Izabela Wieczorek’s project ‘The Cabinet of [Atmospheric] Curiosities: A Journey in Search of the Origins of Atmospheric Practice’

Izabela Wieczorek’s project ‘The Cabinet of [Atmospheric] Curiosities: A Journey in Search of the Origins of Atmospheric Practice’ exhibited at the WORKS+WORDS19 Biennale in Artistic Research in Architecture at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation (KADK) in Copenhagen from 28th November 2019 to 19th January 2020. The exhibition, curated by Christina Capetillo, Anders Abraham and Peter Bertram presents contemporary European artistic research in architecture produced between 2015 and 2019, combining the making of works with reflections in words.

In this context, ‘The Cabinet of [Atmospheric] Curiosities: A Journey in Search of the Origins of Atmospheric Practice’ is presented as an on-going project, which both charts multiple ways in which spatial atmospheres have been theorised and materialised and engages with the development of new tools, methods, and creative processes that define atmospheric production. The project also challenges the boundaries between architectural design, history and theory, offering an opportunity for combining traditional modes of historical research with design-led-research, curatorial practice and artistic production.

Drawing from the fascination with curiosities cabinets—historically seen as a means of classifying and communicating knowledge through a collection of disparate artefacts— The Cabinet combines words, drawings, images and objects, revealing new and, at times, unexpected relationships between works written, built or imagined in the past and the contemporary theories of atmosphere. Yet, the documentary nature of the project is subverted by a creative inhabitation of the studied works, which are approached as territories for experimentation and invention. In doing so, The Cabinet becomes a site where histories and fictional scenarios co-exist and overlap, establishing multidirectional dialogues and opening up a new context for an exploration of the imaginative potential of the notion of atmosphere.

For more information: https://kadk.dk/en/calendar/works-words-2019

Photography credited: Søren Svendsen

Interview with Jacopo Torriti

University of Reading Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Jose Luis Ramirez-Mendiola, interviews Jacopo Torriti about his work in Flexibility.

What is demand side flexibility in simple terms?

Demand side flexibility is the capacity to use energy in different locations at different times of the day or the year. Storing electricity, changing the timing of an activity, switching fuels, smoothing peaks in demand, increasing demand when there are plenty of renewables on (for instance on sunny and breezy Sunday afternoons in the summer) are all examples of demand side flexibility. What is more, in the case of mobility, re-arranging destinations and planning journeys differently in order to reduce energy demand and avoid congestion are forms of demand side flexibility.

Why do we need to make the demand side flexible?

In a net zero carbon future having more renewable sources of electricity means that there will be less flexibility in generating electricity whenever it is needed. Alternative ways of providing the flexibility needed to maintain the system balance will have to be sourced from demand. It is against this background that demand side flexibility is framed as way to integrate the changing needs of electricity supply.

Why are you so interested in flexibility?

To me, as an energy economist, flexibility is about opportunities to charge more for electricity consumption at certain times of the day, but also concerns around who will have to pay and opportunities to save money. Flexibility also relates to complex investment decisions, in which questions emerge around what the right price to pay is for higher flexibility. Research on flexibility represents a yet underrated treasure which has the potential to uncover not just how individuals respond to price and technology, but also how synchronised society is around certain times of the day. Flexibility is constituted and limited by the interaction of social and infrastructural arrangements including systems of storage and generation alongside social and institutional rhythms. These are critical for the fast-changing relation between the timing and volumes of energy demand, on the one hand, and the provision and consumption of energy services on the other. Identifying the scale of future flexibility and where and when it lies is a central priority for CREDS, along with the task of anticipating and addressing ‘flexibility gaps’ of different forms. 

Are there any key messages you would like to emerge from your research on flexibility?

What we aim to communicate is that our work is about unpacking flexibility, showing that it does not just happen through price and technological intervention. As a team we thought we would focus on one or two messages for each year of CREDS and connect as much as possible these messages with core areas of work for each project on flexibility.

