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Curtin University
Staff Profile

Professor Steffen Lehmann

Professor Steffen Lehmann Professor Steffen Lehmann
Position Professor
Faculty Faculty of Humanities
School School of Built Environment
Campus Bentley Campus
Location 201
Phone 08 9266 3038

Brief Summary

Hello, and welcome to Steffen Lehmann's homepage!


Professor Steffen Lehmann, PhD (Dr.-Ing.), AA Dipl, Dipl Des, is a German-Australian urbanist, author, educator, researcher and curator, registered in 1993 as a chartered architect and urban designer in Berlin.


In March 2014, Steffen was invited to join Curtin University as Head of School to reposition the large School of Built Environment.

After 12 months as Head of School he transferred into his current position as Research Professor of the Built Environment and Director of the CitiesLAB, in the Faculty of Humanities, establishing new research directions in collaboration with industry and government.

Prior to joining Curtin University, he was a tenured Chair Professor of Sustainable Design and Founding Director of two flagship research centres at the University of South Australia, where he was very successful in expanding the research endeavours of the university in partnership with both private and public enterprises, and in increasing research quality and impact.



"I am pleased to welcome you to Curtin University’s School of Built Environment. This is one of four schools based in the Faculty of Humanities and one of the largest schools in Australia educating students in architecture, interior architecture, construction management, urban & regional planning and geography.

The School of Built Environment is located on Curtin's main campus in Perth, the capital city of Western Australia, with an enrolment of over 2.200 undergraduate and graduate students and over 80 PhD students, from more than 30 countries (enrolled in one of the School’s 16 courses, or in our off-shore courses in Malaysia and Hong Kong). The School offers a truly international and global learning environment in a unique campus setting.

The School of Built Environment (SoBE) is a unique constellation of professional programs in the fast growing metropolitan area of Perth, and makes significant contributions to the global academic community. It is comprised of three departments, which form a strong interdependent group of six disciplines:

Consistent with the University’s strategic goals and values, the School is globally focused and locally engaged. It is established on the principles of discovery, equity and respect, with a strong commitment to our values, to excellence, innovation and societal impact.

As School of Built Environment we are dealing with the future, and therefore cannot ignore sustainability. Could the built environment ever be as coherent and self-sustaining as the natural environment?"

More information at the School's web site:


Professor Steffen Lehmann is an internationally renowned thought leader in the field of sustainable urban and architectural development principles, exploring our complex relationships with nature and place. Most of his own research projects are architecture/planning/design nexus based, concerned with the integration of low-carbon/low-impact technologies in design and the social/behavioural and urban context.

"I am passionate about the possible futures of our cities and our capacity of rethinking urbanism to enable principles of social and environmental sustainability. That passion extends into my research, teaching and collaborative practice."  - Steffen Lehmann (2014)


Strategic Leadership

"Steffen is a dynamic, strategic and entrepreneurial leader who capitalises on the School's strengths and propels it further into an era of transformation in ways that meet the challenges of the 21st Century."   - Professor A. van Timmeren (2014)


Steffen provides strategic leadership within a complex university environment and promotes global visibility of the School's research and academic programs, with a focus on developing a sophisticated teaching-research nexus.

He previously held senior positions at other universities over the last thirteen years and has worked extensively in Europe, the US and the Asia-Pacific region. He has made major contributions to universities and the discipline of Architecture/Urban Design and has served on several international expert panels, advising on sustainable development and cities' development. In 2008, based on the international significance of his work he was appointed to a UNESCO Chair (UNESCO Chair in Sustainable Urban Development for Asia and the Pacific).

The School of Built Environment offers a dynamic place for people who want to make a difference and have a positive impact on society. This includes the notion of design, architecture and urbanism as means of engagement and catalyst for social change, where we can connect meaningfully with communities, industries and other organisations.  - Steffen Lehmann (2014)

Steffen has more than 25 years' experience in the fields of architecture, urban planning, interior architecture and construction, a strong track record in teaching, research and government advisory roles, and achieved distinction at the international level.

Born in Stuttgart, Germany, Steffen is an internationally renowned authority on sustainable cities and a strong advocate for sustainability in Australia. He is a leader in sustainable urban development, a passionate educator, author and an advisor to the United Nations.

Research capacity and impact

Steffen has demonstrated a strong commitment to innovation and building research capacity, driving positive research outcomes.

He has attracted large funding in grants and as Founding Director of two flagship research centres was managing research projects of the value of around $4 million in grants and contract research, reflecting his support for interdisciplinary study. The work has influenced corporate behaviour, municipal policies and legislation, delivering important results through evidence-based and end-user focussed solutions. His research centres were driven by highly focused, impactful agendas and undertook research that is funded through competitively won, peer-reviewed grant awards, where every project was a collaboration with government, industry and community partners; both centres were very successful in terms of their research impact, return of investment, HDR supervision and research output. Both research concentrations involved over 50 researchers.

He is also a prolific publisher, his most recently published books being: The Principles of Green Urbanism  (2010); Designing for Zero Waste (2012); Motivating Change (2013) and Low Carbon Cities (Routledge: London and New York, 2014).  He has published 16 authored, edited and co-edited books, numerous book chapters, articles and papers, and presented at more than 450 conferences and public events in 37 different countries.

Steffen has established a global collaborative research network consisting of urban development and environmental experts in Australia, the Asia-Pacific and overseas.

“It is an exciting new challenge to advance the School’s unique curriculum with a desire to advance practice – rather than conform to existing models of practice – in order to influence urban futures in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.  I want my students to work in every corner of the world and become tomorrow's leaders in their field. I like to make them aware that research and systems thinking are fundamental elements of any design solution"  - Steffen Lehmann (2014)

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Memberships, Awards and Training


Strategic Advisor to Peak Bodies

Steffen worked both at grassroots level as well as at the highest levels of international advisory roles, addressing the interface between environmental sustainability, urban development and social equity.

Recently, he has been the author of a report for UN ESCAP (2013) and contributed to the key UN document 'State of the Asia-Pacific Cities' Report (2014-15). He has been a strategic advisor to the International Advisory Board of the Emerging Sustainable Cities Initiative of the Inter-American Development Bank, Washington DC (2012–14); and to the United Nations Environment Programme (UN EP) ‘Resource-Efficient Cities’ International Working Group, Paris (2013); the International Consultative Committee for Establishing the UNESCO-Global Learning Cities Network, working with UNESCO and the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (Hamburg); and a member of the Advisory Board for the 8th Adelaide Festival of Ideas, South Australia (2013). In 2010, he was a member of a small group of Australian scientists selected by the Academy of Science to be part of the Government’s China Delegation, to speak at the Shanghai EXPO'2010 on ‘Urbanisation and Climate Change’.

He has been invited to give strategic development advice to the city councils of Sydney, Brisbane, Newcastle, Adelaide, Berlin, Helsinki, Oslo, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, and Shanghai; and the governments of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia; and prime bodies such as UNESCO, UN ESCAP, Asian Development Bank, and Inter-American Development Bank.

Steffen is currently a member of the UN ESCAP expert group preparing Habitat III, the 2016 world congress on urbanisation.


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Employment History

Significant roles held

In the last thirteen years, Professor Steffen Lehmann served in different professorial roles, building teaching quality and driving research activities:


International teaching engagements

Steffen has held a number of prestigious visiting appointments in academic institutions worldwide. He has taught studios in architecture and urban programs since 1991, in 8 countries (Germany, UK, USA, Austria, China, Singapore, PNG and Australia). In 2009, Steffen was awarded the prestigious DAAD-Visiting Professorship at the Technical University of Munich, a leading faculty of architecture in Germany.

Visiting Professor positions 

Steffen has held nine prestigious visiting professorial positions at leading universities, including:

Arts Academy Berlin-Weissensee (1997-98), Tongji University, Shanghai (2003), Technical University Berlin (2005), UniTech in PNG (2006), National University of Singapore (2009), Technical University Munich (2009), University of California at Berkeley (2012) and the University of Duisburg-Essen (2013-14). In 2014, he was a Visiting Professor to Tianjin University in the P.R. of China.

