Embodied Energy Through Time: Architecture and its Histories of Resource Consumption

Panel Session: EAHN biannual conference, Madrid (2022)

Madrid, Spain

June 15 2022

CfP for panel session for EAHN Madrid 2022

Panel chairs: Barnabas Calder (University of Liverpool) and G. A. Bremner (University of Edinburgh)

The global Climate Emergency is the most urgent and vital challenge of our time. Yet architectural history has only taken tentative steps in reassessing its responsibility towards this challenge. This panel invites applicants to consider how the history of buildings/architecture can be better understood as a process of networked material assemblage in which energy inputs are considered a (if not the) key transformative factor. We particularly encourage historic case studies that seek to bridge the gap between assumed and known energy inputs, bringing new data sets to bear as evidence of architecture as an energetic process. Proposals from all periods and places will be considered, and we especially welcome topics which offer new insight and data relating to architecture of the agrarian millennia and industrial periods before 1900.

Call

The global Climate Emergency is the most urgent and vital challenge of our time. Yet architectural history has only taken tentative steps in reassessing its responsibility towards this challenge. Relatively little has been done to change fundamentally how we view the historic built environment as an energy intensive, resource-based industry in the context of design, patronage, theory, or any other register via which architecture might be interpreted. Therefore, opportunities are being missed to recalibrate our awareness of the problem through education and scholarship.

This panel invites applicants to consider how the history of buildings/architecture can be better understood as a process of networked material assemblage in which energy inputs are considered a (if not the) key transformative factor. This necessarily touches on the basic ontology of architecture, but can be seen as part of a much wider, known, and understood planning procedure that actors in the design-build process engaged with at every step of the way, from specification, procurement, and processing to transportation, erection, and use. It also includes other supply and service industries that provided sources of energy. Combined, these practices and procedures afford a ready index to the levels of embodied energy that the realisation of ‘architecture’ entails, thus highlighting both its immediate and cumulative impact on the environment.

How, for instance, can we begin to view buildings as enmeshed in local, regional, and global ecologies of extraction and consumption, leading to an awareness not only of architecture’s ‘carbon footprint’, but also what Jane Hutton has called its ‘reciprocal landscapes’ (i.e., the physical transformation and scarring of the earth through extractive industries associated with building, near and far)? In agrarian societies, how does a proper understanding of energy inputs and their resource implications shed new light on energy-hungry materials like glass, metals and fired ceramics? How do changes in the relative prices of labour and heat alter the priorities and preferences of designers and clients? How did the reuse of materials change with the advent of cheap intense heat energy with fossil fuels?

We particularly encourage historic case studies that seek to bridge the gap between assumed and known energy inputs, bringing new data sets to bear as evidence of architecture as an energetic process. Proposals from all periods and places will be considered, and we especially welcome topics which offer new insight and data relating to architecture of the agrarian millennia and industrial periods before 1900.

Deadline for abstract submissions: 6 September 2021. Please visit: https://eahn2022conference.aq.upm.es/