May 03, 2013
Our first research studio on the urbanization of the world’s most “remote” places concluded with a day-long symposium and workshop in which student researchers reported on and discussed their work from the past semester. The presentations were attended by a large number of students and colleagues from the GSD and beyond, and generated a fascinating series of conversations and debates about urban theory, geopolitical economy, landscape restructuring and socio-environmental transformations around the world. The symposium concluded with a wide-ranging roundtable discussion of our work thus far, with incisive reflections from UTL Advisory Board members Stuart Schrader (American Studies, NYU) and David Wachsmuth (Sociology, NYU). Our work this semester also benefited immensely from the contributions of UTL Advisory Board members, visiting professor Alvaro Sevilla Buitrago (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain) and Ann Yoachim (GSD Loeb Fellow, 2012-13). Our work will continue in future semesters.
Jan 23, 2014
We are delighted to announce the continuation of our work on the urbanization of the world’s most remote places and regions in the context of a GSD project-based research class for Spring 2014, “Extreme territories of urbanization: regulatory restructuring.” This class will meet every Friday, 8 to 11am during the GSD Spring 2014 semester. Interested students should attend the first session for a detailed explanation of our agenda.
Students interested in learning about our work via the literatures in urban theory should consider enrolling for “Urban theory after 1968,” also taught by Neil Brenner in Spring 2014, Fridays, 2-5pm. This reading- and writing-intensive class will survey some of the major traditions of post-1968 radical urban theory, with specific reference to some of the key issues and debates with which the Urban Theory Lab is most directly concerned. Key texts include classic works by Henri Lefebvre, Manuel Castells, David Harvey and Neil Smith, among other theorists; more recent work on globalized urbanization, worlding cities and postcolonial urbanism; and the UTL’s newly published book, Implosions/Explosions.
May 12, 2014
This Spring, our work on the urbanization of the world’s most “remote” places continued with a wonderful and dedicated group of student researchers, most of whom are enrolled in the GSD's Master of Design Studies (MDesS) program, Class of 2015. Last year's research laid the intellectual and cartographic groundwork for the study of urbanization processes in the extreme territories--the Arctic, the Amazon, the Gobi desert steppe, the Himalayas, the Sahara, Siberia, the Pacific Ocean and the atmosphere. This year's research team built upon those foundations and focused more systematically on the neoliberalizing regulatory transformations, policy regimes and political strategies that have facilitated these emergent, if deeply uneven, urbanization processes.
As with last year's final presentations, our symposium this year was attended by a large number of students and colleagues from the GSD and beyond, and generated productive and provocative discussions about many of the key methodological, cartographic and political issues we are exploring in the Lab. The symposium concluded with comments and reflections from UTL Advisory Board member and visiting professor Alvaro Sevilla Buitrago (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain). It was followed by our annual "urbanization in Somerville" gathering at Neil Brenner's home. Our work will continue ....
May 27, 2015
The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts has awarded a grant to Daniel Ibañez, UTL Research Manager, together with his co-editors, Claire Lyster (UIC), Charles Waldheim (Harvard University) and Mason White (University of Toronto) for their book project "Third Coast Atlas: Prelude to a Plan of The Great Lakes Region." Through this collaborative investigation of the Great Lakes as an large-scale, globally networked zone of urban transformation, Daniel Ibañez is developing his ongoing work on urbanization as a socio-metabolic process that transcends the boundaries of any individual city.
Envisaged as a comprehensive "atlas," this publication comprises in-depth analysis of the landscapes, hydrology, infrastructure, urban form, and ecologies of the Great Lakes (mega)region. Delivered through a series of analytical cartographies supported by scholarly and design research from internationally renowned scholars, photographers, and practitioners from the disciplines of architecture, landscape, geography, planning, and ecology. The publication captures the unique identity of the area and serves as a reference for design and planning in this distinct mega-region.
