Stranded Assets; or, Architecture and Oil as Mega-event

Stranded Assets; or, Architecture and Oil as Mega-event

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Stranded Assets explores how the cultural dynamics of architecture have mediated changing relationships between energy use and social patterns. Cultural relations to energy are foundational both to the patterns and contours of social life, and also to understanding how to adjust these patterns as new contingencies emerge. Architecture sits in the interface of this epochal dynamic. The project frames the last century’s entanglement of carbon and architecture as an epochal historical event, a mega-project now receding into the past, and considers how such buildings will fare as the social cost of carbon increases.
A stranded asset, in economic parlance, is a mine or well for which the costs of extraction are no longer socially viable. There is still something of value, but the cost/benefit analysis has changed.
A first iteration of Stranded Assets investigated well-known buildings in the history of architecture – the Seagrams Building, the Bauhuas Dessau, and the HSBC Tower – whose poor energy performance threatens their continued use. This second iteration examines buildings constructed for oil companies, considering first how the activities inside – the growth of the oil economy - framed the conditions for architecture over the last century; and second how these techno-bureaucratic activities are also threatened by the increasing cost of carbon.
This presentation examines three buildings constructed for oil companies, that also have shading devices on the exterior - British Petroleum Headquarters (Fry, Drew, Drake and Lasdun; Lagos, 1960); The Humble Oil Building (Welton, Becket and Associates; Houston, 1963); and Petrobras Headquarters (Mario Gandolfi, Rio de Janeiro, 1972). Of interest: why they were constructed with ambitions to minimize cooling costs (i.e. with shading devices); how the buildings supported resource, labor, and ecosystem violence endemic to methods of oil extraction; and how they might remain viable in a future of radically reduced carbon use.

Corresponding Author

Daniel Barber

University of Pennsylvania and ISCTE/DINAMIA'CET

Author #1:

Daniel Barber

University of Pennsylvania and ISCTE/DINAMIA'CET

Author #2:

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Preferred Track

1. Mega-events and mega-projects: trends and demands

Second Preferred Track

9. The Syndrome of Grand Projects: contamination processes between North-South, West-East, Global-Local

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