How to Write Environmental Histories of Architecture

Friday 10 March 2017
9.00 - 5.00pm

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CCANESA Boardroom | Madsen Building Eastern Ave | University of Sydney


This workshop will explore the writing of histories that connect architecture and design with the emergence of global environmental culture across the 20th century.

In association with the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning

Facilitated by: Daniel A. Barber & Lee Stickells

This workshop will accompany Daniel Barber’s public lecture at the University of Sydney on Thursday March 9th – ” Environmental Histories of Architecture – Case Studies and Consequences”. It will explore the writing of histories that connect architecture and design with the emergence of global environmental culture across the 20th century. There has been an increasing interest amongst architectural historians in addressing environmental concerns on both historical and theoretical terms; simultaneously, other fields have been looking to architectural scholarship to understand the historical relationship between the built and the natural environment. This has also involved correlating the shifting discourse on environment with a history of architectural transformations and disciplinary expansions. Most significantly, the environmental history of architecture does not simply add more objects to the historical database, but also changes the terms of historical analysis, as issues such as risk and accumulation come to the fore.

The burgeoning concern with this area of inquiry has prompted discussion amongst scholars keen to establish a common research and pedagogical agenda. Workshop co-chair Daniel Barber recently led a research group on architecture and climate for the Mellon Foundation funded Global Architectural History Teaching Collaborative, and is part of the Architecture and Environment Interest Group of the European Architectural History Network (EAHN). Workshops held by the EAHN Architecture and Environment group have sought to develop and share methodological insights, pedagogical materials, and to instigate mutually beneficial understanding across fields of inquiry relevant to developing environmental histories of architecture. The Canadian Centre for Architecture has also recently initiated a Mellon Foundation funded project titled “Architecture and/for Environment” that seeks to address compelling environmental concerns emerging from contemporary debates.

The aim of this workshop is to build on the foundations emerging from activity such as that described above. It will bring together a small group of scholars with an interest in historicising architecture-environment convergences. The workshop will be used to host a dialogue, share knowledge, and develop tools that may assist participants in further research projects. We will explore emerging research questions and methodological issues, as well as consider how collaborative projects such as formal session proposals, publications, funding applications, or symposia might be developed. The outcomes will be shared with colleagues


The workshop will run 9am – 5pm, with a morning session (9am-11pm) and afternoon session (2pm-5pm).

The morning session will focus on activating discussion and building shared dialogue and reference points. The session will consist of short presentations (5 minutes) and thorough discussions, based on pre-circulated abstracts. The abstracts should be short (no more than 500 words), and provide a question or provocation for collective consideration at the workshop. The abstracts are to be submitted to the organizers two weeks prior to the workshop for circulation to all participants.

We look to foster productive exchange rather than simply the presentation of research outcomes. With this in mind, participants will be expected to read all circulated abstracts. Within the workshop, each abstract will be extended by its author through the 5 minute presentation. Each presentation will be followed by a whole group discussion. The programme will allocates 20 – 30 minutes for each paper, depending on the number of selected workshop participants.

The afternoon session’s activities will centre on reflection and analysis of the morning session’s content with the aim of developing shared projects and knowledge.

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.

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.