Oil Spaces: The Global Petroleumscape and the Northsea

Authors: Carola Hein*, Tu Delft
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Historical Geography, Energy
Keywords: petroleumscape, oil spaces, commodity flows, mapping
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Hampton Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores the ways in which corporate and public actors have inserted the physical and financial flows of petroleum into the built environment, connecting the power of private investment to the force of public planning. It identifies different layers--both visible and invisible, physical and depicted--that combine into a palimpsestic global petroleumscape. It argues that the spatial presence of petroleum structures and the close collaboration of relevant actors has created path dependencies that reinforce the petroleumscape. It further posits that the everyday use, representation, and mostly positive appreciation of petroleum-related structures among citizens of different classes, races, cultures, genders, and ages has created a feedback loop or an energy culture that helps maintain the buildings and urban forms needed for physical and financial oil flows and celebrates oil as a heroic cultural agent – thus leading societies to consume more oil. Following a general analysis of the concept of the petroleumscape, the article explores a number of port cities around the North Sea in regard to their formation through global flows of petroleum. In appreciating the power and extent of oil can we engage with the complex challenges of sustainable design and policymaking, develop heritage concepts, and imagine future built environments beyond oil.

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