Posts tagged with "Laura Kurgan":

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Architects confront global warming at Columbia GSAPP’s Climate Change and the Scales of Environment

On Friday, December 4th—while hundreds of officials gathered in Paris for the COP21 UN climate change conference—scholars, historians, scientists, architects, and designers came to Columbia GSAPP’s Avery Hall for a similarly urgent conference, “Climate Change and the Scales of Environment.” The urgency lies in the fact that buildings are accountable for approximately half of energy consumption and CO2 emissions in the United States today. At the December 4 conference, the range of experts discussed this issue across multiple scales—ranging from a single molecule to the planet as a whole. At what scale should architects engage? And how do the different scales tie together? Dean Amale Andraos explained to AN that using these disciplinary questions of scale to enter a cross-disciplinary discussion on climate-change kept the conversation focused.

HISTORY

The first topic of the day, History, was moderated by Reinhold Martin (Columbia GSAPP) and included presentations from Daniel A. Barber (University of Pennsylvania, Architecture), Deborah R. Coen (Barnard College, History), Gregg Mitman (University of Wisconsin, History), and Eyal Weizman (Goldsmiths, University of London, Visual Cultures). Addressing different moments in history, the speakers collectively unveiled how ecological understandings dictate societal development. 

POLITICS

The second topic, Politics, was moderated by Laura Kurgan (Columbia GSAPP) and included talks from Michael B. Gerrard (Columbia University, Earth Institute and School of Law), Saskia Sassen (Columbia University, Sociology), Richard Seager (Columbia University, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory), and Christian Parenti (New York University, Liberal Studies). Each presentation addressed environmental failures, which Kurgan called “sobering,” and the related risks facing architects, planners, and builders. Before heading to COP21 to represent the Marshall Islands, Gerrard told the audience in Wood Auditorium, “Architects might be legally liable for failure to design for foreseeable climate change.”

UNCERTAINTY

Jesse M. Keenan (Columbia GSAPP and CURE) moderated Uncertainty, which included talks from Radley Horton (Columbia University, Earth Institute and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies), Adrian Lahoud (Royal College of Art, London, Architecture), and Kate Orff (Columbia GSAPP and SCAPE). The presentations unveiled each profession’s individual roles and how they overlap. Horton works with quantitative climate science; Lahoud uses the qualitative method of narrative; and Orff works in both realms. Keenan concluded, “Architects and planners are mediators. They are helping make that translation to define values and vulnerabilities and to weigh what that really means.”

VISUALIZATION

The final section, Visualization, was moderated by Mark Wasiuta (Columbia GSAPP) and included presentations from Heather Davis (Pennsylvania State University, Institute for the Arts and Humanities), Laura Kurgan, Emily Eliza Scott (ETH Zurich, Architecture), and Neyran Turan (Rice University, Architecture). Again, the presentations covered a wide spectrum of curation, ranging from Davis’s discussion of subject-object relationships to Kurgan’s video visualization of climate change data, EXIT, currently on display at COP21. Wasiuta, said in the panel discussion, “Laura’s work produces a different type of knowing, or knowability. Fascinating, the idea of curating a dataset: curating as the construction of a political form.” The day’s presentations ended with keynote speaker Dipesh Chakrabarty (University of Chicago, History). Chakrabarty’s talk, “The Human Significance of the Anthropocene” was a fitting way to pull together the wide-ranging but interrelated disciplines contributing to the conference. Videos of the conference will appear on Columbia GSAPP’s YouTube channel in the coming weeks.
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Columbia University receives grant to start Center for Spatial Research

Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, & Preservation (GSAPP) has announced the creation of a new Center for Spatial Research (CSR) that will act as a focal point linking humanities, architecture, and data science departments as well as sponsoring a series of curricular initiatives built around new technologies of mapping, data visualization and data collection. The Center will be directed by GSAPP Associate Professor Laura Kurgan. The new center was made possible thanks to a $1,975,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a foundation that seeks to "strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies." The development of the center responds to the contemporary influx of information available regarding geolocations, spending habits, transit, and other activities in a local population. Subsequently, the CSR intends to aid scholars and citizens in understanding what is happening in cities worldwide—past, present, and future. The contribution means the university is now a participant in the Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities, launched in 2012. The grants seek to strengthen ties between programs in the schools of humanities and architecture with architecture studios becoming a pedagogic model for humanities, proposing large scale research on the questions that develop in dense urban environments. Such research would look into data about public health, transportation, economic activity, and demography. “Laura’s long standing pioneering work in visualizing data as an architect, with a deep commitment to engaging social, political and environmental issues, and a unique ability to draw aesthetics and ethics together, has been a critical inspiration to our school and to the field of architecture,” Amale Andraos, GSAPP dean, said in a statement. “This new collaboration with Sharon Marcus and the humanities is an important step forward for Columbia. We are very grateful to the Mellon Foundation for its embrace of this initiative, which will contribute not only to the fields of architecture, urbanism and the humanities but to the University as a whole.”
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And the Winners Are

Among the winners at last night's ceremony for United States Artists (USA) were architects Neil Denari, Laura Kurgan, and architect/activist Rick Lowe. The $50,000 unrestricted awards are given each year "to ignite the creativity that makes this country great," according to the organization's website. USA was started in 2005 with seed money from the Rockefeller, Ford, Prudential, and Ramuson foundations to support artists in the wake of dwindling public funding for the arts. They praised Denari as a "leading voice in the pedagogy and practice of contemporary architecture," and commended him for showing that "progressive ideology is buildable." Kurgan's work employs "data network information and uses it as a visual device to inform and educate the general public on social issues and their physical implications to the built environment." The jurors referred to Texas-based Lowe as "an artist, architect, urban designer, developer, businessman, and activist who is a catalyst for social outreach for underserved neighborhoods." They praised his Project Row House as a "template for others to follow on how to bring local people together to engage their own creative energies and aesthetic values to produce a 'collective expression' to reinstate a community." The fashion designers Laura and Kate Mulleavy of Rodarte were also given an award by the design committee. The Architecture and Design selection committee includes Art Institute of Chicago's Curatorial Chair for Architecture and Design, Joe Rosa, Mabel O. Wilson, a professor of architecture at Columbia, Peter Zellner, architect and principal of ZELLNERPLUS in Los Angeles, Karen Fiss, a professor of visual studies at the Califonia College of the Arts in San Francisco, and Stephen Burks, director of ReadyMade Projects in New York.