Eiermann Postdoctoral Fellowship
Air-Conditioning the Desert: The French Attempt to Urbanize the Algerian Sahara at War, 1954-1962

Eiermann Postdoctoral Fellowship
Dr. Paul Bouet

The Egon Eiermann Fellowship

The fellowship is awarded for one academic year to postdoctoral researchers in the history and theory of architecture who focus on modern architecture in Europe and related topics. The fellowship is generously supported by the Peter und Waltraud Betsche Fonds in memory of the German architect Egon Eiermann.

First Egon Eiermann Postdoctoral Fellow: Dr. Paul Bouet

The gta Institute is proud to announce the architectural and environmental historian Paul Bouet as its first Egon Eiermann Postdoctoral Fellow. Bouet will be working on a research project entitled “Air-​Conditioning the Desert: The French Attempt to Urbanize the Algerian Sahara at War, 1954–1962” during the 2022/23 academic year.

Dr. Paul Bouet is an architectural and environmental historian. He holds master’s degrees in architecture from ENSA Paris-​Belleville (2012) and in the history of science and technology from EHESS (2017), and a PhD in architecture from Université Gustave Eiffel (2022). His work investigates the cross histories of architecture and the environment in the twentieth century, with particular emphasis on research about adaptation to climate, experiments with alternative energies, the emergence of environmentalist theories, the aesthetics of energy devices, and colonial and postcolonial circulations of technologies and knowledge. He lectures at ENSA Paris-​Est and Haute école d’ingénierie et d’architecture Fribourg.

Air-​Conditioning the Desert: The French Attempt to Urbanize the Algerian Sahara at War, 1954–1962
In the mid-​1950s, massive reserves of fossil fuels were discovered in the Sahara, coinciding with the beginning of the Algerian war of independence. This led the French colonizer to try to control and extract these strategic resources by creating industrial settlements in the desert. Architects, engineers, urban planners, scientists, medical doctors, military staff, policy makers and industrialists participated in this endeavour. Among the many challenges faced by the colonizer, the most crucial one was the extremely hot and arid desert climate, which the French attempted to adapt to by developing strategies to air-​conditioning buildings and cities. Bouet’s project investigates both the history and the legacy of this attempt, which left traces in the African desert, in practices of European architecture and thermal engineering, and in the planet’s atmosphere.