Ghazal Jafari

Ghazal Jafari is a designer, land researcher, and a Doctor of Design candidate at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. She is also a research fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and Aga khan Foundation. With an interdisciplinary and cross-scalar approach to design research and practice, Ghazal’s work is situated at the convergence of infrastructural landscape, geography, and complex territorial mechanisms. In response to the increasing incorporation of space in the techno-managerial framework of corporate enterprise, the subsequent over-engineered infrastructures, and variegated structures of dispossession, Ghazal’s doctoral dissertation is an ethnography of logistics infrastructure and chronometric landscapes of exchange. Through the lens of the UPS Inc., her research foregrounds the geospatial and territorial imperatives of logistical operations and strategies, and counter-represents the world according to Inc.. In addressing the complex interrelationship between structural inequalities, geophysical transformations, and processes of reterritorialization, Ghazal’s professional commitment lies in the agency of landscape (as a cross-disciplinary language) in rethinking urban infrastructures towards non-exploitative means of subsistence and the decolonization of the built environment, mobilized through pedagogy and practice, research and design.

Pursuing her pedagogical ambitions, Ghazal has recently co-edited the latest volume of the New Geographies Journal, New GEOGRAPHIES 09: Posthuman (GSD and Actar, 2017). Bringing voices from various field of expertise, Posthuman marks an intellectual turn and a moment of consciousness about the profound alteration of land and life, which troubles the long-established definition of “human,” and by extension, human environment, filled with both excitement and anxiety in the post-anthropocentric world. In addition, she has recently been an essential member of the editorial team for EXTRACTION EMPIRE: Undermining the Systems, States, & Scales of Canada’s Global Resource Empire (MIT Press, 2018), ed. Pierre Bélanger. She has also been a part of the editorial team for the book IMPLOSIONS / EXPLOSIONS: Towards A Study of Planetary Urbanization (Jovis, 2014), ed. Neil Brenner. Following her core commitment to fight against systemic inequalities in the field of design, Ghazal has co-authored the multimedia project THE MISSING 400: On the Omission of Women from the Built Environment with Pierre Bélanger and Hernan Bianchi. The project has been presented in the format of an open letter to Charles Jencks, a videographic voiced-over by Hélène Cixous. Organized in a chronological diagram, the project attempts to correct the political misposition and intellectual mistake made by the history of architectural canon. In addition, she has organized the DDes annual conference 2016, #DECODING, with Aleksandra Jaeschke. The conference mobilized diverse sources of funding to bring together key scholars, practitioners, and thinkers to discuss the territoriality of urban infrastructures inscribed in codes of representation, design, organization, and conduct. As part of the critical study of the landscape as urbanization, she has been a research affiliate in the Urban Theory Lab at Harvard to extend the critical lens of design research to the operational geographies of urbanization often masked in city-centric urban discourses.

Her work has been recognized by professional associations worldwide with publications and published mentions in Volume, Harvard Design Magazine, Azure, Domus, MONU, among others. Her recent publications include “Geographies of Uncertainty” (2016), “Exploring Urban Ecologies by Design” (2013), “Tehran: Planning the Unpredictable” (2012). She holds a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) from Shahid Beheshti University of Tehran; completed her graduate studies in Master of Urban Design at the University of Toronto (MUD); and Master in Design Studies (MDes) at Harvard GSD in Landscape, Urbanism, and Ecology (2014). She has worked in a number of design offices in Tehran and Toronto, namely at the office of Planning Alliance (one of the largest Canadian planning contractors with mining companies around the world since 1982) with John van Nostrand. There, she has been involved in the development of design and scenario writing (in conversation with various stakeholder and pubic institutions) and representation of projects, ranging from the Port Lands master plan in the Lower Don Lands area of Toronto, affordable housing projects, and the Oyu Tolgoi mining town in Gobi Desert, Mongolia. Through first-hand involvement, she has witnessed the complexity of multi-scalar infrastructural projects (programed for cities and corporations and backed by public and private funding) as well as their territorial imperatives. Along with professional experiences, Ghazal has cofounded Op.N, an experimental research and design collective concerned with the applicability of land-based research and practice in decentering power. Between pedagogy and practice, she has initiated projects and publications, funded by public-private partnerships including grants from the Graham Foundation (2017), Weatherhead Center for Canadian Studies (2015), Penny White Travel Scholarship (2015), the Aga Khan Foundation (2014), and OnePrize Design Award (2011).


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During the live performance of The Missing 400 diagram, Harvard GSD, Oct 2016.