Friday, 3 November, 13.00 – 17.00, Keynes Library, School of Arts, Birkbeck, 43 Gordon Square

Organised by the Architecture Space and Society Centre and supported by the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.

Please book your (free) place here.

This symposium is concerned with exploring whether there are radical historical and interpretative possibilities in approaches that place energy at the centre of our understanding of architecture and the built environment.

Approaches to the relation between energy and architecture have traditionally included the themes of resource expenditure in the making of architecture, architecture serving energy production, energy spent in maintaining architecture and the life within it, and waste and its implications for architecture. They have tended to be highly specialist in their technical aspects or localised in their historical scope. But the subject is of rising interest to academics interested in the built environment, and not only because of global warming and the currency of discourses on sustainability. Several recent books and conferences in architectural history and theory have developed discussion of related topics such as architecture and climate, tropical architecture, obsolescence, solar energy and the Cold War, the architecture of coal, architecture and carbon, and so on. In the main, however, these have also been narrow in historical scope and singular in their disciplinary orientation.

‘Architecture of Energy’ aims to open out the possibilities of the subject by looking at broader historical frameworks as well as interdisciplinary approaches. It draws on specialists working on a number of different historical periods and who are based in archaeology, art history, sociology and media studies as well as architectural history.

This symposium is organised by Prof Mark Crinson.


13.00: Alex Bremner (Architecture, University of Edinburgh) – Material Differences: Architecture and Energy Production in the Victorian Age

13.35: Barnabas Calder (Architecture, Liverpool University) – Modernism and energy: the twentieth century

14.10: Oliver Harris (Archaeology, University of Leicester) – Days of future past: energy, architecture and deep time

14.45: Tea and Coffee Break

15.00: Joel McKim (Film, Media and Cultural Studies, Birkbeck) – Data Centres and the Energy of Investigation

15.35: Jennnifer Gabrys (Sociology, Goldsmiths) – A Cosmopolitics of Energy

16.10: Roundtable discussion

17.00: Close

A related event will held in May 2018 on ‘Going Underground: Design, Reputation, and Disorder in the Subterranean Infrastructure of the Global City’. Further details will be published in due course.