CfP - SAHGB Annual Symposium 2021: Architectural Histories and Climate Emergency

June 11 2021 - June 18 2021

The architectural world is urgently focused on fighting the Climate Emergency, but most architectural history remains uncomfortably detached from this central challenge of our age. 


Architecture and the wider built environment intersect in many ways with the drivers of catastrophic climate change. One of these is large-scale energy consumption. Others include deforestation, eco-system destruction, and wide-spread pollution connected to primary material procurement, such as timber, sand, and mining for metallic components, leading to ever-greater embodied energy inputs. By investigating the relationship between buildings and energy, in conjunction with these other factors, architectural history can reclaim its long-standing place as a central contributor to architectural debate and practice. Much more importantly, considering the history of architecture in this context can make a significant contribution to understanding and addressing the fossil fuel dependency and biodiversity crisis that threatens the continuation of life on Earth. Recent energy history scholarship by Wrigley; Kander, Malanima and Warde; and Smil, among others, has produced a powerful new lens through which to understand the history of humanity, and of one of history’s most energy-hungry and environmentally damaging activities: construction. 

Our provocation is that energy inputs are the single most influential factor in shaping the physical realities of architecture, and that the art and theory of architecture through time have also transformed with the changing tides of energy shifts. We also contend that other environmentally degrading processes associated with building practices the world over have an historical trajectory that ought to figure in our understanding of architecture not only as a material object but also in terms of its impact on the planet. Indeed, that architectural history must now lift its game in addressing these concerns, calibrating its historiography and reforming its educational agendas, would seem evident. We welcome papers that support, complicate, or challenge this position. 


We welcome submissions from academics, practitioners and professionals of all disciplines and backgrounds for participation: 


Papers for Presentation

15-minute papers, tackling substantial historical perspectives or theoretical themes 

Roundtable Sessions

Discussions involving a number of participants focusing on a particular question/problem relating to the symposium theme. 

Virtual tours which explore these themes for a specific building 

Short features/papers for circulation/poster presentations for a microsite accompanying the programme 

Other suggestions for ancillary programming around the Symposium (including CPD, A/V content, film etc) are welcome 

Proposals considering any place and time through human history and prehistory are welcomed, especially those addressing non-western and pre-modern case studies. Thoughts are also welcome on how architectural history in educational settings can better address these concerns, raising awareness and leading to systematic reform of curricula. 

To submit please visit: 

Proposals will be selected by: Barnabas Calder (University of Liverpool), G. A. Bremner (University of Edinburgh), Neal Shasore (University of Oxford), and Savia Palate (University of Cambridge). Successful participants will be notified by 2 April 2021. The Symposium is currently planned for 11 and 18 June, via Zoom. Please email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) if you have any questions or problems with the submission form.