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Warsaw. Energy Landscapes and Energy Transitions


Roesler S.

Course director

Raffetseder J.



Warsaw, with its 1.8 million inhabitants, is a central arena of contemporary Europe. It is not only the current war in Ukraine that is once again bringing the city as escape for refugees to the attention of the European public; its historical development is also representative of the fundamental ruptures on the European continent. The Second World War and the socialist years have left deep traces in the urban fabric. With the help of Polish author Stanislaw Lem we will anticipate the energy future of Warsaw. Over the course of the seminar we will act as urban researchers, exploring what might be conceivable and desirable. 

The seminar promotes the notion of “energy landscape” as a conceptual framework to challenge our current understanding of energy as a cheap and abundant source for architecture. It presents concepts and methods for designing the energy landscapes of the future, foregrounding strategies of energy transition and decarbonization in architecture and urban design. While in the last few decades the discipline of architecture was mainly concerned with the self-sufficiency of individual buildings, the notion of energy landscape emphasizes the need for a new urban scale for saving and producing energy, integrating technological systems, natural processes, and built structures. The notion of energy landscape emerged since the 1970s as an attempt of making the goals of urbanism and ecology more compatible.


The seminar brings together theoretical and historical approaches to energy landscapes and energy transition with the students’ own architectural and territoral inquiries. Methodologically we will rely on an empirical urban studies, including various mapping techniques, in order to recognize the current state and the transformation of energy landscapes of Warsaw. The seminar foregrounds a spatial understanding of what constitutes the energy landscape of the contemporary and future city, addressing the synergistic interplay of infrastructure, urban nature, and architecture.

Teaching mode

In presence

Learning methods

In an excursion to Warsaw before the start of the semester we will conduct urban ethnographic fieldwork to collect empirical data on the current quality of the city’s urban energy landscape. By visiting distinct neighborhoods, we will investigate the influence of different urban typologies on energy generation, consumption and saving potentials. Going beyond the purely technological, we will interrogate Warsaw in terms of its ambient energy potentials, its thermal practices, and the cultural implications of the energy exchanges of the everyday in order to visualize the energy landscape of the city. Accounting for the temporal and ephemeral nature of energy, we will rely on filming, drawing and writing as the main forms of inquiry.

The subsequent seminar in Mendrisio will take the collected data in Warsaw as a starting point for creating a video essay on the (future) energy landscape of Warsaw, with a focus of each student group on a different form of ambient energy. This process is accompanied by historical and theoretical inputs as well as by guest lectures from external speakers.

Examination information

Oral and written during the semester.