top of page


Urban energy landscapes is a concept that helps to study urban energy through its manifestation in visible patterns in the built environment. It reads the cultural landscape as a collection of artifacts that influence and bear the imprint of human life. The book takes a phenomenological approach to energy infrastructures and urban landscapes, conceptualizing energy landscapes as ‘connective tissue'. As ‘connective tissue’, energy landscapes constitute a matrix that enables a myriad of daily activities or tasks using specific energy artifacts. They are the result of the contrasting efforts of multiple actors in the socio-political sphere and diverse 'urban choreographies of energy use'. The book presents the results of the MUEL Research Project , funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (2013-2016).


In Mozambique, the majority of people in urban areas use charcoal as their main fuel. In a domestic context, the coal-burning cookstove is preferred over clean energy sources for cooking purposes. The project "Sustainable Energy Access in Mozambique" (2016-2018) further explores the local urban energy landscape in Mozambique. Vanesa Castán Broto (University of Sheffield), Idalina Baptista (Oxford University), Domingos Augusto Macucule (Universidade Eduardo Mondlane), and Josh Kirshner (University of York) have developed a multi-dimensional framework to understand how people’s everyday needs and practices are shaped by infrastructure histories and the political economy of energy. 

"Sustainable Energy Access in Mozambique" is funded by the British Academy. The research will be presented at the British Academy Summer Showcase 2019, a free festival of ideas aimed at making recent academic research accessible for the general public.


The research is presented as an immersive installation, devised by Michelle Cook. The exhibition also draws from the concept of urban energy landscapes. In this context, the cookstove is chosen as the object which structures life and embodies urban relationships to energy.

The installation
 uses the suggestive quality of sound to materialise the domestic space in Maputo. It responds directly to the concept of landscape as an arrangement of objects and the soundscape as an an acoustic environment that is situated and culturally-specific. The characterisation of the urban energy landscape as "connective tissue" shows how energy becomes so embedded in ordinary existence that its usage is imperceptible and ritualised. Extending from this, this installation explores the notion of sound as the connective tissue that emerges from (as it also permeates) human movement within the urban environment. 


Sounds evoke a culturally-specific spectrum of meanings and interpretations. However, they are perceived through the body, so they are immediate, elusive and ephemeral. Listening is an equally enculturated activity which generates a heard object just as it discovers it. The act of listening is selective and critical: it differentiates between sound and noise, then identifies rhythms that gradually bring sounds into a familiar acoustic space. Rhythm is an articulation of time and a grouping relationship that relies upon our perception or anticipation of pattern or recurrence.

This installation combines the sounds of four artefacts, including the cookstove. The selection of three other cooking implements emphasises how 'quotidian acts of energy provision and use also play a key role in reproducing energy landscapes through interactions with a wide range of energy artefacts'. The soundtrack explores the transformation of noise into sound, and toys with the impact of rhythm on familiarity. The gradual introduction of sounds seeks to produce doubt, which it later resolved by associating the heard object with its material counterpart within a familiar pattern of domestic use.

bottom of page