Environmental Histories of Architecture – Case Studies and Consequences

Thursday 9 March 2017
6.00 – 7.30pm

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ALT1, Wilkinson Building , City Road, University of Sydney


In association with the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning

How does the specter of catastrophic climate change inflect the methods and narratives of architectural history? In the first instance, a number of case studies, heretofore largely unknown, emerge as newly significant. This lecture will discuss two, outlining how solar house heating methods and techniques of climatic design were essentials aspects of the global architectural discussion in the period surrounding World War II. These techno-cultural developments not only produced novel designs, they also offered placed architecture as a mediator, facilitating novel conceptions of the relationship between social and biotic systems. Architectural ideas had important ramifications for technological applications of the environmental sciences, and for the global ambitions of environmental governance.

In the second instance, the insertion of these narratives into the history of architectural modernism disrupt familiar patterns of knowledge. An environmental history of architecture begins to emerge, in which the field serves as a cipher for the changing cultural approaches to the environment across the long 20th century. As such, these and related case studies offer new frameworks for understanding the relationship between technology, culture, and environment – frameworks that help scholars, architects, and others to make sense of the epochal shifts we are facing.

Chair: Lee Stickells, University of Sydney
Speaker: Daniel A. Barber, University of Pennsylvania

Daniel A. Barber is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. He is an architectural historian researching the relationship between the design fields and the emergence of global environmental culture over the 20th century. His first book A House in the Sun: Modern Architecture and Solar Energy in the Cold War has just been published by Oxford University Press. A second book Climatic Effects: Architecture, Media, and the Great Acceleration, will be published by Princeton University Press in 2018. He has published in Grey Room, Technology and Culture, The Avery Review, and Public Culture. He lectures internationally, including a recent keynote for Que Fait l’Énergie à l’Architecture? at ENSA- Paris-Belleville.

Daniel is involved in a number of collaborative research projects around the globe. He is on the Advisory Board of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. He has held fellowships at the Harvard University Center for the Environment, the Princeton Environmental Institute, the Courtauld Institute, and currently, through the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, at the Rachel Carson Center for Environmental and Society.

(Chair) Lee Stickells is Associate Professor in Architecture at the University of Sydney. His research is characterised by an interest in the potential for architecture to shape other ways of living, particularly its projection as a means to reconsider the terms of social life – of how we live together. It is focused on developing histories that connect experimental architectural and design strategies with environmental, political, technological and social transformations. Lee co-edited The Right to the City (2011) and has contributed to anthologies including The Handbook of Interior Architecture and Design (2013), Beyond Utopia (2012), Trash Culture (2010), and Heterotopia and the City (2009). His essays have appeared in journals such as ARQ: Architectural Research Quarterly and Fabrications. Lee is currently an editorial committee member of the journal Architectural Theory Review and a SAHANZ Editorial Board member.