Aleksandr Bierig

Assistant Professor
History and Theory of Architecture, Landscape, and Environment

Aleksandr Bierig studies the history of architecture, infrastructure, and urbanization, with a focus on interactions between the built environment, the natural environment, and political economy in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Britain and its empire.

He is currently working on a book on the architecture, infrastructure, and culture of coal use, provisionally titled The Ashes of the City: Architecture, Environment, and the Spatial Economy of Coal in Britain (1700–1849). At the center of this study is the formation of the world’s first marketplace for fossil fuel in Britain’s central metropolis, London. By examining the sites of supply, transport, exchange, and consumption that were connected to this market, the book argues that the surplus energy of coal produced new ways of experiencing and thinking about space. This process materialized across multiple scales, including the unfamiliar comforts of the energy-intensive domestic interior, the accelerated cycles of physical decay caused by urban pollution, the expanding bureaucratic and physical infrastructures of the coal trade, and the construction of the 1849 London Coal Exchange, where the social and economic importance of fossil fuel was translated into monumental form.

Other recent and ongoing research includes investigations into the artistic and scientific techniques of visual scaling in eighteenth-century America, the unstable geographies of early railway architecture, transformations of the cottage ideal in the nineteenth-century Anglo-settler world, and episodes in the history of forced ventilation between 1650 and 1850.

Bierig received his B.A. from Yale University, M.Arch. from Princeton University, and Ph.D. from Harvard University. His work has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, the Society of Architectural Historians, the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Center for History and Economics, the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative, the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, the Mahindra Humanities Center, and the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts at the University of Chicago.

His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Architectural Theory Review, Journal18, Architectural Histories, Perspecta, Manifest, and Log, as well as a number of edited volumes. He has also published reporting and reviews in The Architectural Review and Architectural Record, and is currently an editor-at-large at The Avery Review.