Described as "crime scene photos," stark images of Spain’s housing bubble landscapes depict a grim reality. But instead of a somber discourse on the evils of political corruption and real estate speculation, the Architectural League’s symposium this past Friday, The City That Never Was, looked forward and, as Iñaki Abalos aptly asked, wondered if we, "can turn shit into gold." Building on their research and design studios at the University of Pennsylvania, Chris Marcinkoski and Javier Arpa, the moderators, explored the future of urbanism through the lens of Spain’s economic crisis and its resulting desolate urban form. Framing the historical context of boom and bust cycles, they reveal that the Spanish situation is only unique in scale and intensity. It exists as part of a larger commodification of urbanism all over the world resulting in similar conditions in an ever simplified placeless urbanism. An international range of speakers from both Spain and the US covered issues regarding agricultural production, city planning, waste flows, and repurposing of vacant land. Each panel ended in a group discussion which began as an invigorating dialog, but by end of day became a bit muddled in message. University of Pennsylvania’s new Chair of Landscape Architecture, Richard Weller, struck a positive note in the final panel when he said that each speaker had "left clues" as to how the current situation could be ameliorated and avoided in the future. Some of which included Barcelona’s Enric Batlle’s ideas regarding the preparation of space over time providing a road map for incremental change and Chris Reed’s kit of parts for Detroit which could be useful in facilitating the reuse of incomplete developments. In thinking about other paradigms for development, Weller advised "designing the system, not the aesthetic." To that point, the discussion of waste became particularly fertile when Robin Nagle, anthropologist-in-residence for the NY Department of Sanitation answered the previously asked question with a resounding, "Shit is gold!" The audience may not have left with a definitive recommendation but was certainly inspired about the possibilities.
Posts tagged with "Richard Weller":
The University of Pennsylvania's School of Design has announced that Australian Richard Weller has been appointed Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture. Penn Dean Marilyn Jordan Taylor believes that Weller is just the person to build on the department's well known legacy of research and teaching since it was founded over 50 years ago by the legendary Ian McHarg. The department has been directed by Field Operation's James Corner since 2000 who asserts that Weller is a "leading edge figure in our field." Weller has been teaching at the University of Western Australia and was director of both the Australian Urban Design Research Centre and the design firm Room 4.1.3. His current research concerns ways of "conceptualizing, representing and designing cities a mega-regional scale." In March of this year Weller will release his latest book, Made in Australia, that focuses on the long term future of cities.