Steffen has been invited as Visiting Design Critic to design studios in schools of architecture at around 50 universities worldwide, ranging from the AA School in London, to Harvard, Oxford University, UC Berkeley, Florida International, Tsinghua, CEPT India, NUS Singapore, FAU São Paulo, TU Vienna, KTH Stockholm and other leading universities. He has been developing new approaches to design education through high-quality national and international collaborations and industry partnerships.

Significant built works

The varied work of his practice, the s_Lab (formed in 1993 in Berlin as international architecture practice and design research collaborative), has been published widely and exhibited internationally.

With his own practice, Steffen was actively involved in the architectural creation of the `New Berlin' in the 1990s (with projects such as Potsdamer Platz). He founded the research-driven practice s_Lab Space Laboratory for Architectural Research and Design in 1993, in pursuit of a more ethically correct practice. He was also the founder and principal of s_Lab’s commercial arm, Steffen Lehmann Architekten Berlin GmbH, which he sold in 2003.

Steffen retains close links with industry and has a wide range of industry experience, which he gained working as lead architect on prestigious large urban developments, such as the Potsdamer Platz and Hackescher Markt developments in central Berlin. With s_Lab, Steffen won international design competitions for major urban projects in Berlin and Dresden.

With s_Lab (1993-2003), Steffen has successfully designed and built over 25 projects as lead designer – some projects with a construction budget of over $300 million. As a founding principal of s_Lab, his award-winning projects and clients included:  the green headquarters of the Volksbank Berlin at Potsdamer Platz; the Volksbank Dresden, Albertplatz; the headquarters Bundeszentrale Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund (DGB), Berlin; the headquarters of the Bundesverband Deutscher Banken (BdB); buildings for the Bayerische Versorgungskammer (BVK); housing in Eichenallee, Berlin; the extension of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Auswaertiges Amt) for the German Federal Government, at Oberwasserstrasse in Berlin; adaptive re-use of heritage buildings in Berlin-Mitte; a factory building in Hatha, Saxony; houses in Frankfurt; and, in partnership with Christian de Portzamparc, the French Embassy at Pariser Platz, Berlin (for the République Française).

Steffen has a particular interest in public waterfront and urban renewal developments.

Exhibition of creative works 

Steffen's professional work has been exhibited at prime venues, for instance at: Venice Architecture Biennale (2008). São Paulo Architecture Biennale (1997). Bauhaus Dessau (1997). Aedes Gallery, Berlin (1995). Deutsches Architektur-Museum, Frankfurt (1994).

Early influences

Steffen has been deeply influenced by his time spent during the 1980s at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, where he studied with some of the most recognised names in architecture, funded through a DAAD-scholarship. Between 1989 and 1993, he was fortunate to work/teach closely with the three giants of postmodernism: James Stirling (London), Arata Isozaki (Tokyo) and Hans Hollein (Vienna).

In his extensive travels through Asia and South America he became very interested in Japanese and Brazilian Modernism. An essential part of his life was formed by his international teaching activities in London, Berlin and Tokyo.

After his return to Berlin he started his own architectural practice in 1993, which he successfully ran for over ten years: Steffen Lehmann Architekten GmbH, 1993-2003. See:


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Teaching experience and PhD supervision

Steffen is an influential educator.

He is particularly interested in the dynamic relationship that can exist between Teaching - Research - Practice.

Steffen has taught in architecture and urban design programs since 1991, developed new curricula and co-ordinated large design studios at leading universities. He taught studios together with Hans Hollein, Arata Isozaki, Richard Horden and other well-known architects; he taught at leading universities in numerous countries (Germany, UK, Austria, China, Singapore, USA and Australia).

In 2008, he received the President's Award for Teaching Excellence of the University of Newcastle; the award is the university’s highest category of recognition and acknowledges Steffen's sustained, strategic and effective leadership in the field of teaching sustainable design studios and significant contribution to PhD supervision.

He has led major curriculum initiatives and introduced new approaches to teaching and learning at discipline level; for instance, he has been one of the pioneers to introduce a methodological sustainability approach in design studios. At Newcastle University, one of his goals was to ensure that studios are engaged with real world urban renewal projects. The Newcastle urban renewal masterplan developed during this time is now being realised.

