Hydro-carbons, Air-conditioning & The Architecture of Petro-urbanism

Thursday 19 November, 2pm
Join event online via Microsoft Teams

Many international organizations and experts are projecting a “looming cold crunch” caused by rampant growth in air-conditioning usage worldwide, with far-reaching repercussions for energy demand, carbon emissions, and climate change.

Much of this growth is expected to take place in cities in the global south due to the convergence of certain climatic, economic, and demographic trends. Yet the most common policy responses hinge on some form of technological fix. This talk seeks to understand the problem of air-conditioning dependency differently – by historicizing how the built environment and societies of two Asian cities, Singapore and Doha, became reliant on mechanical cooling over the last half century.

Through the formation of “air-conditioning complexes,” the talk will trace how cooling technologies, the built environment, and socio-cultural practices become entangled.


Jiat-Hwee Chang is Associate Professor of Architecture at the National University of Singapore. He is the author of A Genealogy of Tropical Architecture (winner of the International Planning History Society’s book prize 2018), and co-editor of various books and special journal issues. He has just completed a book manuscript with Justin Zhuang and Darren Soh (photographer) tentatively titled ‘Everyday Modernism’. Supported by fellowships from the Clark Art Institute and the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Jiat-Hwee is currently working on a book on the socio-cultural histories and technopolitics of air-conditioning and architecture in urban Asia.


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