Latin American Studies ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-8-2019


This dissertation expands the comprehension of the history of climate in architecture by examining the evolution of the architectural meanings, uses, representations, and simulations of climate between 1800 and the present by means of a historical critical analysis of two scientific artifacts that attempted to model climate for the first time in the fields of geography and architecture. The Naturgemälde (1799 – Alexander von Humboldt) was a type of infographic image that simulated conceptually climate as a global system. The Climatron (1954 – Victor Olgyay) was a laboratory machine that physically simulated climate to test building scaled-models.

Primary data was collected in the places where both artifacts were created, and where related archival materials are currently held. The method of analysis compared the models against each other, against contemporary computer simulations of climate for architects, and against their early theoretical foundations. The dissertation reflected on the universality of science in architecture and the role of the places and the technology involved to produce knowledge about climate, while challenged the concept of climate in architecture. It endeavored to find more holistic scientific approaches to design-with-climate that consider hard data alongside art.

The tangible outcomes are four articles advised by one of the committee members according to their expertise: MODELS OF CLIMATE AND WEATHER explains the attempts to simulate conceptually and materially climate and weather in order to reduce their complexity to a human scale; ARCHITECTURAL INSIGHTS FROM EARLY DRAWINGS OF CLIMATE AND WEATHER: NATURGEMÄLDE, ISOTHERMS, CLIMATE PORTRAITS, AND THE BIOCLIMATIC CHART, reflects about the paradox of drawing climate and weather; PACKAGING NATURE FOR ARCHITECTS: EARLY ORIGINS OF DESIGNING WITH NATURAL MORPHOLOGY AND CLIMATE, focuses on how ideas travel from environmental sciences into architecture; and UNDERSTANDING THE CHARACTER OF PLACE: HUMBOLDT’S PHYSIOGNOMY OF NATURE, VICTOR OLGYAY’S BIOCLIMATIC REGIONALISM AND THE OUTLINE OF A PHYSIOGNOMY OF CLIMATE examines, from an architectural standpoint, the role of the beauty of climate in the understanding of the character of a place.




Climate and weather, Alexander von Humboldt, Victor Olgyay, Beauty, Model, Representation

Document Type


Degree Name

Latin American Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

Latin American Studies

Second Department

School of Architecture and Planning

First Committee Member (Chair)


Second Committee Member


Third Committee Member


Fourth Committee Member