Houses of Experiment: Modern Housing and the Will to Laboratorization


This article adds historical and geographical specificity to the link between city building and laboratorization processes. It does so by way of the example of housing in mid‐twentieth‐century Britain. Housing provision at this time saw an intensification of the relationship between architectural design and science by way of the emergent field of building science as well as new social‐science studies of householder satisfaction. The article focuses on two examples of these housing sciences, tracing their role in the production of British modern housing. The first example focuses on a set of experiments conducted on ventilation and heating at Britain’s Building Research Station. The second example examines the social science of a post‐occupancy study of multi‐storey flats in Glasgow. The article argues that mid‐twentieth‐century housing construction and provision was structured in and through a laboratory logic that had a complex geography and temporality. In the sciences of housing conducted during this period there is a conflation and hybridization of the space of the laboratory, the site of the house and the action of the experiment.