School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape

Staff Profile

Professor Graham Farmer

Professor of Architecture / Director of Architecture



Graham Farmer is Professor of Architecture and Director of the Architecture Programmes. Graham's research and teaching interests are diverse and encompass sustainable design, materials and tectonics and architectural pedagogy. A key theme in his work is the social production of the built environment with an emphasis on understanding how the built environment is socially sustained. He has published widely on the social dimensions of sustainability and has developed an approach which connects a concern for design, environmental innovation and building performance with an understanding of development processes, occupation and inhabitation. Graham is interested in the ethics of sustainability and in particular how environmental values relate to the specifics of place and the pragmatics of design practice.

Graham's approach seeks innovative synergies between architectural research, pedagogy, practice and engagement and he has received external recognition across all of these activities through the various national and international awards he has received for design practice, research publications, teaching, and indirectly through the supervision of student work.

In 2001 Graham was awarded the American Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) annual award for research,  for a paper he published in the Journal of Architectural Education (with Professor Simon Guy).


Graham is a qualified architect with a background in architectural practice where he worked on a wide variety of projects. These ranged from large-scale urban design and masterplanning commissions in cities such as Bristol, Leeds, Cambridge and Barcelona to modest individual buildings. During his time in practice he contributed to several award-winning buildings and he has received Civic Trust and RIBA Regional awards. The buildings he has designed have been published in architecture periodicals including The Architects Journal, Building Magazine and Building Design.

He joined Newcastle University as a full-time academic in 1998 following a period as a part-time studio design tutor. Between 2004 and 2010 he was school Director of Teaching and Director of the Part 2 programme at The University of Nottingham before returning to Newcastle University in 2010 to take up the role as Director of Architecture . During his time at Newcastle he has been the Programme Director for the BA (Part 1) and BArch (Part 2) and also for the Certificate in Architectural Practice (CAP).



At the core of my current research is an exploration of the relationships between sustainability and the built environment and the various ways in which this interpreted, expressed and understood. I seek to develop an integrated approach to research that explores the potential synergies between research, practice, pedagogy and social engagement. My outlook is strongly interdisciplinary and I have developed teaching and research collaborations with academics from the social sciences, engineering, humanities and the arts in addition to working directly with external institutions, commercial practices and communities. 

I contribute to several journals as a referee I have have been guest editor of Building Research and Information (BRI).

I am a currently an editor of the peer-reviewed journal ARQ (Architectural Research Quarterley)


My current research interests and activities can be organised into five interconnected themes; the theory of sustainable architecture, built environment ethics, research through design, material innovation, and concrete modernism.

The theories and practices of sustainable architecture

Architectural discourse has traditionally represented buildings as either art objects or technical objects. Yet buildings are also social objects in that they are invested with social meaning and they shape social relations. In recognising these assumptions my research aims to bring together recent debates in philosophy and social / cultural theory to the study and practice of sustainable architecture and urbanism. Sustainability is now one of the key debates shaping buildings and cities. In adopting a critical, comparative and interdisciplinary perspective and by theorising sustainability, my aim is to bring the discussion of a sustainable built environment centrally into the social sciences and humanities, as well as bringing the theoretical insights of the latter into the discourses of sustainable architecture and urban design.

Ethics and the built environment

My research reflects upon the growing recognition of professional responsibilities to confront environmental issues and the recent radical shifts in the economic and social contexts of building and construction. It aims to contribute towards the establishment of an agenda for the development of a coherent sub-discipline of ethics within architecture and the built environment. In 2009 I organised and co-chaired a major interdisciplinary International conference; Ethics and the Built Environment held at The University of Nottingham, UK. The conference brought together philosophers, ethicists, architects, engineers and urban designers to debate on the ethical dimensions of the built environment in all its forms. Key outputs from the conference included a guest edited edition of Building Research and Information (2010) and the establishment of an international research network.

Material Innovation for sustainability

I am currently developing a new thread to my research which explores how small-scale material innovation can contribute to the global ‘grand challenges’ of resource scarcity, environmental degradation and climate change. These approaches rely on engaging and mobilising individuals and communities in the search for solutions and with this in mind I am interested in how concepts such as social innovation and frugal innovation can facilitate modest, low-tech material innovations that are scalable.

I am currently working on two major EPSRC bids with colleagues in Civil Engineering: CURE: Creative Upcycled Resource Efficiency (EPSRC) and INTUIT: Innovating Sustainablity (Leverhulme). 

Concrete Modernism

I have a longstanding interest in concrete as a construction material and I have recently become involved in a number of projects that investigate the post-war architectural and urban legacy of the North East region.  I am currently developing ongoing research exploring Victor Pasmore’s built and unbuilt projects for Peterlee and I am also supervising the research leading to the publication of a major book on the works of this period which is being partly funded by a RIBA research award. In June 2013 I was invited speaker for a major public event at the BALTIC “Something Concrete and Modern” which brought together a panel of architects and historians as well as English Heritage.

Design Pedagogy and Material Practice (Research by Design)

Over the course of the past five years I have initiated and been involved in a number of student ‘live’ projects that have provided the opportunity to connect design, pedagogy, research and engagement. I am particularly interested in the way that learning by making and design / build projects provide a highly effective mode of pedagogy that provides students with practical insights and skills as well as the opportunity to engage with real people, clients, users and communities. These projects also provide the opportunity to experiment with materials and performance and different modes of design practice. The physical artefacts / buildings and the processes leading to them are research outputs in themselves.

PhD Supervision

I am very interested in supervising PhD students. My current students are:

Pippa Marsh - House and Home: A social reinterpretation of sustainable housing, looking beyond technically efficient buildings

Guopeng Li - An Integrated Prefabricated Housing System for affordability, customisation and flexibility 

Yasser Megahead - Defining Quality in Architecture: Towards a Critical Instrumentalist Practice

Najla Mansour - Regional Sustainability: Learning from Vernacular Architecture in Lebanon

Artjoms Holstovs - Hygromorphic Materials in the Design of Responsive Building Envelopes (Part EPSRC funded studentship - jointly supervised with Civil Engineering)



I have wide ranging experience of architectural education spanning 20 years. I began teaching into the architecture programmes at Newcastle in 1994 as a part-time tutor from practice and became a full-time academic in 1998. Since then I have taught and managed at all levels of the professional programmes in Architecture and I have extensive experience of all teaching formats. I have been a Head of Year at all stages of the architecture programmes and a module leader for courses in architectural design, architectural theory, professional practice, environmental design and architectural technology. I have also been a programme director at all parts of the Professional programmes in Architecture and for various PGT courses.

Between 2004 and 2010 I was Director of Teaching and Director of the Part 2 programme at The University of Nottingham. In addition to running various studio programmes I have also taught lecture programmes in Architectural theory, Environmental Design, and Construction. I have been a guest lecturer and visiting critic at numerous universities in the UK, Europe and the USA.

I have supervised numerous student projects that have achieved regional, national and international recognition and awards.

I am particularly interested in design pedagogy as a mode of research and I have published several peer-reviewed articles related to my teaching practices.