Journal article

Urban energy landscape in practice: Architecture, infrastructure and the material culture of cooling in post-reform Chongqing, China


  • 21.02.2023
Published in:
  • Urban Studies. - SAGE Publications. - 2023, p. 1-16
English Until the 1990s and the spread of air-conditioning, cooling down during the hot, humid and windless summers in the city of Chongqing (Southwest China) was mainly practised outdoors: sleeping on the rooftops of multistorey buildings, playing mah-jongg in the streets, fanning oneself with a hand fan or installing bamboo beds in the compounds’ leafy courtyards. With the availability of affordable electricity and the popularisation of mechanical cooling, refreshing oneself has been relocated to the indoors. The transforming practices in and around the house have led not only to an increasing dependency on electricity for cooling but also to a socio-economic stratification. This paper traces the history of heat mitigation in Chongqing since the 1950s. Based on five months of anthropological fieldwork, semi-structured interviews, and oral history, I analyse how Chongqing residents cope with heat in and around the built environment. Practices of cooling are closely intertwined with the architectural history of the city, for example, building design, construction materials, green spaces, or the arrangement of houses. Staying cool in the socialist era buildings from the 1960s meant something different compared to the high-rise buildings in the early-21st century. Theoretically, the paper engages with urban energy landscapes as ‘connective tissue’ where everyday heat mitigating practices are intertwined with the locally built environment including architecture, energy infrastructure and technologies. By focusing on the material culture involved in cooling, I shift our perspective from the large infrastructure to the small objects that co-constitute the energy landscape of urban heat mitigation.
Faculté des lettres et des sciences humaines
Département des sciences sociales
  • English
Social sciences
Open access status
Persistent URL

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