This year, the Buell Center is hosting a series of conversations among scholars, designers, and cultural producers whose work clarifies architecture's imbrications with land in the Americas. This plural, Americas, helps decenter the concept of "American Architecture" in two ways: by connecting building practices across the Western Hemisphere, and by recognizing that there are several Americas within the United States.
Not too long ago, "American Architecture" was an unambiguous formulation, but today there is clearly no such single cultural product. If "land" seems especially ripe for architectural rethinking, then, it is because it has given many permission to think about history in grand metaphorical terms: that America was built like a building, as one thing, in one place. Undoing this myth is no easy task, however. We will privilege stories and projects that reveal the highly technical ways these landed imaginaries continue to affect how the built environment is designed and inhabited.
February 24, 2022, 12pm | A conversation between Joseph Kunkel (Director, Sustainable Native Communities Design Lab at MASS Design Group) and Teresa Montoya (Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago)
March 24, 2022, 12pm | A conversation between Benedict Clouette (Doctoral Student in Architecture at Columbia GSAPP) and Alma Steingart (Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Columbia University)
April 7, 2022, 12pm | A conversation between Stéphanie Barral (Sociologist at the French National Institute for Agronomic and Environmental Research) and Timothy Mitchell (William B. Ransford Professor of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University)
October 20, 2022, 12pm | A conversation between Vanessa Agard-Jones (Columbia University), Seth Denizen (Princeton University), and Linda F. Chavez Baca (JGMA), with Catherine Fennell (Columbia University)
January 27, 2023, 12pm | A conversation between Brenna Bhandar (University of British Columbia) and Mabel Wilson (Columbia University)
March 24, 12PM
There has never been a way to account for land—its size, location, or monetary value—without also counting people. From 17th Century cadastral surveys to contemporary gerrymandering, the questions of what to build, for whom, and where, have always depended on the question: “for how many?" This event will address a postwar moment when spatial overlaps between physical and political boundaries were deliberately redesigned in the United States. Alma Steingart (Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Columbia University) will present on the impact of digital algorithms on redistricting in the 1960s; Benedict Clouette (Doctoral Student in Architecture at Columbia GSAPP) will discuss the role of electoral maps in political negotiations over large-scale urban projects in Chicago in the 1950s.
Benedict Clouette is a doctoral candidate in architectural history at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. His writings and interviews have appeared in Harvard Design Magazine, Volume, Domus, The Architect’s Newspaper, and San Rocco, and he is the author, with Marlisa Wise, of Forms of Aid: Architectures of Humanitarian Space (2017).
Alma Steingart, an assistant professor in the Department of History at Columbia University, researches the interplay between American politics and mathematical rationalities. Professor Steingart’s current project, Accountable Democracy, examines how mathematical thought and computing technologies have impacted electoral politics in the United States in the twentieth century. Her first book, Axiomatic: Mathematical Thought and High Modernism, is forthcoming with the University of Chicago Press (Fall 2022). Before joining Columbia University, Steingart was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows and a predoctoral fellow of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. She earned her PhD in 2013 in the Program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Steingart’s work has appeared in Social Studies of Science, Grey Room, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Her work is supported by a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation.