rich in cultural associations’ which celebrates the ‘bonds of affection and ceremony' is updated with the excesses of high-performance management: burnout and exhaustion – cool-hunters and hot-to-trot stocks. 

The database brings together over 1000 entries drawn from dictionary sources of metaphors, idioms and synonyms for heat used in English as a global lingua franca for business, economics and politics. I propose that the thermal culture of architecture is not primarily one of comfort, but a layered discursive field of power, economics, anger, desire, love, productivity and war. The metaphors are not poetic embellishments, but are actively used in everyday communication and are partially constitutive of the subjects of knowledge work. 

Taking seriously the occupant as a subject constituted by management, whose entire being and passions are put to work, I place this subject into a thermal environment latent with the full cultural significance of its metaphors. In a series of HEATED EXCHANGES an Actor, and Reactor, negotiate for control of a thermostat, using metaphors and idioms derived from words for heat.

MA work

MA work

This final-year project consolidates various research interests that I have been pursuing for a few years; processes derived from geometric anomalies found in built form, environmental engineering and the physiological side-effects of buildings, and a typology of public buildings that one could unofficially live in. Through manipulating border controls and layering bye-laws in a downtown check-in terminal for Heathrow, located on the site of the New Covent Garden Market, loopholes in jurisdiction can be inhabited by unexpected programs. Environmental stasis is disrupted by the market, which permeates the terminal, and feeds off the airport infrastructure.

ADS1/Binaries/Oxymorons: Nature vs. Culture



  • PhD


    School of Architecture


    Architecture Research, 2011–2017

  • MA Degree


    School of Architecture


    MA Architecture, 2008

  • Claude Dutson is an AHRC-funded PhD candidate in the School of Architecture. They graduated with an MA Architecture in 2008, working afterwards on a two-year research project about artificial light at the RCA's Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design. In October 2010, Claude's book on the research topic, Light Volumes Dark Matters was published by the centre.

    Before studying architecture, Claude trained in media production just as analogue methods of video and sound production were becoming obsolete and worked in media consultancy co-writing reports on new developments in digital media.

    Claude's PhD investigates thermal control in buildings using metaphor and performance.

  • Degrees

  • BSc (Hons) Architecture, University of East London, 2005
  • Experience

  • Freelance photographer, Archer Architects, Hertfordshire, 2003; Freelance illustrator, Dorling Kindersley, London, 2005; Architectural assistant, Beevor Mull, Huntingdon, 2005-6; Architectural assistant, Sall, Cullinan & Buck Architects Ltd, London, 2006
  • Exhibitions

  • ShibuyaLove, University of East London, London, 2005; Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism/ Architecture, Hong Kong, 2008
  • Publications

  • Private Passions in the Silicon Valley in E.R.O.S Journal Issue 7: The Interior (Editor Sami Jalili) November 2015; Performativity and Paranoia (Or how to do the ‘Internet of Things’ with words) chapter in Industries of Architecture. (Editors Katie Lloyd Thomas, Tilo Amhoff, Nick Beech) Routlege 2015