A public discussion co-organized by the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan, Louise Seamster at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and The Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University
Since the 1980s, the state of Michigan has been the national epicenter of the development of municipal “emergency management”—a project that allows state governors to declare “financial emergencies” in Michigan cities and thereby replace democratically-elected city officials with appointed emergency financial managers. In the three decades that emergency financial management has unfolded in Michigan, its cities have seen the large-scale sell-off of public assets, the privatization of public institutions, the disinvestment in public infrastructures, the elimination of public services, the dissolution of municipal agencies, the hollowing-out of collective bargaining, and other acts of violence against the public sphere. Extending long histories of the extraction of labor, land, and wealth from communities of color in the United States, the transfer of public wealth and financialization of municipal governance under emergency management has been focused on Michigan’s black-majority cities; in the last 10 years, around 52% of Michigan’s African-American residents have been disenfranchised by emergency management as compared to 3% of white Michiganders.
On December 14, 2017, the office of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced that there were, at the moment, no emergency managers in any of the state’s cities. That announcement prompts questions about the ongoing consequences and legacies of emergency management—a project that has become dormant rather than one that has been invalidated. What has the impact of emergency management been on Michigan’s cities? What are the lessons that should be learned from Michigan’s experience with emergency management? How can the legacies of emergency management in Michigan inform resistance in other spaces of threatened or ongoing de-democratization? This panel will be dedicated to the discussion of these and related questions.
Mark Fancher, Racial Justice Project, ACLU of Michigan
Catherine Coleman Flowers, Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise
Shea Howell, The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center
Louise Seamster, University of Tennessee Knoxville
Moderated by Andrew Herscher, The University of Michigan
On Friday, March 23rd, a related workshop was convened in Ann Arbor. This conversation took up some of the issues presented on Thursday, considering Emergency Management as not only a local but also a national project, which engages with systems of infrastructure, environment, and culture at multiple scales.
(Overpass Light Brigade)
Film Screening and Discussion
November 29, 2016
Wood Auditorium, Columbia University GSAPP
Air Drifts revisits trans-boundary air pollution to analyze how localized toxic particulates drift into new territories of global responsibility. Emissions from urban and industrial activities result in black carbon, sulfates, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, dust and other particulates. These aerosols migrate extreme distances, impacting cloud formation, weather and climate. The actions of minute pollutants at massive spatial and temporal scales are almost impossible to perceive. Air Drifts collaborates with NASA to explore their “GEOS-5 Nature Run” high-resolution supercomputer model that “mirrors” the earth systems and simulates pollutant flows. This model accumulates 5 million data points every 6 hours combining ground observations and satellite monitoring to reconstruct the earth’s atmosphere at a given time. The model is used to tracks pollutants as they enter different national spaces, regimes and regulatory systems, and to visualize the air space with spectacular animations using spectral data and seamless globes. Through interviews with scientists, Air Drifts asks about the monitoring, modeling and representation of pollutants. Reinterpreting provocative scientific and visual materials, the project explores national air space, global commons, international diplomacy and the state of the atmosphere and its futures.
Kadambari Baxi, Janette Kim, Meg McLagan, David Schiminovich, Mark Wasiuta
In collaboration with: NASA-GMAO (Global Modeling and Assimilation Office), Maryland, USA.
Header image: Black Carbon (colors indicate aerosol optical thickness) | Courtesy: NASA-GMAO
Design Earth in conversation with Tei Carpenter and David Eugin Moon
March 28, 2018
Wood Auditorium, 4pm
Organized by Tei Carpenter and David Benjamin as a part of GSAPP’s Advanced Studio IV in conjunction with the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture’s “Power: Infrastructure in America” research initiative, with Kadambari Baxi and Karen Fairbanks for Barnard’s “Environmental Visualizations of NYC” seminar and David Eugin Moon for GSAPP’s “Speculative City” seminar.
Design Earth is a collaborative practice led by El Hadi Jazairy and Rania Ghosn. The office’s work engages the geographic to open up a range of aesthetic and political concerns for architecture and urbanism. Literally, ‘earth-writing’ from the Greek geo (earth) and graphia (writing), the practice of making geographies involves the coupled undertakings of “writing about,” projecting or representing the earth and also “writing on,” marking, forming or presenting again a world.