And so, for now we have six messages we would like to communicate. First, the idea that an excessive focus on technology and price may end up delivering less flexibility (rather than more). We call this the ‘fixity of flexibility’. Second, we challenge the proposition that flexibility is a win-win for everyone. I have presented work on this as part of my inaugural professorial lecture. Third, there is a whole history of flexibility of demand and supply coming from historical examples and sectors other than energy. We are organising a Special Issue in the Journal of Energy History, which will capture some examples of flexibility form the past. Fourth, demand side technologies are not invisible as they often bring about changes in the timing of services. Fifth, price elasticity of demand is not the right thing to measure when it comes to flexibility. Sixth, variabilities of demand follow institutional rhythms: different types of flexibility can happen if in harmony with institutional rhythms.

How can we increase demand side flexibility?

A relatively narrow view is that demand side flexibility increases if individuals are exposed to changes in technology and price. Demand side technologies include home battery storage, vehicle-to-grid electric vehicles, smart heat pumps and other delayers for appliances and forms of automation in the so-called ‘smart home’. Price intervention relates to Time of Use tariffs, tariffs based on actual capacity, tariffs based on agreed capacity, real-time pricing, critical peak pricing, critical peak rebates and block pricing. However, it would be simplistic to think that demand side flexibility can only occur through technology and price intervention. Thinking creatively about the relation between supply and demand and the role of time can generate other demand side flexibilities. Some of these examples could come from non-energy areas, such as more work from home, changes in school hours and slow cooking.

Dr Penelope Plaza speaks to Dr Dave O’Brien’s New Books in Critical Theory podcast

Dr Penelope Plaza speaks to Dr Dave O’Brien’s New Books in Critical Theory podcast about the relationship between oil, culture and city

How do states use cultural policy? In Culture as Renewable Oil: How Territory, Bureaucratic Power and Culture Coalesce in the Venezuelan Petrostate (Routledge, 2018), Penelope Plaza Azuaje, a Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Reading explores the case study of Venezuela to think through the relationship between states, territory, and culture. The book develops the idea of culture as a resource, showing the close relationship between oil and culture, and culture and oil, along with the history of the Venezuelan petrostate. Packed with detailed visual analysis, along with a rich theoretical framework covering urban development, bureaucracy, and power, the book will be essential reading for anyone concerned with the role of culture in the city.


The New Books Network (NBN) is a consortium of author-interview podcast channels dedicated to raising the level of public discourse by introducing scholars and other serious writers to a wide public via new media. The NBN is supported by Amherst College Press, Princeton University Press, MIT Press, and The University of Michigan Press.

Dr Dave O’Brien is Chancellor’s Fellow in Cultural and Creative Industries, History of Art, University of Edinburgh.

Twitter: @NewBooksCritThe   @DrDaveOBrien @DrPenelopePlaza


Dr Plaza’s Culture as Renewable Oil shortlisted

Dr Plaza’s Culture as Renewable Oil shortlisted for the Royal Geography Society Political Geography Research Group Book Award 2019-2020

Dr Penelope Plaza’s book Culture as Renewable Oil: How Territory, Bureaucratic Power and Culture Coalesce in the Venezuelan Petrostate (Routledge, 2018) has been nominated and shortlisted for the RGS Political Geography Research Group Book Award 2019-2020. The Political Geography Research Group Royal Geographic Society (PolGRG) Book Award officially launched in 2017, with sponsorship from the journal Political Geography. The PolGRG Book Award is aimed at published volumes stirring interest and debate around: territoriality and sovereignty, states, cities, and citizenship; geopolitics, political economy, political ecology; migration, globalization, (post)colonialism; social movements and governance; peace, conflict and security, as well as the mutual geographical construction of these phenomena with gender, race, class, sexuality and religion.  The book award committee reviews all nominations and shortlist a maximum of 5 books, with emphasis on early career authors and on authors from the Global South. The winner will be announced in April 2020. 

