Architecture and Energy: The Influence of Climate and Region

  • 25 Jan 2013
  • 1:00 PM - 7:00 PM
  • Lower Gallery, Meyerson Hall, 210 South 34th St. School of Design, University of Pennsylvania
To register, please go to and enter the following code in the comments box: CR2013



We are writing to announce a special event, Architecture and Energy: The Influence of Climate and Region, which will be held at PennDesign on January 25, 2013 (1:00 – 7:00 PM). The symposium will feature an international group of architects and scholars invited to discuss the influence of climate and region on energy and architecture. Please visit the event web site,, the full list of speakers and schedule. Registration for the event is $25 for professionals; faculty and students must register, but admission is free (contact your school or department to receive the code). Professional learning units are available.

Buildings are not sustainable, neither are cars or shoes or smartphones, they can only be more-or-less efficient in their consumption of resources and so moderate the environmental effects of human activities. The smallest meaningful unit of sustainability is probably the city-state, or the city and its surrounding region, though with contemporary trade and commerce the boundaries of regions have literally become global. Romantic proposals for solitary, sustainable buildings in the landscape are dream-images or, at best, experimental laboratories for the real work of reckoning with regional arrangements of production and consumption.


Since the beginning of the modern period the idea of the region has served as a counterweight to the abundant appeals of universal, technological civilization, which has brought dramatic increases in wealth, power, longevity, and freedom. Narratives about regions offer local identities based on climate, geography, and longstanding cultural traditions of settlement. In its simplest form, this can be understood as a longing for the conventions of agricultural civilization even as they are overwritten by the mobile, media-based themes of liberation and globalization. Le Corbusier thought that one task of a modern architecture was to reconcile that opposition, to resist the eclecticism of vernacular nostalgia by using “scientific means” to engage the specificities of climate and topography. In different ways, that has been the appeal of critical regionalism, bioregionalism, bioclimatic design, watershed politics, even Ecotopia, which offer methods by which social and aesthetic forms of identity can be explained.


The central role of energy in global, industrial civilization is well-established; fuels have largely replaced the laborers and slaves of agricultural civilization and wholly surpassed them in capacity. The portability and energy density of fossil fuels have engendered radically new forms of settlement and mobility over the last century, dramatically altering the connection of architecture to its climate and region. As the transition from fossil fuels begins, those connections will change again, not back to purely agricultural patterns, but to new kinds of production, new terms of identity, and new types of architecture.

William W. Braham & Daniel Barber | University of Pennsylvania
Dan Willis & Katsuhiko Muramoto | Pennsylvania State University

The event is sponsored by the EEB Hub (, and supported by PennDesign, the TC Chan Center, and the Stuckeman School at Pennsylvania State University.