HDR supervision: since 2003, Steffen has been accredited as a registered PhD Supervisor for Principal Supervision and has successfully supervised or co-supervised PhD and Masters students at three universities. He has chaired PhD panels and has been an external examiner of PhD theses completed at other leading Australian universities (for instance, for the University of Sydney, Monash, University of Western Australia, Bond University). His former PhD students now work in research institutes and in leading positions in companies and organisations worldwide.

Steffen is happy to talk to potential students interested in undertaking research degrees in his broad areas of expertise.

Potential research projects for PhD students:


Advising other Universities

From time to time, Steffen is invited to review faculties or schools at other universities or advice on appointments. For instance, in 2010 by the VC of Deakin University he has been appointed as a member of the External Review Panel for the Faculty of Science and Technology; and in 2011 as an examiner of the School of Architecture and Building, Deakin University, Geelong. In 2011, he was an Overseas External Examiner for the architecture program at Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore. He has acted as external assessor for promotion and tenure processes for other universities, such as: TU-Delft, Florida International University, National University of Singapore, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, University Sains Malaysia.

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Research Interests

Research areas and expert advice

Steffen has a multidisciplinary background and varied but highly focused research interest in sustainable systems, infrastructure and urbanisation, where he has an internationally prominent research profile.

Steffen focuses on the unfinished project of the city.

He is the Editor of the book series on Sustainable Design for Routledge, London.

Steffen is the Editor-in-Chief for the Sustainable Planning & Technologies section of the Journal of Urban Planning. There will soon be a Call for Papers for Issue 3 (Sept. 2016), theme: ‘Sustainable Cities’. More info here:

As Guest Editor, Steffen has recently published the special issue on 'Sustainable Urban Development', the Journal of Sustainability, No 7(8), 2015. More info here:


Steffen is an internationally recognised scholar who undertakes cross-disciplinary research in urbanism, green architecture, material culture, public space and urban cultures/engineering. He is a thought leader in the field of sustainable buildings, urban development principles and our complex relationship with nature and place. His research projects are architecture/urban planning/construction/design based, concerned with the integration of low-carbon technologies in the social and behavioural context. His research group develops solutions for resilient built environments and a better understanding of urban microclimates and complex urban systems; rethinking urban models and infrastructure; identity and place.

Steffen has held senior positions and key roles at various universities over the last thirteen years and has worked extensively in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. He has given strategic advice to several high-level international expert panels, advising on sustainable development and cities’ development; including work for UN ESCAP, UN-Habitat, UNESCO, IDB, ADB and other prime bodies.  He only joins advisory boards or consults for organisations and corporations that actively embrace principles of sustainable and fair business.

Research leadership

Steffen provides strategic leadership in relevant research, drives innovative research activities and encourages industry engagement.

In his previous leadership roles as Research Professor, Head of School and Director of flagship research centres, Steffen has demonstrated a good understanding of the global research environment, building new industry and government partnerships and increasing research income. He has been identifying and developing strategic research opportunities, reaching out to the Asia-Pacific region and synergising research across disciplinary areas.


Publications and public presentations

Steffen has published extensively, with 16 authored, edited and co-edited books, and numerous book chapters, journal articles and conference research papers.

He has spoken internationally for over 25 years, in 37 countries, and has presented his research and creative work publicly at more than 450+ conferences and symposia. He is regularly invited to present, chair, convene and moderate at conferences, symposia and workshops. Since 1995, he has delivered over 100+ invited keynote presentations at important public events and conferences and has spoken at over 50+ universities. He has given lectures to a wide range of audiences and has presented at some of the world's top universities, including Harvard University, University of Oxford, University of California at Berkeley, University of California at San Diego, the Architectural Association School London, TU Munich, National University of Singapore, KTH Stockholm, TU Vienna, TU Delft, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, Tsinghua University and the University of Melbourne. In 2012 he presented at TEDx Adelaide his designs for sustainable cities.

Steffen has given public presentations in the following 37 countries: Austria, Australia, Brazil, Canada, P.R. of China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong SAR, India, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Korea, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand, The Philippines, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, the USA, and Vietnam.

