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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.”