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The 'Genius of Place': Mitigating Stench in the New Palace of Westminster befor the Great Stink

Hillier, J; Bell, SJ; (2010) The 'Genius of Place': Mitigating Stench in the New Palace of Westminster befor the Great Stink. The London Journal , 35 (1) 22 - 38.

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Abstract

London’s Great Stink of 1858 has been seen as the event that forced MPs to instigate large-scale sanitation improvements, which remain the basis of the city’s sewer system to the present day. This paper re-examines the Great Stink by investigating attempts to mitigate stench before 1858 through architectural intervention. Parliamentary ventilation systems were initially designed to withstand surrounding miasma through the application of metabolic concepts of organization, the building being conceived as a body that was in danger of becoming poisoned by its environment. Yet construction was beset by difficulties that led to the disintegration of system ideals and the adoption of a new ventilation philosophy that was highly susceptible to external pollution: when environmental degradation reached its zenith in 1858, MPs were left unprotected. Since the ventilation systems can therefore be said to have played a part in creating the Great Stink, we argue that their history — which emphasizes a complex relationship between technoscience, the socio-political, the built environment, and nature — is crucial in understanding the event.

Type:Article
Title:The 'Genius of Place': Mitigating Stench in the New Palace of Westminster befor the Great Stink
UCL classification:UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering

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