In 1979, Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the roof of the White House to heat water and save energy; a few years later Ronald Reagan removed them, insisting that there was energy enough for all. Reagan then presided over the start of what architecture critic Chris Hume calls "America's collective descent into amnesia."
We have forgotten how bad it was when OPEC turned off the taps in October, 1973. Hume reminds us that oil shot from $ 2.59 a barrel to a shocking $11.65. "The result was pandemonium: In Europe, driving was banned on Sundays; in North America, long lineups at filling stations degenerated into free-for-alls. Leaders went on television to address nervous nations alarmed that their very way of life was at stake."
Now the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal has mounted a provocative exhibition that revisits that period of panic.
From the CCA: "This major exhibition is the first to study the architectural innovation spurred by the 1973 oil crisis, when the value of oil increased exponentially and triggered economic, political, and social upheaval across the world. Featuring over 350 objects including architectural drawings, photographs, books and pamphlets, archival television footage, and historical artifacts, the exhibition maps the global response to the shortage and its relevance to architecture today."
The Curator and CCA Director told Chris Hume of the Star: "The future is the past. Thirty-five years ago, we faced the same problems as today. It's scary. The difference is that today we can't respond as we did by saying we'll go back to the old days. We're closer to a critical point. Oil is a limited resource. We're also facing an environmental crisis now. It's necessary but not sufficient to develop new techniques. We have to reconsider our way of life and establish new priorities."