Interstitial EP043

Modern Architecture and Climate
by Daniel Barber

Managing adverse climatic conditions was a significant part of the project of architectural modernism before the proliferation of air conditioning. Daniel Barber traces the conceptualization of the normative thermal interior space—and highlights the rich history of alternative models.


Daniel A. Barber is an Associate Professor of Architecture and Chair of the PhD Program in Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. His books—Modern Architecture and Climate: Design before Air Conditioning and A House in the Sun: Modern Architecture and Solar Energy in the Cold War—examine historical relationships between architecture and global environmental culture, reframing the means and ends of architectural expertise to frame a more robust engagement with the climate crisis of the present. Barber edits the Accumulation series on the e-flux Architecture online platform, an annual dossier of essays that explore how media analyses provide access to processes of accumulation, material and symbolic, that are endemic to climate instabilities. He is cofounder of Current: a platform for the discussion of environmental histories of architecture, launching summer 2020.


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Modern Architecture and Climate: Design before Air Conditioning
Daniel A. Barber
Princeton University Press
June 2020


Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change and Urban Design In Abu Dhabi

Gökçe Günel

The book traces the development of Foster and Partners’ Masdar City, once touted as the eco-city of the future. Through interviews and observations, Günel deftly weaves as story of the always-on-the-horizon promise of renewable energy into the power dynamics of global university collaborations and the complications of Masdar’s sponsorship by the UAE. Her account of the mostly failed personal driverless rapid transit component is especially searing. The book is all about architecture, but tells a story thick with ethnographic details on the daily life in Masdar, as imagined and as (partially) realized.

Climates: Architecture and the Planetary Imaginary

James Graham, Caitlin Blanchfield, Alissa Anderson, Jordan Carver, Jacob Moore

A collection of research and projects from almost 50 contributors—architects, scholars, scientists. It both represents the dynamism of the still-emergent discussion of architecture and climate change, and maps out its limitations—architects, it seems, are still holding on to notions of creativity and expressive form, a sort of status quo ante that both climate instability and legacies of racial injustice are productively, if too slowly, dismantling.

Terror from the Air

Peter Sloterdijk

An excerpt from Foams, the last of the Spheres trilogy, it’s still an essential if unsettling text for understanding “climate” as a socially constructed, culturally inflected entity. Sloterdijk famously identifies the German’s use of gas warfare in 1915 as the start of three interwoven developments: the weaponization of air, the importance of design (of gas masks) and warfare through terror. Read across the violent and exploitative supply chains of oil and other energies, and the casual intensifications of carbon use they feed, Sloterdijk’s text helps frame, as he puts it, “air conditioning…as the main space-political theme” of the contested present.

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