Aleksandr Bierig is a PhD candidate studying urban and architectural history at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and a doctoral fellow of the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative. His research focuses on interactions between the built environment, the natural environment, and political economy.
In his dissertation, “The Ashes of the City: Energy, Economy, and the London Coal Exchange,” he examines connections between coal, architecture, and urbanization in eighteenth and nineteenth-century London through a series of sites where the city’s unique fuel was bought and sold, monitored and taxed, stored and burned. These sites reveal the spatial and material effects of fossil fuel at different scales, from changes to household heating, to the expanding bureaucratic and physical infrastructures of the fuel trade, to illustrative buildings like the London Coal Exchange, where the social importance of coal was made legible, literally written onto walls. By reading urban, architectural, environmental, and economic histories in parallel, the project aims to provide a unique perspective onto how one society began to construct a world made with coal.
Prior to pursuing his PhD, Aleksandr completed a Master of Architecture degree from Princeton University and worked for architectural firms in the United States and Europe. He has written articles and essays for a number of popular and academic publications, including Architectural Record, Perspecta, and Log. In addition to the Mellon Urban Initiative, his dissertation research has received support from the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, and the Mahindra Humanities Center.