I am thrilled to say that I have moved east to New York City, leaving California after five unforgettable and productive years, to take on a new role as co-director, with Nicola Twilley, of Studio-X NYC at Columbia University.
Studio-X NYC is an off-campus event space, gallery, classroom, and urban futures think tank, part of a global network run by Columbia's GSAPP. It is closely connected with other Studio-X locations in Beijing, Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, and Amman—with others, we hope, soon to come.
As Mark Wigley, dean of the GSAPP, describes the overall Studio-X initiative:
In recent years, GSAPP has adopted the label "Studio-X" to refer to its most advanced leadership laboratories for the future of the built environment that have to evolve at the same rapid speed as the urban environment itself. The label tries to capture the sense that we have to be ready to face many unknown questions that will arise and need to be engaged urgently, creatively, and responsibly with a range of different partners. A Studio-X offers a protective space for private and collegial exchange of ideas still in formation and a public gallery/lecture space, website and publication program for the exhibition, communication and discussion of the thoughts and designs that result from this exchange. Such laboratories will be located around the world in a dynamic interactive network dedicated equally to practical problems in the city and to emergent thinking.Further:
With locations in Amman, Beijing, Moscow, Mumbai, New York, and Rio de Janeiro, it is the first truly global network for real-time exchange of projects, people, and ideas between regional leadership cities in which the best minds from Columbia University can think together with the best minds in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia.As such, each location of Studio-X acts as a "platform for incubating a whole new kind of conversation about the future of the built environment—intense collaborative workshop by day, energizing event space by night."
We both think this is an amazing opportunity to reengineer what it means to discuss cities today, and Nicola and I are committed to pursuing this goal in as wide-ranging and open a way as possible.
[Images: Spatial formats for events at Studio-X NYC, from Gavin Browning's recent Studio-X Guide to Liberating New Forms of Conversation].
Fulfilling the remit of the space would never work, however, without the extraordinary range of potential collaborators, colleagues, experts, and everyday users of the built environment that New York City offers—including the greater Mid-Atlantic region, and the global circuits of travel and professional connection that are based here.
I think, speaking for both Nicola and myself, that one of the most invigorating aspects of all this is the ability to work with people in radically different fields and professions—from policing to public health, archaeology to architecture, literature to film, international finance to amateur sports, subway engineers to sidewalk eccentrics, mayoral candidates to venture capitalists—all of whom have a perspective on, and vested interests in, how cities function. Nicola and I thus anticipate a surge of new collaborations, friends, and, of course, critics—and we hope to see many of you in person, at any number of our forthcoming meetings, events, exhibitions, tours, film festivals, book launches, panel discussions, and more.
In the very near term, we have a few things scheduled. Kicking off a new series of conversations that we call Live Interviews @ Studio-X—or LI@SX—we will be hosting a public conversation with Deborah Estrin at 12:30pm on Thursday, September 1st.
Deborah is director of the Center for Embedded Network Sensing at UCLA. She will be discussing her work with self-monitoring applications, participatory sensing campaigns for community data projects, and citizen science, as well as larger issues of surveillance, privacy, and information filtering in the digital city.
The live interview format will take the form of an informal, one-on-one conversation—moderated in this case by Nicola Twilley—which the public is invited both to attend and to join. For those of you unable to be there in person, the LI@SX series will be recorded for posterity, webcast whenever possible, and eventually transcribed and published online.
[Images: Liam Young installs "Specimens of Unnatural History" at the Nevada Museum of Art; photos by Jamie Kingman].
Later that same evening—at 6pm, Thursday, September 1st—we will be hosting a Landscape Futures Night School with London-based architect Liam Young. This is an experiment with a different format: the Night School is a more interactive exploration of ideas, by definition hosted in the evenings, taking the form of everything from lectures and slideshows to design challenges and debates. The Night School series will be flexibly themed and very different each time it's run.
