Past Events

Architecture and the Climate of England: Architectural Science and the History of Architecture

Research Lunch – Dean Hawkes

  • 25 November 2022
  • 1:00 – 2:00 pm
  • Paul Mellon Centre

The first chapter of Nikolaus Pevsner’s The Englishness of English Art (1956) is entitled 'The Geography of Art'. In this he examined the influence of climate on national character and, by extension, on the art of a nation, concluding that there is, “a whole string of facts from art and literature tentatively derived from climate”. This is a question that I have explored in relation to the history of architecture, in my research in the last decade or so. In this work I have tried to show how the nature of this climate, defined by meteorologists as “temperate maritime”, may be represented and interpreted through the study of historic buildings and that the relationship of architecture and climate is as much a question of history and culture as it is of science and technology.

The background to the talk will be established by a brief outline of the architecture-climate relationship in England from the early modern period to the present. This will be followed by a presentation of material from recent in-depth research carried out at the sixteenth-century Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, where a full annual cycle (2018–2019) of environmental data was collected in five of the major apartments. This research, undertaken in collaboration with Dr Ranald Lawrence of the University of Liverpool, combines the methods of building science and architectural history, providing a basis from which to construct a new description of the environment in the house as it was experienced in the first years of its inhabitation at the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in the midst of the so-called “Little Ice Age”.

Listing image caption: Hardwick High Great Chamber Courtesy of Dean Hawke

About the speaker

  • Head and shoulders portrait of Dean Hawkes against blue background

    Dean Hawkes has been a teacher, researcher and practitioner of architecture for over half a century. For thirty years he taught and researched in the Department of Architecture at the University of Cambridge and, between 1995 and 2002, was Professor of Architectural Design at the Welsh School of Architecture at Cardiff University. Following his retirement he returned to Cambridge as a Fellow of Darwin College, where he continues to research and teach. He has held visiting professorships at schools of architecture in Glasgow, Hong Kong, Huddersfield, Leicester and Singapore. His research is concerned with the relationship of architecture and the environment, with particular emphasis on the evolution of this connection in the history of architecture. This theme has been explored in a sequence of books: The Environmental Tradition (1996), The Selective Environment (2002), The Environmental Imagination (1st ed. 2008, 2nd ed. 2018) and Architecture and Climate: An Environmental History of British Architecture (2012), and in numerous papers. In 2010 he received the RIBA Annie Spink Award for excellence in architectural education.