Twitter: @DrPenelopePlaza @RGS_PolGRG 

Link to RGS’s Political Geography Research Group (PolGRG) https://polgrg.wordpress.com/2019/09/06/the-polgrg-book-award-2019-2020-in-conjunction-with-political-geography-journal/

Routledge link to book: https://www.routledge.com/Culture-as-Renewable-Oil-How-Territory-Bureaucratic-Power-and-Culture/Azuaje/p/book/9781138573772

Time, flexibility and energy demand – postcards from a workshop

Whole Centre Workshop, September 2019

The CREDS programme includes projects that work across times scales ranging from seconds to centuries and that investigate the timing of energy demand during the day, over the week or across the year.
Since matters of time and timing are central to the energy demand agenda, it made sense to organise a whole centre workshop devoted to this topic. A reading pack, including participants’ own written contributions interspersed with texts from different disciplines, provided a common point of reference, inspiring and informing detailed discussion of the temporalities of demand.

Towards the end of the workshop we invited participants to capture some of the ideas and thoughts that had been generated along the way, and set them down in the form of a postcard written to a fictional friend or colleague who could not make it to the event itself. Since these are quite literally the messages arising from the event, we reproduce a selection of them here, heavily edited with a wider audience in mind.

Read here for more details.


A Win-win for Everyone? Demand-side flexibility and people’s activities

Flexibility of electricity demand is often seen as critical for balancing the grid when consumption is high and when there are drops in supply from renewables. The benefits of demand side flexibility include improving balancing with renewables; reducing the costs of electricity generation; and making the most of smart systems and battery storage. But is flexibility a win-win for everyone, including end-users? In this talk, Jacopo Torriti seeks to address this question by presenting an investigation of people’s activities and how these underpin peaks and drops in demand.

More details can be found here: https://www.energy.ox.ac.uk/wordpress/events/event/a-win-win-for-everyone-demand-side-flexibility-and-peoples-activities/ and https://talks.ox.ac.uk/talks/id/a553e8af-aa2a-4918-931a-8b9ff6f1835e/




Reading 2050 Vision Workshop: 4th November 2019

University of Reading will be hosting the next Reading 2050 Vision Workshop on Monday 4th November 2019 in partnership with Barton Wilmore, to review progress and consider how we can continue to support the Vision and its ambitions for Reading.

Reading 2050 Lecture by John Worthington

Reading 2050 Lecture:  A personal perspective – the role of Reading in a dynamic knowledge economy 1980-2050 (John Worthington)

Date: Thursday October 24

Time: 18:00 pm – 19:00 pm

Venue: L022 G01, London Road Campus

All welcome.

John Worthington MBE is a prominent architecture academic and co-founder of architecture and space planning consultancy DEGW.

Cities are changing at an increasing speed yet seen from the perspective of a thousand years the nature of change in cities is organic and incremental. 

In the last six decades, what defines a city in a post-industrial age has been reformulated. The city as defined by its economy is now a series of connected, distinctive places, within a polycentric metropolitan region. Wealth creation has shifted from the manufacturing of products to the creation and application of ideas.

Looking ahead, how might cities respond? This Reading 2050 public lecture will give John’s personal perspective and hopes for the future of towns and cities as more caring places, driven by artificial intelligence and acting on the challenges of climate change.

Read John’s Blog at: https://research.reading.ac.uk/research-blog/event/reading-2050-a-personal-perspective-the-role-of-reading-in-a-dynamic-knowledge-economy-1980-2050-john-worthington-mbe/

Influence of evaporative cooling by urban forests on cooling demand in cities

Recent work (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2018.07.023) by Dr. Shahrestani and Dr. Smith, in collaboration with Forest Research, demonstrated that trees in an idealised urban setting will impact on cooling loads of air conditioned buildings. Whilst the work provides a first look into the potential offsetting of cooling energy demands by trees, it demonstrates a significant effect that is motivating more research on the topic. National and local press coverage of the broader issues being pointed to by our research can be found here: