Accepted Paper:

Attachments to urban commonplaces: sustainable architecture infrastructures and the aesthetic cosmopolitics of kyomachiya  


Anders Blok (University of Copenhagen)

Paper Short Abstract:

Building on ethnographic work on collective efforts in Kyoto to redesign vernacular kyomachiya houses into new ‘hybrid’ eco-house formats, the paper discusses the role of shared ‘attachments’ to urban commonplaces in shaping contested processes of low-carbon infrastructural transition in the city.

Paper long abstract:

In recent years, work at the intersection of anthropology, urban political ecology, and science and technology studies (STS) have highlighted the role of large-scale infrastructures in mediating relations between local and global, technology and nature, in attempts to forge low-carbon cities for the future. While valuable insights have been provided on the distributed and contested socio-technical practices of low-carbon urban infrastructural transition, this paper argues that insufficient attention has so far been paid to the role of shared aesthetic sensibilities and 'attachments' in holding such practices together. The paper builds on ethnographic work on on-going collective efforts in Kyoto - engaging urban planners, architects, carpenters, home providers, solar panel companies, civic activists and consumers - of redesigning and repositioning a vernacular style of wooden housing known as kyomachiya into a 'hybrid' eco-house design, considered a locally appropriate response to the global challenges of climate change. Staging a debate between three prominent proponents of 'new French pragmatism' in social theory - Bruno Latour, Antoine Hennion and Laurent Thévenot - the paper develops a notion of attachment to urban 'commonplaces', and shows how this concept helps elucidate how and why particular architectural forms come to be promoted within urban infrastructural redesign processes. Amidst multiple controversies on the exact socio-technical adjustments called for by the new 'hybrid' eco-house design - including the role for decentralized energy production via rooftop solar panels - what ties this architectural 'cosmogram' together, the paper suggests, is a shared aesthetic attachment to the kyomachiya commonplace, imposing its own set of constraints.

Panel P078
Renewable energy infrastructure