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Architectural Design and Regulation

ISBN: 978-1-4443-9314-9
376 pages
January 2011, Wiley-Blackwell
Architectural Design and Regulation (1444393146) cover image


From the earliest periods of architecture and building, architects’ actions have been conditioned by rules, regulations, standards, and governance practices. These range from socio-cultural and religious codes seeking to influence the formal structure of settlement patterns, to prescriptive building regulations specifying detailed elements of design in relation to the safety of building structures. In Architectural Design and Regulation the authors argue that the rule and regulatory basis of architecture is part of a broader field of socio-institutional and political interventions in the design and development process that serve to delimit, and define, the scope of the activities of architects. 

The book explores how the practices of architects are embedded in complex systems of rules and regulations. The authors develop the understanding that the rules and regulations of building form and performance ought not to be counterpoised as external to creative processes and practices, but as integral to the creation of well-designed places. The contribution of Architectural Design and Regulation is to show that far from the rule and regulatory basis of architecture undermining the capacities of architects to design, they are the basis for new and challenging activities that open up possibilities for reinventing the actions of architects.

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Table of Contents



The Authors.



Illustration Credits.


1 Regulation, Rule, and Architecture: Introductory Comments.

1.1 Introduction.

1.2 The autonomy of architecture and the design process.

1.3 The study of regulation and the practices of architects.

1.4 Conclusions.

2 The Rule and Regulation of Building Form and Performance.

2.1 Introduction.

2.2 Early settlement and the codification of design practice.

2.3 Spatial codes and the regularisation of design and development.

2.4 Hygienic spaces and the efficiency of design.

2.5 From the regulatory society to the regulatory state.

2.6 Conclusions.

3 Urban Design and the Rise of the (De)Regulatory Society.

3.1 Introduction.

3.2 Self-activation and the (re-)regulation of design activities.

3.3 Regulating design: an evaluation of leading assumptions.

3.4 Conclusions.


4 Learning about Regulation.

4.1 Introduction.

4.2 Discipline, education, and the creation of the architect-subject.

4.3 Pedagogy and the acculturation of architects: evidence from the field.

4.4 Conclusions: towards relational pedagogies.

Case Study A: Rethinking Education: Evidence from a Focus Group.

5 Working with Regulation.

5.1 Introduction.

5.2 Systems of control and the management of the design process.

5.3 The interrelationships between regulations and the practices of architects.

5.4 Conclusions.

Case Study B: Straw-Bale Building in the USA: Negotiating the Codes.

6 Risk and the Regulation of the Design Process.

6.1 Introduction.

6.2 Building form, performance and the regulation of risk.

6.3 Risk, regulation, and architecture: some evidence from the UK.

6.4 Conclusions.

Case Study C: Regulating the Design Process: a Risky Business?


7 The Role of Project Actors in Influencing Design.

7.1 Introduction.

7.2 Redefining roles in the UK design and construction industry.

7.3 Contemporary project teams and the rise of the new professional.

7.4 Responding to change: architects’ experiences of a changing profession.

7.5 Conclusions.

Case Study D: Traces of Regulation: the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University.

8 The Coding of Design and Architecture.

8.1 Introduction.

8.2 Modernity, urbanism and the revival of urban character.

8.3 The influence of design coding on the practices of architects.

8.4 Conclusions.

Case Study E: The Use of Design Codes in Two English Towns.

9 Regulation and the Practices of Architects: Concluding Thoughts.


Appendix: Research Design and Methods.



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Author Information

Rob Imrie is Professor of Geography at King’s College London. He is author and co-author of five books, and has written widely in international journals on issues ranging from urban policy and regeneration to disability and the built environment. His background is in geography, sociology, and planning studies and he has a doctorate in industrial sociology.


Emma Street has recently completed a doctorate in urban geography at King’s College London. Her background is in geography, and she has a masters’ degree in public policy. Her research interests include, urban planning and politics, the role of the private sector in place-shaping, and architecture and the built environment.

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The Wiley Advantage

  • - one of the first scholarly texts about building regulations and building control
  • - analysis of policy and practice across a range of countries, including the UK, the USA, and New Zealand
  • - uses comparative case studies
  • - discusses practical and policy relevant ideas
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“These are minor points about an excellent and ground-breaking book, which will be essential reading for those researching architectural practice, regulation, design professions and planning, and also for those with an interest in discourses of creativity and cultural production.  Architectural design and regulation contributes much to our understanding of the practices and situated knowledges of architects vis-à-vis regulation and so in turn about the ways in which the urban fabric is shaped.”  (Area, 15 August 2013)

‘Our discipline has [in this book] received a gift from outside the tacit values embodied in what we architects refer to as ‘studio culture’. We can, of course, dismiss the critique and ignore the opportunity presented by the authors if we so choose. But if the entrenched architects of my generation do, I am confident that the next generation of city-makers will not because, like Imrie and Street, they already glimpse the creative potential of interdisciplinary invention.’ - Steven A. Moore, Bartlett Cocke Regents Professor of Architecture and Planning, School of Architecture, The University of Texas at Austin

‘It often takes outsiders to point out what insiders have missed or chosen to ignore about themselves. Such revelations are exactly what geographers Imrie and Street bring to the discipline of architecture. The book is an assiduously researched documentation of the way the architects have responded to the increasing regulatory frameworks with a mixture of denial, boredom, resignation and fury – when in fact, the authors show, the way forward is to work with rather than against the frameworks in a manner that is at the same time creative and realist.' - Professor Jeremy Till, Dean of the School of Architecture and the Built Environment, University of Westminster

Imrie and Street have produced a vital text that opens up a new perspective on architectural practice and regulation as a co-evolutionary process of code-making that is reshaping the cities we inhabit. By highlighting the complex social organisation of these processes, the book opens up a new window on the materiality of design creativity and the politics enacted through regulatory interventions.’ - Professor Simon Guy, Director of Manchester Architecture Research Centre (MARC), Head of School of Environment and Development, The University of Manchester

Architectural Design and Regulation is an insightful tour de force. It provides a much needed critical examination of the exiting regulatory paradigm while bringing together theory, practice and a vision for change.  The implications of regulations on urban development are little appreciated and rarely discussed.  Yet, across the globe, communities are shaped by codes and regulations that virtually dictate all aspects of urban development. Regulations define how places can and can’t be developed, and how controls shape the physical space and buildings where we live and work.  By critically assessing the impacts of design regulations on the spatial and social quality of our built environment Rob Imrie and Emma Street offer a unique analysis and practical suggestions.  It is a must-read for anyone who is serious about understanding current urban development and architecture practice. - Eran Ben-Joseph, Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author of the Code of the City: Standards and the Hidden Language of Place Making

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