In the five hundred years since the publication of Thomas More’s Of A Republic’s Best State and of the New Island of Utopia (1516), the project of imagining an ideal society has emerged as simultaneously regenerative and devastating on multiple fronts: for the concept of the polity, for the composition of social fabrics, and, most relevant from the vantage of the design disciplines, for the formation of buildings, cities, and territories. This year’s Cambridge Talks, now in its tenth edition, aims to provide a spectrum of exemplary instances of utopia’s modern guise.
In the main conference panels, we bring together speakers to address the rivalry between those utopian endeavors that organize space mainly through social relations and production, and those whose expansive impulse searches out some form of technical mastery over spatial configuration. In other words, utopia can be understood as either embodied or totalizing, bound or unbound. By taking examples from the 19th and 20th centuries, the case studies presented here—from communes and plantations to infrastructural projects and global ecologies—exhibit various attempts to imagine social conditions alongside spatial ones. A concluding discussion will touch upon the philosophical and theoretical ramifications of utopia today.
April 14, 3 PM – 6 PM
Ana Miljački, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sonja Dümpelmann, Harvard University
April 15, 9 AM – 5 PM
Panel 1: Embodied Utopia
Luis Casteñeda, Syracuse University
Joyce Chaplin, Harvard University
Erika Naginski, Harvard University
Respondent: Catherine Ingraham, Pratt Institute
Panel 2: Total Utopia
Daniel Barber, University of Pennsylvania
Sara Pritchard, Cornell Univesity
Abby Spinak, Charles Warren Center, Harvard University
Respondent: John May, Harvard University
Damian White, Rhode Island School of Design
Discussants: K. Michael Hays and Neil Brenner, Harvard University
The countryside is often presented as bucolic, close to nature; the city, by contrast, as artifice shaped by capital. Raymond Williams addressed many of the fallacies of this disjuncture in his classic study The Country and the City (1973). What has happened to the countryside since then, and what is the relationship between the urban and the rural today? While a great deal of scholarly attention has been dedicated to urban development and urbanization, the study of the rural has lacked a comparable systematic analysis. This event is the first in a series devoted to the countryside, intending to address that imbalance. The school also plans to offer a Rotterdam-based option studio devoted to the topic in the spring of 2016.
Introduction by Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean and Alexander Wiley Professor of Design Main presenter: Frédéric Bonnet, codirector, Équipe Obras; Lecturer at the Accademia dell'architettura, Mendrisio, Switzerland; winner of the 2014 Grand Prix de l'Urbanisme With short statements by: Anita Berrizbeitia, professor of landscape architecture and chair of the Landscape Architecture Department at Harvard GSD Neil Brenner, professor of urban theory; director of the Urban Theory Lab at Harvard GSD John Dixon Hunt, visiting professor of landscape architecture at Harvard GSD; emeritus professor of the history and theory of landscape, University of Pennsylvania Christopher Lee, associate professor in practice of urban design at Harvard GSD
As a trope for divergent urbanism, the “Global South”—encompassing Jakarta, Johannesburg, São Paulo, Delhi and other metropolitan areas in the Southern Hemisphere—refers to a distinct amalgam of urban zones constituted by shared subjections to colonialism and underdevelopment, as well as by city-making processes that proceed by culturally dystonic impositions of planning, infrastructure, policy, and provisionally assembled local compensations. Today, the "Global South" is now rapidly fading from view—or perhaps it never should have been envisioned in the first place. The urban South may continue to have some purchase in international political organizing, or in analyses of economic inequality and precariousness of different kinds, at different scales. But urban theory increasingly considers the ways cultural interchanges, economic flows, governance regimes, histories, and alliances actively articulate places in multiple and shifting ways that a continued focus on South–North divides oversimplify or misrepresent. AbdouMaliq Simone will explore this notion “as a means of thinking through the various instances, ambiguities, and powers of detachment as they effect urban residents today, knowing full well that an urban South does not ‘really exist,’” with the aim of relocating the urban South “as a kind of elsewhere at the interior of a seemingly hegemonic trajectory that converts urban space into a uniform everywhere.”
Abdoumaliq Simone is an urbanist and research professor at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity and visiting professor of sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London, visiting professor at the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town, research associate with the Rujak Center for Urban Studies in Jakarta, and research fellow at the University of Tarumanagara. For three decades he has worked with practices of social interchange, cognition, local economy, and the constitution of power relations that affect how heterogeneous African and Southeast Asian cities are lived, focusing on the concrete challenges of remaking municipal systems, training local government personnel, and designing collaborative partnerships among technicians, residents, artists, and politicians.
Professor Kayden's lecture will explore the role over time of planning as profession, and how planning in the future may choose to distinguish itself in encouraging productive, sustainable, equitable, and enjoyable places in which people live, work, and play.