Liam Young is co-founder (with Darryl Chen) of the design collective and futures think tank Tomorrows Thoughts Today, as well as leader (with Kate Davies) of the Unknown Fields Division, a nomadic design studio based at the Architectural Association (newly returned from a summer expedition to Chernobyl and Baikonur). Liam will be joining us to introduce some of his Specimens of Unnatural History, recently installed as part of the Landscape Futures exhibition at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno.
Following Liam's presentation of his work, I'll be engaging with him in a public conversation, whiteboard brainstorm, and armchair journey around the world, exploring fieldwork as a form of research, the role of the sketchbook, the importance of narrative in architectural design, and the architect as investigative traveler. Expect to hear about everything from Australian kangaroo culls and the control of invasive species to conflict metals, the open-pit gold mine as designed landscape, and the difficulties of piloting a boat up the Congo.
The Landscape Futures Night School kicks off at 6:00pm; however, you must RSVP if you would like to attend: studioxnyc AT gmail DOT com.
[Images: Spreads from Geologic City by Smudge Studio].
Next week, meanwhile, we will be hosting a launch party for Smudge Studio's new pamphlet, Geologic City, a look at the rocky underpinnings of New York, both temporary & abstract (gold reserves, fiber optics, magnetic strips on subway cards) and massively real (bedrock, landslides, urban mineralogy). Jamie Kruse and Elizabeth Ellsworth of Smudge Studio—co-authors of the blog Friends of the Pleistocene—will guide attendees through the pamphlet, as well as through the deep time of the city, utilizing Studio-X NYC's 16th-floor windows overlooking southwestern Manhattan and the Hudson River to point out specific sites of geological influence on New York itself.
Jamie and Liz will be joined by Meg Studer, a designer and cartographer with a sustained interest in ecological systems; and Kevin Allen, a sound artist working with terrestrial acoustics. Together, Geologic City, Meg Studer's maps of the road-salt industry, and Kevin Allen's sonic installation will remain in Studio-X NYC for two weeks, open to public view.
[Images: Salt maps by Meg Studer].
Also on our schedule for the near future is an evening with photographer Simon Norfolk, whose work should be familiar to long-term readers of this site; BLDGBLOG's 2006 interview with Simon is still one of my personal favorites, and is well worth reading in full. Simon will be engaged in a wide-ranging discussion with both myself and Noah Shachtman—editor of Wired's excellent blog Danger Room—and this will kick off a year-long series of events themed around conflict and the city: urban military action, urban violence, urban police technology, urban warfare, divided cities, and much more. (While he's in town, don't miss Simon's lecture at the School of the Visual Arts on Wednesday, September 14).
The rest of the autumn promises a huge array of exhibitions, events, and public meetings—design charrettes, walking tours, all-day interviews, film fests, panel discussions, standalone lectures, slideshows, night schools, and more. To whet your appetite, our schedule is currently shaping up with a distributed film festival, exploring bank heists and prison breaks as architectural phenomena, co-organized with Filmmaker Magazine; a series of literary launches hosted in collaboration with GQ and Farrar, Straus and Giroux; live conversations with Benjamin Bratton, Luis Callejas, Christian Parenti, Janette Kim, Chris Woebken, Bernard Tschumi, and Sam Jacob, among many others; and much else beside, including ongoing collaborations with the GSAPP's own stellar faculty.
In any case, I'll be reporting back regularly about goings-on at Studio-X NYC—though you can also follow us on Twitter for updates and urban links—and keep your eyes out for the launch of a new cities blog, published by the Studio-X global network, later this fall. And, now that Landscape Futures is finally open in Reno and our move to the east coast is nearing completion, I will be back to posting on BLDGBLOG at a more normal pace next week.
***All events at Studio-X NYC are free, open to the public, and take place at 180 Varick St, Suite 1610, in New York. Here is a map. Unfortunately, at least for the time being, we reluctantly require an RSVP to studioxnyc AT gmail DOT com with your name and the event you would like to attend. Thanks!***