Daniel Barber - ‘Architecture of the Aftermath’

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Looking at buildings and drawings from about 1930 to the present, from the Americas, West Africa, and around the world

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Looking at buildings and drawings from about 1930 to the present, from the Americas, West Africa, and around the world, I will outline a history of architecture as a device for climatic adaptability - a dynamic mediator between thermal interiors and global climates. Architecture as an energetic system that, over time, has both monitored and managed flow. Brazil in the 1930s and 40s in particular - just before air conditioning took command - will give possibilities and cautions of climatic modernisms, see these dynamic strategies in relationship to developmentalism and resource extraction. 

How can we understand these buildings in contrast to the all-glass sealed and conditioned office towers that are being built in cities today? The goal of 'carbon-neutral by 2050' suggests that we need to base architecture, on a different carbon cycle: eliminating hydrocarbon fuels and their emissions, as well as cycling, storing, and pooling carbon in new ways through buildings. The focus of the presentation will be on the buildings themselves - a history of climatic adaptability - and also on the interactions they solicit: a climatic adaptive building that scripts habits and patterns less reliant on carbon emissions.

Mapping the changing connection between carbon emissions, indoor comfort, and climate instability, I am also interested in establishing a break, a hinge, a historical recognition that the architecture of petroleum, of energy profligacy, is behind us. Architecturally, we live in the aftermath. As we change our practices and forms of knowledge, we draw on history, practices, and traditions in different ways. I hope to follow the presentation with a collective discussion considering architectural histories and the tools, systems and collective future of climate change mitigation. 


Daniel A. Barber is Associate Professor and Chair of the PhD Program in Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. His research and teaching narrate eco-critical histories of architecture and seek pathways into the post-hydrocarbon future. His most recent book is Modern Architecture and Climate: Design before Air Conditioning (Princeton UP, 2020) following on A House in the Sun (Oxford UP, 2016); A recent article “After Comfort” has encouraged reflection on architecture’s role in the climate crisis. Daniel edits the accumulation series on e-flux architecture and is co-founder of Current: Collective on Environment and Architectural History. His presentation will draw on his sabbatical role as a Senior Research Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Centre for Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Studies at Universität Heidelberg. 

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Organiser ESALA Public Lecture Series 2021-22 - Frictions

Organiser of Daniel Barber - ‘Architecture of the Aftermath’

Frictions, the ESALA Public Lecture Series 2021–22, situates architecture, landscape architecture, and related fields at the intersection of environmental, political, and social crises. Focusing on the two interconnected themes of Community and Climate Crisis, the series responds to the climate emergency, interconnecting environmental pollution to the issues of colonisation, segregation, racism, forced migration, and to systems of injustice.

Frictions highlights ESALA’s ethos of critical engagement with the social and ecological urgencies of our time.

This programme of events contributes to ongoing debates in research, practice and pedagogy by celebrating a diversity of voices and a multiplicity of approaches.

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