When climate change is the focus of both fiction and nonfiction, dystopia tends to rule. A notable exception is the prize-winning work of Kim Stanley Robinson, one of the planet’s most lauded living novelists of science fiction—and one who builds sweeping visions of profoundly altered, but functioning, civilizations on (and off) a deeply disrupted planet.
In a rare stop at Columbia, Robinson shifted his focus to the present to speak on shaping public imaginations toward an embrace the Green New Deal. He then had a climate conversation with the audience; Kate Wagner, architecture critic at the New Republic and contributor to Curbed, The Atlantic, and other publications; and Dr. Maureen Raymo, a paleoceanographer at Columbia’s Earth Institute who studies the history of climate change and sea level rise. The moderator was Andrew Revkin, who’s been writing on global warming since the 1980s and is now directing a new Earth Institute initiative on communication and sustainability.
Presentation by Kim Stanley Robinson on the release of his latest novel, New York 2140 (Orbit, 2017)
Discussion with Reinhold Martin
The waters rose, submerging New York City.
But the residents adapted and it remained the bustling, vibrant metropolis it had always been. Though changed forever.
Every street became a canal. Every skyscraper an island.
Through the eyes of the varied inhabitants of one building Kim Stanley Robinson shows us how one of our great cities will change with the rising tides.
And how we too will change.
Kim Stanley Robinson is a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. He is the author of more than twenty books, including the bestselling Mars trilogy and the critically acclaimed Forty Signs of Rain, The Years of Rice and Salt and 2312. In 2008, he was named a "Hero of the Environment" by Time magazine, and he works with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute. He lives in Davis, California.
Co-Organized by the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, Columbia GSAPP, and Orbit Books.
"Outlaw Territories" Book Launch and Discussion
Outlaw Territories: Environments of Insecurity/Architectures of Counterinsurgency by Felicity Scott
Thursday, October 13, 2016, 6pm
Ware Lounge, Avery Hall, Columbia University
Response by Brian Larkin
Discussion moderated by Reinhold Martin
In Outlaw Territories, Felicity Scott traces the relation of architecture and urbanism to human unsettlement and territorial insecurity during the 1960s and 1970s. Investigating a set of responses to the growing urban unrest in the developed and developing worlds, Scott revisits an era when the discipline of architecture staked out a role in global environmental governance and the biopolitical management of populations. She describes architecture’s response to the displacement of persons brought on by migration, urbanization, environmental catastrophe, and warfare, and she traces architecture’s relationship to the material, environmental, psychological, and geopolitical transformations brought on by postindustrial technologies and neoliberal capitalism after World War II.
At the height of the U.S.-led war in Vietnam and Cambodia, with ongoing decolonization struggles in many parts of the world, architecture not only emerged as a target of political agitation because of its inherent normativity but also became heavily enmeshed with military, legal, and humanitarian apparatuses, participating in scientific and technological research dedicated to questions of international management and security. Once architecture became aligned with a global matrix of forces concerned with the environment, economic development, migration, genocide, and war, its role shifted at times toward providing strategic expertise for institutions born of neoliberal capitalism. Scott investigates this nexus and questions how and to what ends architecture and the environment came to be intimately connected to the expanded exercise of power within the shifting geopolitical frameworks at this time.
Organized by the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture in collaboration with Zone Books
Climate change is a crisis of unevenly experienced and systemic injustices that asks hard questions of scholars and practitioners of the built environment. To date, the Green New Deal (GND)—most famously as drafted in H. Res. 109 and S. Res. 59 by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey, but echoed by politicians and activists around the world—addresses these questions head-on, systemically, and at scale. Over the course of the semester, as a part of its project “Power: Infrastructure in America,” the Buell Center is organizing a series of research, curricular, and programming initiatives to consider the social, technical, and political contours of the ambitious—but still largely undefined—proposal.
In this frame, as a part of its "Public Works for a Green New Deal" curricular initiative and following up on the September 13th "Designing a Green New Deal" event at the University of Pennsylvania, the Center hosted an event at 3:00pm on September 27th, 2019 that examined the topic of "Public Works" relative to the GND in more detail. After an introduction by Buell Center director Reinhold Martin and brief presentations by the cohort’s faculty members, the afternoon featured presentations on “Public Housing” (by Daniel Aldana Cohen), “Public Transportation” (by Hayley Richardson), and “Public Electricity” (by Abby Spinak), which were followed by a discussion (moderated by Alyssa Battistoni).
Watch the video here.
The Conflict Shoreline: Colonization as Climate Change in the Negev Desert
Evening Seminar with Eyal Weizman
Thursday, February 9, 2017
Buell Hall 300S, Columbia University
On Thursday, February 9th, the Buell Center hosted Eyal Weizman for a seminar on Weizman's and Forensic Architecture's work on environmental violence and climate change along the threshold of the Negev/Naqab desert. The work was first published in The Conflict Shoreline: Colonization and Climate Change in the Negev Desert(Steidl in association with Cabinet Books, 2015), authored by Weizman with photography by Fazal Sheikh.
Weizman discussed current work undertaken since the 2015 publication, including the Truth Commission Forensic Architecture has helped conceive. The new work, featured in his forthcoming book Forensic Architecture: Violence at the Threshold of Detectability (Zone, 2017), was presented in the seminar for the first time.
Featured image: The al-Tūri village and cemetery in al-‘Araqīb: kite imagery superimposed over RAF photograph from 1945. Public Lab (Hagit Keysar), Ariel Caine, Zochrot, Forensic Architecture, al-‘Araqīb Village, 2016.
"Power and the Space of the Planet"
Friday, April 15, 2016, 2PM
Wood Auditorium, Avery Hall, Columbia University
Spanning the planet, the dynamics of climate change bind together innumerable, often incompatible categories, things, and processes. Among these are energy infrastructures, politics, nature, biological and social life, and the built and unbuilt environment. The struggles and contradictions they entail, and the powers they sustain, impose limits on our capacity to grasp their connections and to conceive alternatives. This event, which brings together contributors from comparably disparate domains, will explore some of those connections imaginatively and concretely, in the past, present, and possible future. It inaugurates the Buell Center’s new, long-term research project, “Power,” which extends the Center’s recent work on housing, inequality, and real estate into another dimension of the planetary commons. Where the earlier research began with an analysis of land ownership and its relation to housing and the public sphere, “Power” begins with the air circulating above that land, the energy coursing through it, and the earth below it, all in relation to the lives lived within it.
Reinhold Martin, Director, Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture
Phillip Wegner, "When It Changed: Bodies, Cities, and Worlds in Science Fiction, circa 1984"
Panel and Discussion 3:30-5:00pm
Ed Eigen, “Power of the Pardon: Evel Knievel, Robert Smithson, and the Landscape of Reclamation, circa 1974”
Jeanne Haffner, "Dwelling on Power: From the Garden Cities to the Nuclear Age"
Paige West, "Town, Island, Ples: Structure(s) of Feeling in the SocioEcological Now"
Kim Stanley Robinson, "Utopia Against Finance"
with response by Phillip Wegner and discussion moderated by Reinhold Martin.
In January of 2018, four months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rosselló announced a plan to privatize the US territory’s publicly owned power utility (PREPA). This action—exposing infrastructure at the convergence of colonialism, finance, and 150 mile-per-hour winds—came as no surprise to those who have been paying attention. Nonetheless, its implications are sure to be felt well beyond the thousands of residents who remained without power months after Hurricane Maria made landfall.
Rosselló’s more recent push to commence privatization of the island’s public school system emphatically echoes and underscores these facts. While many fields are involved in addressing the current crisis on the island, we believe a more focused, historically informed conversation on the roles of architecture, planning, and preservation in both the production and management of these ever-more-frequent emergencies—especially as they pertain to infrastructure—is warranted.
Co-organized by Columbia GSAPP Urban Planning, Urban Design, and Historic Preservation Programs, the Center for Spatial Research, and the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, in conjunction with the Buell Center’s “Power: Infrastructure in America” research initiative, which considers infrastructural systems and processes as sites of sociotechnical and ecological governmentality at the intersection of neoliberalism and nationalism.
Free and open to the public.
Ivis Garcia Zambrana, The University of Utah
Marcelo López-Dinardi, Texas A&M University
Mark Martin Bras, Vieques Conservation & Historical Trust
Andrés Mignucci, University of Puerto Rico
Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Columbia University
Ingrid Olivo, GIZ Sustainable Intermediate Cities Program
In conversation with Hiba Bou Akar, GSAPP, and Monxo López, Hunter College
Condado, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sept. 22, 2017, following Hurricane Maria (Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos, Puerto Rico National Guard)