Jerold S. Kayden is the Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where he previously served as Co-Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design and Director of the Master in Urban Planning Degree Program. His research and teaching focus on law and the built environment as well as public-private urban development. His books include Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience; Landmark Justice: The Influence of William J. Brennan on America's Communities; and Zoning and the American Dream: Promises Still To Keep. He has also written numerous articles on subjects involving property rights and government regulation, smart growth, design codes, and market-based regulatory instruments.
As urban planner and lawyer, Professor Kayden has served governments, non-governmental organizations, and private developers around the world. He has represented clients in court, appeared as expert witness, and written amicus curiae briefs in significant U.S. Supreme Court land-use cases. For the past 15 years, he has been the principal constitutional counsel to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C.. He founded and heads Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space, a non-profit organization in New York City whose mission is to improve that city's zoning-created plazas, arcades, and indoor spaces.
Internationally, Professor Kayden has been a consultant to the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the United States Agency for International Development, and the United Nations Development Programme, working in China, Nepal, Armenia, Ukraine, and Russia. From 1992 to 1994, he was Senior Advisor on Land Reform and Privatization to the Government of Ukraine on behalf of USAID/PADCO.
Professor Kayden's numerous honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, awards from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, the Environmental Design Research Association, the American Bar Association, and the American Society of Landscape Architects, several National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and recognition as "Teacher of the Year" at the Graduate School of Design. He earned his undergraduate, law, and city and regional planning degrees from Harvard, and subsequently served as law clerk to U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Judge James L. Oakes and U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.
David Booher is Senior Policy Advisor at the Center for Collaborative Policy, California State University, Sacramento. He provides strategic consulting to the Center on research, education, and policy issues. He is a planner and policy consultant in many of the content areas for collaborative policy and has authored and co-authored numerous scholarly articles and book chapters on governance, public participation, collaborative policy, and consensus building, including the lead chapter in Deliberative Policy Analysis: Understanding Governance in the Network Society published by Cambridge University Press. His recent publications include "Collaborative Governance" in the Encyclopedia of Public Administration and Public Policy and "Civic Engagement as Collaborative Complex Adaptive Networks" in the new book Civic Engagement in Network Society.
Judith Innes is Professor of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley. She holds a Ph.D. from MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning and an undergraduate degree in English from Harvard University. Her dissertation and first book looked at theory and practice of social indicators use in public policy. She has done research on the processes of planning and decision making across a wide range of substantive topics, including land use and environmental policy, water management, growth management, transportation, human rights, environmental justice and social policy. Her recent interests have focused on collaborative policy making and action at the state and regional levels. She maintains a continuing interest in how to improve the use of information in planning and public policy. She has taught planning theory for many years, developing ideas through her research on communicative planning. She believes that the next agenda for planning thought and planning practice must be about how to address contemporary challenges to the traditional institutions and practices of decision making and how to develop new concepts of governance to deal with collaboration and with the many voices and competing versions of reality that confront planners today. Her most recent book, Planning with Complexity: An Introduction to Collaborative Rationality for Public Policy (Routledge/Taylor and Francis, Oxford), with David E. Booher, outlines a new theory and approach to planning.
In this lecture, Diane Davis argues that urban violence in today's Latin American cities is among the unintended consequences of the efforts by city planners to implement modernist planning ideas. Davis is Professor of Urbanism and Development at Harvard GSD. Her lecture is the keynote of the GSD Urban Planning Open House.
Richard Sennett is a professor of sociology at New York University and the London School of Economics. Beginning in The Uses of Disorder (1970), and in subsequent books such as The Fall of Public Man (1977) and Authority (1980), he has used combined methods of ethnography, history, and social theory to examine the working class, the public realm, and the formation of identity in society. Turning to urban design and physical experience, he addressed the personal scale in The Corrosion of Character (1998), The Culture of New Capitalism (2006), The Craftsman (2008), and Together: The Rituals, Pleasures, and Politics of Cooperation (2012). This talk, on the theme of his next book, will describe open and closed systems in urban design and explore ways of practicing open design.
The new regime of urban security has been tracked back to the 9/11 events, but its origins are longer and deeper. As many theorists from Lefebvre onward have suggested, real estate investment in city building offers a means of displacing crises of capitalist accumulation from the industrial sector, and indeed the "Great Recession" beginning in 2007 exploded out from the nexus of finance capital and real estate which reached its apogee during the neoliberal moment of capitalist development. The hollowing out of one arena of state practices (social reproduction support) has, ironically, raised fears of a direct diminution of social security, not as government program but as everyday experience, and 9/11 became at best the excuse for a more direct securitization and militarization of urban life. This paper explores these issues drawing on the recent strategic police crackdown at the Toronto G20 protests, and asks what this means for urban politics during a period in which neoliberalism is "dominant but dead."
