Architecture’s Acclimatization: Historicizing the Climate Questions

Organizer: Eiermann Postdoctoral Fellow, Paul Bouet
Date: Friday, 29 September 2023
Time: 14.00 to 18.00
Location: Campus Hönggerberg, building HIL, room E71.1

The climate emergency forces us to rethink our future, but it also questions our past. Before the widespread understanding of climate change, human societies have constantly adapted to different climates, and both architecture and urban design have played a key role in this process. Acclimatization is indeed a fundamental gesture of the design disciplines, which have constantly been forced to negotiate with winds, sun, water and soils to build human settlements. Long marginal in the history of architecture as it was researched and taught, the climate questions are now taking on increasing importance, and this workshop is a way of pushing them forward. Four young researchers will present their projects and explain how they envision the climate through them. Two guest respondents, specialists of the environmental history of architecture and urban design, will lead the discussion and draw conclusions.

The presenters will highlight case studies ranging from European architectural firms and construction companies operating in colonial and postcolonial Africa, to the comprehension of environmental catastrophe in the Swiss Alps and to adaptation to the Saharan desert. Based on these cases, we will also discuss broader methodological issues: the sources used to document climatic adaptation, the words and concepts of past periods, the transdisciplinarity needed to understand these challenges, the material translation of climatic apprehension, the role of political powers in controlling environments, and the scales at play between planetary phenomena and their local consequences. Finally, we will reflect on the continuities but also the differences between our past and the current challenges, as a way to better situate ourselves within the climate questions.

Paul Bouet, gta Institute, ETH Zürich
Tatiana Carbonell, gta Institute, ETH Zürich
Maryia Rusak, gta Institue, ETH Zürich
Johanna Sluiter, New York University

Guest respondents
Daniel A. Barber, University of Technology Sydney
Sascha Roesler, Accademia di architettura di Mendrisio

14:00 Opening address, Tom Avermaete
14:10 Introduction, Paul Bouet
14:20 Johanna Sluiter, “Bauxite, Bodies, Buildings: A Case Study of Climatic Comfort in Fria, Guinea”
15:05 Maryia Rusak, “Norwegian Architects in the Tropics”
15:50 Coffee Break
16:05 Paul Bouet, “From Air-Conditioning to Acclimatization: Thinking the French Adaptation to the Algerian Desert”
16:50 Tatiana Carbonell, “After the Flood: Approaching the History of Climate”
17:35 General discussion and conclusion by Daniel A. Barber and Sascha Roesler