Measuring over 10,000 miles, the Great Lakes coastline is longer than the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines of the United States combined. The Great Lakes Basin holds over 20 percent of the world's total surface fresh water, and is home to twenty-six million people in the United States and nine million in Canada. It is difficult to overstate the history and future of the region as both a contested and opportunistic site for urbanism.
Nikos Katsikis defends doctoral thesis "From hinterland to Hinterglobe: Urbanization as Geographical Organization"
Feb 01, 2016
On Monday February 1st 2016, UTL researcher Nikos Katsikis successfully defended his dissertation ‘From Hinterland to Hinterglobe’. The project critically revisited the concept of the hinterland aiming to transcend its associated dichotomies and limitations. It introduced the meta-categories of agglomeration landscapes and operational landscapes as landscapes of possible externalities associated with particular operations. The project investigated how these externalities emerge out of, or are prohibited by, particular compositions of asymmetrically distributed, but largely continuous, elements of geographical organization (elements of the natural environment, elements of infrastructural equipment, demographic factors, institutional and regulatory frameworks). In addition to introducing these novel categories, the project also explored how they could be cartographically defined through the combinatory charting of the various geographical elements that constitute them, blending a theoretical apparatus, building upon theories of the social and ecological production of space under capitalism; with a cartographic and geostatistical apparatus, building upon a critical engagement with selected global geospatial datasets. Finally, as a means of exploring the capacities of these novel concepts, the project attempted a historical overview of the development of urbanization as geographical organization over the past two centuries. The presentation concluded with a lively discussion with committee members Neil Brenner, Hashim Sarkis, Pierre Bélanger as well as several UTL researchers.
May 16, 2016
The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts has awarded a grant to Neil Brenner and Nikos Katsikis for their book project "Is the world urban? Towards a critique of geospatial ideology." This book builds upon theories of planetary urbanization to evaluate the limits and potentials of remotely sensed data and other forms of geospatial information as a basis for mapping urbanization processes. Against the prevalent trend towards cartographic positivism, in which such data are presented as neutral, photographic "captures" of ground conditions, our analysis reveals the hidden, pre-empirical interpretive assumptions that mediate the construction of geospatial maps. The book offers, first, an accessible overview of the main sources of geospatial data on urbanization, the technical procedures through which they are constructed, and the underlying metageographical assumptions upon which they are based. Second, on this basis, a theory-driven approach is proposed to interpret the effects of geospatial data on urbanization. Building upon this ongoing work on planetary urbanization, the project presents new metageographical frameworks for visualizing the worldwide urban fabric, including through the theoretically reflexive application of geospatial data.
Jan 11, 2016
In collaboration with Christian Schmid and Milica Topalovic of the ETH Zurich and the Future Cities Lab (FCL) Singapore, the UTL contributed to an exhibition on "Cartographies of Planetary Urbanization" at the Shenzhen Biennale. The agenda is summarized below:
Today, urbanization has become planetary. The boundaries of the urban have been exploded to encompass vast territories far beyond the limits of even the largest mega-city regions. Meanwhile, novel patterns of urbanization are crystallising that challenge inherited conceptions of the urban as a bounded, universal settlement type. This exhibit proposes a radical rethinking of inherited cartographies of the urban. The popular claim that we now live in an 'urban age' because the world's majority population lives in ‘cities’ is a deeply misleading basis for understanding the contemporary “urban revolution” theorised by Henri Lefebvre. Cities are not isolated manifestations or universally replicated expressions of the urban condition, but are embedded within wider, territorially uneven and restlessly evolving processes of urbanization at all spatial scales, encompassing both built and unbuilt spaces, across earth, water, sea and atmosphere. In this exhibit, interdisciplinary research teams from the ETH Zürich, ETH Future Cities Laboratory Singapore and the Urban Theory Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Design present new frameworks for understanding and representing contemporary forms of urbanization.
The exhibition highlights the interplay between (a) the search for new theoretical concepts, (b) territorially grounded studies of specific patterns and pathways of urbanization and (c) the use of cartography to decipher new geographies of urbanization for which we currently lack an adequate analytical or representational vocabulary.