Houses of Straw: The Presentation of Design on Television

Peter Lloyd, Arlene Oak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The UK television programme Grand Designs, in which participants engage in the design and construction of their dream houses has, over a period of 14 years, done much to educate a lay audience about the design of domestic buildings. In this paper we analyze two episodes of the programme, both featuring houses constructed using straw-bales. Our analysis considers three ways in which the show frames design issues and participants for the viewer. First, we look at how concepts of sustainability are presented; second, we explore the different ways in which expertise is enacted; and third, we discuss how design as a process, and architecture as a discipline, are represented. Within the episodes we analyze, we find that, on the one hand Grand Designs seems to be architecturally progressive (in furthering a discourse of ‘sustainability’, and accurately reflecting the ‘reality’ of design), but on the other hand, it can be interpreted as just the opposite since, through problematizing notions of ‘expertise’, the show actually favours tradition over innovation, and emphasizes individual brilliance over collaboration and compromise.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-180
Number of pages26
JournalDesign and Culture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Design and Culture, 2015, available online:


  • Design Process
  • Discourse Domestic Architecture
  • Framing
  • Housing
  • Sustainability
  • Television


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