AUTHOR: Sascha Roesler, Madlen Kobi
CONTEXT: Article published in ABE (Architecture Beyond Europe) 17, 2020
The aim of this paper is to broaden the Eurocentric architectural history of climate control by introducing a discussion of the interrelation of architecture and thermal practices in the Southern Chinese “non-heating” zone. Based on a governmental policy that dates from the 1950s, China is divided into a heated North, where urban houses enjoy the amenities of a district heating infrastructure, and a non-heated South, which lacks this infrastructure. Most high-rise buildings in this zone are constructed without insulation, and a rapidly growing middle class heats under uninsulated conditions. Residents mitigate the winter cold through active means of climate control, primarily with electric devices that serve to warm certain parts of their bodies, or warm limited spaces in their apartments. This paper is based on a methodology that combines ethnographic building analysis, discourse analysis, architectural theory, and building science. Most of the fieldwork data - including home visits and interviews with residents and thermal experts - was collected in winter 2017-18, in the northern part of the non-heating zone of China, especially in the city of Chongqing. Our architectural view of heating in the non-heating zone perceives buildings as agents that mediate between the macro- and the micro-scale, between the North and South, and between inside and outside.
Open Access Article