Steffen has a long track record of peer-reviewed and non-refereed research publications, which have appeared in high-ranking national and international journals, such as:

Journal of Sustainability; Journal of Sustainable Development; International Journal of Logistics Systems and Management; Greenbuilding; Singapore Architect; Domus; Bauwelt; Challenges; Habitat International; Next American City; Stadt:Pilot; Journal of Green Building; Journal of City, Culture & Society; Journal of Cleaner Production; Journal of Sustainable Cities & Society; International Journal of Development and Sustainability; Journal of Urban and Environmental Engineering; The Fifth Estate, Science for Environment Policy; Supply Chain Management: An International Journal; International Journal of Logistics Systems and Management; Landscape Architecture Frontiers; International Journal of Waste Resources; Cleantech; City Economics Wirtschaft Stadtentwicklung; The Conversation; The Adelaide Review; ArchitectureAU; Eco-Business; InDesign; Timber+Design International; Sustainable Development, Law & Policy; Keio SFC Journal; Waste Management & Research.

Some of his articles have become the most downloaded or most cited article of the journal.

While Steffen has an international interdisciplinary research reputation, his roots are in architecture and urbanism. Since the mid-1990s, he is acknowledged as a highly cited pioneer of sustainable urbanism; his book 'The Principles of Green Urbanism' (London, 2010; 3rd edition and Chinese edition) is considered as a seminal work in the field of sustainable cities and urban development. It investigates the fundamental drivers of urban form today and proposes a new model of urban development based on a holistic framework and systems thinking for green urban development.

Research collaborations

Steffen has a strong background in research commercialisation.  He has been principal investigator and lead researcher of large and complex projects, co-ordinating overseas and local collaborators; building research teams and managing internal and external relationships. He is committed to interdisciplinary research and has made significant contributions to scholarship in the area of sustainable architectural and urban design, with a record of successfully winning external grants to build and support research teams.

For instance, in 2011-12, Steffen played an important role in the winning bid for the Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) for Low Carbon Living, subsequently funded with $28 million by the Australian Government and located at UNSW. The CRC for Low Carbon Living has developed into a $100 million research initiative with 60 partners. For this CRC he has been leading the $1.5 million research program 'Urban Microclimates: comparative study of Urban Heat Islands in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide'. In 2013-14, Steffen played a pivotal role in the development of a proposal for the $60 million bid for the multidisciplinary CRC for Active and Engaged Ageing.

Professor Lehmann has been recipient of a series of research grants, funded by: the Australian Research Council (ARC); Arts NSW; various grants from the cities of Berlin, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Unley and Newcastle; grants from the governments of New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia; the CRC for Low Carbon Living; the Forest and Wood Products Association (FWPA); Zero Waste SA; Renewal SA; Newcastle Alliance; Newcastle Port Corporation; Brisbane Southbank Corporation; Nursery & Garden Industry Australia; the German DAAD; Suters; GHD; BlueScope Steel; Hassell; Siemens; the Research Grants Council in Hong Kong; the Australia-China Council and the Australia-China Science and Research Fund.

In 2010-11 he initiated and delivered the ‘Hub-to-Hub’ project, commissioned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) for activation of the Bras Basah-Bugis arts district, Singapore.

Recent research interests include: ‘Systems thinking: design for re-use', 'Age-friendly cities’, 'Behaviour change strategies to reduce consumption', 'Prefab engineered timber systems for low carbon construction', 'ETWW Low carbon precinct demand forecasting tool' and 'An architecture of urban infrastructure'.

Assessing international grant applications

Steffen was an external assessor of the Australian Research Council’s 2012 Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) exercise. He is sought after for his expertise in assessing international research proposals and grant applications submitted to major funding bodies. He has been an external assessor of applications for national science foundations and funding bodies in: Switzerland, Japan, Canada, Israel, the US, Hong Kong and Australia.


Why studying in the School of Built Environment at Curtin University?

Curtin University's School of Built Environment has more than 2,200 students in Perth, as well as students studying in Malaysia and Hong Kong. The School's international student population is drawn from over 30 countries and this cultural diversity adds a valuable dimension to our courses and intellectual community. Curtin University is positioned as one of the top 300 global institutions (top 2% globally) in the 2014-15 Times Higher Education World University Rankings.


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