Thermal Practices: A Projective History of Architecture and Climate


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December 12, 2023
6:00 PM

Brought to you by the ArCH Exhibitions and Programs

Thermal Practices: A Projective History of Architecture and Climate
with Daniel A. Barber
December 12, 6pm

As the impacts of the climate crisis are increasingly felt, the role for architecture, and architects, is changing. No longer concerned exclusively with the formal elaboration of the built environment, architects are increasingly focused on sufficiency measures and other means of managing the demand for energy in buildings. Essential to this changing role is the thermal experience of the built interior and its relative comfort.

Thermal Practice will explore this social role in two parts: first, with a historical account of architectures that have been concerned with the thermal interior as a space for social transformation; and second, with reflections on the consequences, for the design of interior space, of the emphasis on sufficiency and retrofit in the recent IPCC Mitigation Report.  

Across both of these discussions is a concern for thermal comfort, its role in carbon emissions, and aspects of conditioning, social practices, and social change that underlie it. Recent experiments push building users to reassess their comfort expectations, and will be discussed according to the challenges and potential they suggest. The presentation will conclude with considerations of how design interventions can emphasize a shift in comfort expectations, especially in overindustrialized economies, as a pathway towards reparations for loss and damage in the built environment and more generally.

AIA Credit 1.5 HSW

Daniel A. Barber is Professor of Architecture and Head of School at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). Daniel’s research and teaching focus on how the practice and pedagogy of architecture are changing to address the climate emergency. His most recent book is Modern Architecture and Climate: Design before Air Conditioning (Princeton, 2020), following on A House in the Sun: Modern Architecture and Solar Energy in the Cold War (Oxford, 2016). He is co-editor of the series “After Comfort: A User’s Guide” on e-flux architecture. His research on Thermal Practices is supported by the Centre for Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Studies (CAPAS) at the Universität Heidelberg, the British Academy, and the Guggenheim Foundation.

This talk is in conjuction with the current exhibition Beautiful City—Empty City, which showcases the architectural photography by Leonid Furmansky shot in downtown Houston during the pandemic. Selected from a portfolio titled Oil Towers, these images depict the city we know so well as a mostly empty and evocative canvas for exploration. On view through January 19, 2023.