Imperial College London

Emeritus ProfessorJohnBurland

Faculty of EngineeringDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Senior Research Investigator



+44 (0)20 7594 6079j.burland




502Skempton BuildingSouth Kensington Campus





Professor John Burland, CBE, DSc(Eng), FREng, FRS, NAE, FIC, FCGI was educated in South Africa and studied Civil Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand. He returned to England in 1961 and worked with Ove Arup and Partners for a few years in London.

After studying for his PhD at Cambridge University, Professor Burland joined the Building Research Station in 1966, became Head of the Geotechnics Division in 1972 and Assistant Director in 1979. In 1980 he was appointed to the Chair of Soil Mechanics at the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine. He is now Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Investigator at Imperial College.

In addition to being very active in teaching (which he loves) and research, John Burland has been responsible for the design of many large ground engineering projects such as the underground car park at the Palace of Westminster and the foundations of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. He specialises in problems relating to the interaction between the ground and masonry buildings. He was London Underground's expert witness for the Parliamentary Select Committees on the Jubilee Line Extension and has advised on many geotechnical aspects of that project, including ensuring the stability of the Big Ben Clock Tower. He was a member of the international board of consultants advising on the stabilisation of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City and was a member of the Italian Prime Minister's Commission for stabilising the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

He has received many awards and medals including the Kelvin Gold Medal for Outstanding contributions to Engineering, the Harry Seed Memorial Medal of the American Society of Civil Engineers for distinguished contributions as an engineer, scientist and teacher in soil mechanics and the Gold Medals of the Institution of Structural Engineers, the Institution of Civil Engineers and the World Federation of Engineering Organisations. He has been awarded six Honorary Doctorates and he is a Fellow of  the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society and is a Foreign Member of the US National Academy of Engineering.  In 2002 he was President of the Engineering Section of the British Association and he was Vice President (Engineering) of the Institution of Civil Engineers, London from 2002 to 2005.  In 2005 he was appointed CBE for services to Geotechnical Engineering.

Prof. Burland retired from full-time teaching in 2004 however he continues to teach on the MSc course and assists in current research in soil mechanics and geotechnical engineering in his position as Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Investigator at Imperial.

Areas of Expertise:

Soil-structure interaction; influence of foundation movements on building performance; deep excavations and tunnels; piled foundations; foundations on difficult ground including shrinking and swelling clays; the mechanical behaviour of unsaturated soils; the strength and stiffness of clays.




Wan MSP, Standing JR, Potts DM, et al., 2019, Pore water pressure and total horizontal stress response to EPBM tunnelling in London Clay, Géotechnique, Vol:69, ISSN:0016-8505, Pages:434-457

Lo DOK, Cunningham J, Burland JB, 2018, Investigation of distress of a reinforced earth wall in Hong Kong, Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers-forensic Engineering, Vol:171, ISSN:2043-9903, Pages:127-136

Wan MSP, Standing JR, Potts DM, et al., 2017, Measured short-term subsurface ground displacements from EPBM tunnelling in London Clay, Geotechnique, Vol:67, ISSN:1751-7656, Pages:748-779

Wan MSP, Standing JR, Potts DM, et al., 2016, Measured short-term ground surface response to EPBM tunnelling in London Clay, Géotechnique, Vol:67, ISSN:0016-8505, Pages:420-445

Yu J, Standing J, Vollum R, et al., 2016, Experimental investigations of bolted segmental grey cast iron lining behaviour, Tunnelling and Underground Space Technology, Vol:61, ISSN:0886-7798, Pages:161-178

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