This thesis studies design standardization in London’s housing understood as an interrelated set of standards and conventions that shape design outcomes towards specific forms. The thesis conceptualises design standardisation by integrating literature on housing policy and regulation, real estate, state-market relationships, architectural practice, standards and conventions and threads broader issues in housing – housing design, design governance, and design quality – drawing on a mixed methods research. This consists of visual and statistical analysis of the spatial patterns in dwelling plans from London’s housing stock (n=3,438), an online survey with London residents on their experience and use of their homes (n=234) and follow-up interviews (n=22).
The research shows that existing housing interiors, in aggregate form, evidence processes of standardization. In particular, dwellings built in the past forty years, since the 1980s, show a high level of repetition in their dimensions and interior layouts. The thesis argues that this is the result of on the one hand a high-pressure housing market, a perpetual housing shortage and high land prices that all lead the market to function with strict design conventions, and on the other, legislations, regulations, codes, and guidelines central and local governments introduce to sustain quality, affordability, and access. In contrast, dwellings from the older housing stock – terraced houses – show a wide variety of interior layouts. Despite this, however, there are spatial and organizational directions that emerge at the intersection of the architectural affordances of terraced houses, social change, asset-based welfare and permitted development. Based on a study of residents’ experiences and domestic practices in relation to design patterns observed in London’s housing, the research also found that standardized housing does not sufficiently meet current needs, preferences and occupancy patterns. The assumptions of use and home underlying standards and conventions fail to acknowledge the diversity of households and the changing domestic needs in London.
Seyithan Özer has completed his PhD in Architecture at the Royal College of Art. His doctoral thesis entitled Interior Complex analysed the designs of dwellings in London’s existing housing stock in relation to regulatory, market-driven, and user-driven standardization processes. He is interested in housing studies and the methodologies and methods of knowledge production at the intersection of architectural design and design policy. He currently is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Future Cities Laboratory for Design and Machine Learning at the Royal College of Art.