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Department of Architecture


Dr Barnabas Calder (Senior Lecturer, University of Liverpool)

Barnabas Calder will argue that the single biggest influence on the architecture of all times and places has always been energy. Architecture has always adapted radically – and fast – to changes in availability of energy: the food that feeds labourers, the charcoal or coal that make tools and process materials, or the fossil fuels that have increasingly produced and powered buildings since seventeenth-century London.
With an urgent need to move architecture to net zero carbon, the history of architecture’s relationship with energy shows that our challenge is profound, with most of our attitudes to buildings and cities being based on centuries of total, often gleeful, fossil-fuel dependence. But the history of architecture and energy also shows that very large changes can happen fast if the will is there.

Barnabas Calder is a senior lecturer in architecture at the University of Liverpool. His bookArchitecture: Buildings and Energy from Prehistory to the Present will be published by Pelican in April 2021.


The Martin Centre Research Seminar Series is one of the longest running in the field (51st annual series), and is hosted and supported by the Martin Centre for Architectural and Urban Studies; the research arm of the Department of Architecture.

The seminars are informal in format and include a 45-minute talk from the invited speaker, followed by 15-minutes of questions and answers. They are typically well-attended by both staff and students of the Department, as well as members from the wider University and Cambridge community. The seminars are video recorded for Martin Centre records, and subject to the speaker’s approval may be released to either University members only or the general public.

Theme for the 51st annual series:

The topic for this forthcoming series will frame the discussions around the common ground between theory and practice, with particular focus on ‘Architecture and Energy’. Please find Term Cards and seminar posters posted on the righthand side of this page.


Wednesday, 28 October, 2020 - 15:00 to 16:00
Event location: