Joseph Siry, Kenyan professor of humanities, professor of art history, is the author of Air Conditioning in Modern American Architecture, 1890-1970 (Penn State University Press, February 2021).
According to the book’s abstract, Air Conditioning in Modern American Architecture, 1890–1970 documents how architects turned environmental technologies into resources that helped shape their spatial and formal aesthetics. In this way, important new light is shed on the way mechanical engineering has been integrated into the culture of architecture as a facet of its broader modernist project.
Tracing the evolution and architectural integration of air conditioning from its beginnings in the late 19th century to the emergence of the environmental movement in the early 1970s, Siry shows how the inclusion of mechanical systems in the functional discourse of modernity profoundly shaped the work of some of the leading ones Architects of the movement such as Dankmar Adler, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Gordon Bunshaft and Louis Kahn. For them, the modernist functional ideal was incompletely realized if it did not fully assimilate heating, cooling, ventilation and artificial lighting. Siry connects the history of technology with the history of architecture and discusses the technical and social history of air conditioning. It provides case studies of buildings by the architects who brought this technology to the conceptual and formal project of modernism.