Neil Smith is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York where he was the founding Director of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics. He is also Sixth Century Chair in Geography and Social Theory at University of Aberdeen. His numerous authored and edited books include American Empire: Roosevelt's Geographer and the Prelude to Globalization which won several awards including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography, 2004; The Endgame of Globalization (2005); New Urban Frontier (1996); and Uneven Development (3rd edn, 2008). He has written more than 200 articles, chapters and essays, and his work is translated into more than a dozen languages. He has received numerous honors including a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. He lectures widely and is an organizer of the International Critical Geography Group.
Cities should open up opportunities, connect people to new people, free us from the narrow confines of tradition — in a word, the city should deepen experience. But modern cities work the opposite way: urban inequality restricts opportunity; spatial segregation isolates people into homogeneous class, racial, and ethnic groups; the public spaces of today's cities are not places for political innovation.
In this talk, Richard Sennett explore ways to open up the city so that place matters more. Richard Sennett has explored how individuals and groups make social and cultural sense of material facts — about the cities in which they live and about the labour they do. He focuses on how people can become competent interpreters of their own experience, despite the obstacles society may put in their way. His research entails ethnography, history, and social theory. As a social analyst, Mr. Sennett continues the pragmatist tradition begun by William James and John Dewey.
His first book, The Uses of Disorder,  looked at how personal identity takes form in the modern city. He then studied how working-class identities are shaped in modern society, in The Hidden Injuries of Class, written with Jonathan Cobb.  A study of the public realm of cities, The Fall of Public Man, appeared in 1977; at the end of this decade of writing, Mr. Sennett sought to account the philosophic implications of this work in Authority . At this point he took a break from sociology, composing three novels: The Frog who Dared to Croak , An Evening of Brahms  and Palais Royal.
He then returned to urban studies with two books, The Conscience of the Eye, , a work focusing on urban design, and Flesh and Stone, a general historical study of how bodily experience has been shaped by the evolution of cities. In the mid 1990s, as the work-world of modern capitalism began to alter quickly and radically, Mr. Sennett began a project charting its personal consequences for workers, a project which has carried him up to the present day.
The first of these studies, The Corrosion of Character,  is an ethnographic account of how middle-level employees make sense of the “new economy.” The second in the series, Respect in a World of Inequality, [2002} charts the effects of new ways of working on the welfare state; a third, The Culture of the New Capitalism,  provides an over-view of change. Most recently, Mr. Sennett has explored more positive aspects of labor in The Craftsman , and in Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation. The third volume in this trilogy, Building and Dwelling, will appear in 2016. Among other awards, Richard Sennett has received the Hegel and Spinoza Prizes and an honorary degree from the University of Cambridge.
On February 28, 2012, Senior Loeb Scholar, Richard Sennett delivered the lecture, "The Architecture of Cooperation which addresses a question: how can we design spaces in the city which encourage strangers to cooperate? To explore this question he draws on research in the social sciences about cooperation, based on his book, Together: The Rituals, Pleasures, and Politics of Cooperation. He relates this research to current issues in urban design.
"A Brief Biography" (from Richard Sennett's website)
"Richard Sennett has explored how individuals and groups make social and cultural sense of material facts -- about the cities in which they live and about the labour they do. He focuses on how people can become competent interpreters of their own experience, despite the obstacles society may put in their way. His research entails ethnography, history, and social theory. As a social analyst, Mr. Sennett continues the pragmatist tradition begun by William James and John Dewey.
His first book, The Uses of Disorder,  looked at how personal identity takes form in the modern city. He then studied how working-class identities are shaped in modern society, in The Hidden Injuries of Class, written with Jonathan Cobb.  A study of the public realm of cities, The Fall of Public Man, appeared in 1977; at the end of this decade of writing, Mr. Sennett sought to account the philosophic implications of this work in Authority .
At this point he took a break from sociology, composing three novels: The Frog who Dared to Croak , An Evening of Brahms  and Palais Royal . He then returned to urban studies with two books, The Conscience of the Eye, , a work focusing on urban design, and Flesh and Stone , a general historical study of how bodily experience has been shaped by the evolution of cities.
In the mid 1990s, as the work-world of modern capitalism began to alter quickly and radically, Mr. Sennett began a project charting its personal consequences for workers, a project which has carried him up to the present day. The first of these studies, The Corrosion of Character,  is an ethnographic account of how middle-level employees make sense of the "new economy." The second in the series, Respect in a World of Inequality, [2002} charts the effects of new ways of working on the welfare state; a third, The Culture of the New Capitalism,  provides an over-view of change. Most recently, Mr. Sennett has explored more positive aspects of labor in The Craftsman , and in a study of cooperation to appear in 2012."