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  • Published: 28 January 2021
  • ISBN: 9780141978215
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 576


From Prehistory to Climate Emergency

A groundbreaking history of architecture told through the relationship between buildings and energy

Reducing energy use is the single biggest challenge facing architecture today. From the humblest prehistoric hut to the imposing monuments of Rome or Egypt to super-connected modern airports, buildings in every era and place have been shaped by the energy available for their construction and running. This original and compelling survey tells the story of our buildings from our hunter-gatherer origins to the age of fossil-fuel dependence, and shows how architecture has been influenced by designers, builders and societies adapting to changing energy contexts.

Architecture is a fascinating celebration of human ingenuity and creativity, and a timely reminder of the scale of the task ahead in our search for truly sustainable architecture.

  • Published: 28 January 2021
  • ISBN: 9780141978215
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 576

About the author

Barnabas Calder

Barnabas Calder is a historian of architecture specialising in British architecture since 1945. He is a senior lecturer at the University of Liverpool, and is compiling an online complete works of Sir Denys Lasdun, funded by the Graham Foundation and in collaboration with the RIBA British Architectural Library Special Collections.

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Praise for Architecture

A brilliantly written and timely investigation into a fundamental truth that is often overlooked: energy, in particular the availability of certain types of fuel, is perhaps the single most important driver of architectural design

Florian Urban, Professor of Architectural History, Glasgow School of Art

Brave and brilliant, Barnabas Calder's Architecture is a global history and a call to arms

William Whyte, Professor of Social and Architectural History, University of Oxford

Fierce and elegantly written, this book tells the "energy story of architecture" from the agrarian millennia onwards, as we hurtle towards the pending cataclysm. Read here of fossil fuel dependency, sometimes hidden and surprising, and wander the City of London, or, virtually, Shenzhen and repent. Barnabas Calder has written a fine alternative architectural history, with a venomous sting in its tail

Gillian Darley, author of Excellent Essex

Finally a book to replace Pevsner's standard history of architecture. Calder retells the story of architecture for the climate change generation. A dazzling tour of the history of architecture told through the lens of energy use

Dr. James W. P. Campbell, Head of Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge

With this fascinating deep dive into the energy economies behind buildings, from bone huts to the Barbican, Calder reframes the entire history of architecture for the age of climate emergency. Through this prism, our time of crisis suddenly makes so much sense

Joe Giddings, Architects Climate Action Network

A century-spanning, globe-spinning treatise on the thorny relationship between energy and architecture. This book will quickly turn you into an archi-geek

Bradley Garrett, author of Bunker

Calder's book presents architecture as an awe-inspiring history of technology, but is also a record of our exploitation of the earth's resources. In doing so it helps us form a new perspective on how we begin to produce a more regenerative approach to buildings and our planetary environment

Peter Clegg, Professor of Architecture, University of Bath and founding partner, FCB Studios

Barnabas Calder's excellent book makes the direct link between the evolution of architecture and society's access to energy. He shows that the ability to build, whether by grain fuelled humans, or fossil fuelled machinery, has determined the scale and nature of architecture across all cultures and all centuries. Within these insights into the past, lie the future solutions to building in a climate crisis. Architects designing for a zero carbon future should absorb these ideas

Simon Sturgis, Founder, Targeting Zero

[An] engaging study... It has something of the appeal of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel - that of grounding historical mysteries in material facts... Partly a hymn or elegy to the world that fossil fuels made, partly a warning of the disasters they are bringing... Calder makes a simple and important point, often with engaging and unexpected detail: architecture is indeed made by energy, which makes crucial the next stage of its evolution

Rowan Moore, Observer

[An] imaginative and ambitious new history of architecture... Engaging throughout... It really is a must-read

Jeremy Williams, The Earthbound Report

A survey of construction and its entanglement with energy use... Superb

Financial Times

An insightful, often impassioned journey through the history of buildings

Simon Ings, New Scientist

Grand in scope... A splendid pause for thought

Alistair Fitchett, International Times

An essential read: clarifying, alarming, but hopeful

Architects' Journal

[A] powerful, disturbing account of architecture and energy since ancient times

Andrew Robinson, Nature

One of the most significant architectural publications in recent years... A fascinating history of architecture, a must-read for anyone interested in the relations between energy and architecture in history, and an important contribution to the discourse on energy in light of the climate emergency

The Drouth

Calder has written an energetic global history of architecture - energetic both in the vim he brings to a colossal subject, and in its particular focus... For the general reader, it's an entertaining and original introduction to the history of architecture. For the architect, it helpfully sets the daunting challenges of our day in lively and inspiring context

Will Wiles, RIBA

A highly readable world history of architecture... This book will help to reinforce the crucial role of architecture in tackling the climate crisis

Catherine Croft, RIBA Journal

Detailed and insightful

Nick Newman, RIBA Journal

Calder's brilliant book [...arises from] a truly astonishing depth and breadth of research [...and] develops a new frame for architectural writing which frankly makes some of the previous architectural histories look at best parochial, or at worst irrelevant in the face of the global climate crisis

Professor Jeremy Till, Buildings and Cities

Arguably the most important new contribution to the field of architectural history in decades

James Benedict Brown, Journal of Architecture

Provocative, enlightening... Calder is the perfect guide around some of mankind's most substantial achievements, but never swerves away from asking hard questions

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