Application deadline: Jun 28, 2015

Two PhD positions (48 months, full time), as part of the research

project “A Cross-cultural Theory of the Urban Passive House”

Academy of Architecture, Università della Svizzera italiana, Mendrisio




The weak point of today’s theory of passive climate control is its

focus on individual buildings and self-sufficiency which should be

overcome by focusing on interdependence and synergy effects on an urban

scale. In this research project, the “passive house” is to be rethought

as an “urban passive house” and conceptualized as part of the

“political ecology” of the city. The project’s investigation is at the

intersection of architecture, ethnography, and science and technology

studies. It examines the complex relationship between the climate and

the city. The future conception of the urban passive house relies on

coordinated “combinations” between the different “agents” of passive

climate control. Therefore at the very centre of this project is the

investigation of meaningful “associations” (Bruno Latour) of spatial

structures, sociocultural practices, and political regulations. The

control of climate is conceived as a practice fundamentally influenced

by culture and politics.


PhD Projects

The two PhD projects will provide important empirical insights for

theorizing the urban passive house. Doctoral students will be

investigating the thermal conditions of an urban neighborhood in the

global South and exploring modernization strategies that foster passive

climate control in the district. With the underlying rationale of the

city as a political ecology, the projects shall combine bioclimatic

urban research with microscale investigations on the use of

“common-pool resources” (Elinor Ostrom), on local thermal practices,

and on the political regulations of climate control. For this, project

proposals that consider a methodological framework combining

ethnography with design research are sought. The following problems

could be addressed by means of this framework:


(1)    Extensive fieldwork examines the “city climate” and the existing

forms of climate control in the selected urban quarter and analyzes how

climatic conditions, density, air pollution, poverty, building

structures, everyday activities and social norms interact. The

ethnography aims to create an understanding of how different social

groups deal with the climatic conditions over the course of the year,

what kind of thermal strategies have been implemented and according to

which historical contexts a prevailing form of climate control should

be understood.

(2)    Design research examines the potentials for an increased usage

of passive climate control strategies in the neigborhood. It would

uncover continuities and compatibilities between traditional and

contemporary forms of climate control and would elaborate passive

scenarios for urban and architectural development. Ultimately, new

urban and architectural rules that improve the fine adjustment between

the urban climate and the climate controls of the city shall be sought.



Interested persons are invited to apply with a project proposal on the

subject of passive climate control as connected to the political

ecology of a city. The proposal should include a brief description of

the city to be investigated and the reasons why it is particularly

relevant for the research topic. The area of investigation has to be

appropriate both for ethnographic and design research. Successful

applicants will have excellent analytical and conceptual skills, a

strong visual sensibility and the willingness to spend about a year in

a city of the global South. Architects with a particular interest in

social science and transdisciplinary problems are strongly encouraged

to apply. Further requirements are as follows:


–    Master’s degree in architecture, urban design (or a related area

such as anthropology, cultural studies, science studies)

–    Excellent knowledge of English (a knowledge of Italian and German

is an advantage)


Important informations

The annual salary will amount to 47’040–50’040 Swiss Francs for a

maximum of four years.

–    Deadline for application: June 28, 2015

–    Interviews: according to requirements

–    Starting date of position: October 1, 2015 (negotiable)


Application submission

Applications must be sent electronically (one pdf-file) to Sascha

Roesler (project leader and Swiss National Science Foundation



–    Project proposal (2-3 pages)

–    CV (including publications)

–    Two writing samples (8 pages max.)

–    Portfolio (8 pages max.)

–    Copies of documents regarding to academic titles

–    Name and email addresses of two referees


Reference / Quellennachweis:

JOB: Two PhD positions, Academy of Architecture, Mendrisio. In:

H-ArtHist, May 7, 2015. <>.


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