ESALA Public Lecture Series
The Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA) Public Lecture Series situate architecture, landscape architecture, and related fields at the intersection of environmental, political, and social crises. This programme of events contributes to ongoing debates in research, practice and pedagogy by celebrating a diversity of voices and a multiplicity of approaches.
The 2021-22 ESALA Public Lecture Series focuses on the two interconnected themes of Community and Climate Crisis, the series responds to the climate emergency, interconnecting environmental pollution to the issues of colonisation, segregation, racism, forced migration, and to systems of injustice.
Shahed Saleem: ‘Can architecture be decolonised?’ | ESALA Frictions Public Lecture 2021-22
What does it mean to decolonise architecture, where do we start to understand and undertake this process? In this lecture Shahed Saleem will present his research and design work and ask whether it constitutes a practice of decolonisation by centralising the narratives and experiences of migrant, diasporic and subaltern communities.
Shahed’s research and writing of the architectural and social history of the British mosque has given recognition to a largely self-designed form of architecture and institutionalised this story into British architectural history. The British mosque is the subject of the current V&A Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, which Saleem has co-curated, and he will speak about this project and his wider research.
Through his own mosque designs, Shahed seeks an Islamic architecture that is responsive to the Muslim experience in Britain, which is mostly a migrant and marginalised one. He will present his own design work and design research which asks whether postcolonial diasporas can articulate their identities and narratives through architecture.
Hannah le Roux, ‘Fragments of Asbestos-Cement, 1940 to 2040’ | ESALA Frictions Lecture
Asbestos-cement products of the Swiss-Belgian Eternit group and British firm Turner and Newall were used to roof half of the low cost-housing built for black South Africans from the 1940s to the early 20th century. multinationals. Accelerated by the ever-greater impact of storms and fires, these now degrading products will continue to release fibres into air, soil and watercourses. Fragmented to microscopic fibrils, they have become just one of the invisible exposures we face in a chemically altered world. In tracking the tragic narrative of asbestos-cement’s deliberate inclusion in housing for the poor, it became apparent that this is a story that itself can only be retold in fragments where industry records are sealed or destroyed. In their place, evidence of sponsored collaborations in the form of publicity material aimed at architects, and their experimental buildings, can be used to piece together this period. The messy consequences of architects specifying asbestos are a reminder that we need to understand what is embedded in our practices, and show the extent of care that is needed to repair them.
Daniel Barber, ‘Architecture of the Aftermath’ | ESALA Frictions Lecture
Looking at buildings and drawings from about 1930 to the present, from the Americas, West Africa, and around the world, I will outline a history of architecture as a device for climatic adaptability - a dynamic mediator between thermal interiors and global climates. Architecture as an energetic system that, over time, has both monitored and managed flow. Brazil in the 1930s and 40s in particular - just before air conditioning took command – will give possibilities and cautions of climatic modernisms, see these dynamic strategies in relationship to developmentalism and resource extraction.
How can we understand these buildings in contrast to the all-glass sealed and conditioned office towers that are being built in cities today? The goal of ‘carbon-neutral by 2050’ suggests that we need to base architecture, on a different carbon cycle: eliminating hydrocarbon fuels and their emissions, as well as cycling, storing, and pooling carbon in new ways through buildings. The focus of the presentation will be on the buildings themselves - a history of climatic adaptability - and also on the interactions they solicit: a climatic adaptive building that scripts habits and patterns less reliant on carbon emissions.
Mapping the changing connection between carbon emissions, indoor comfort, and climate instability, I am also interested in establishing a break, a hinge, a historical recognition that the architecture of petroleum, of energy profligacy, is behind us. Architecturally, we live in the aftermath. As we change our practices and forms of knowledge, we draw on history, practices, and traditions in different ways. I hope to follow the presentation with a collective discussion considering architectural histories and the tools, systems and collective future of climate change mitigation.
Ursula Biemann, ‘Devenir Universidad’ | ESALA Frictions Lecture
The video projects of Ursula Biemann generally take a systemic approach to terrestrial conditions by connecting the micropolitics on the ground with a theoretical and planetary macro level. The main protagonist in her recent narratives is the figure of the indigenous scientist who emerges from a shared history of colonialism and the appearance of modern science. Her field research in the summer 2018 took her to the South of Colombia. At the invitation of an indigenous leader, she is currently involved in the co-creation of a Biocultural Indigenous University in the Amazon. Grounded in an international partnership, the visionary project aims to integrate indigenous knowledge systems with modern science, fostering a supportive ecocentric worldview. The project involves the creation of an online audiovisual platform on the process of an Indigenous territory becoming University.
This lectures are from the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA) Public Lecture Series and available under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial NoDerivatives 4.0 licence.