UCL Urban Laboratory


Urban Salon January 2013;  Ignacio Farías and Michael Guggenheim 

2 January 2013

The next Urban Salon will be on the theme of Materialities and Urban Politics, with talks by Ignacio Farías (Berlin) and Michael Guggenheim (Goldsmiths).

Ignacio Farías: "Cosmograms for city reconstruction: Master plans and the composition of a common world" 

In the aftermath of the Chilean 2010 earthquake/tsunami, most destroyed cities engaged in the elaboration of Master Plans for Urban Reconstruction. In this article, I propose studying these plans as cosmograms, this is, as diagrams of the entities and the relationships among entities articulating a common urban cosmos. By following the work of experts involved in their elaboration, I describe and discuss the establishment of 'common boundaries' regarding the territories and entities representing common matters of concern, and the transformation of urban projects into 'common things', ie. projects that give form to this world by means of a surplus of connections to other entities. I also look in detail at how master plans are aimed to act upon the world. Thus, by taking their existence as PowerPoints seriously, I show how master plans operate as resources for action in the present rather than for the structuration of the future.

Michael Guggenheim: Sacralizing and De-Sacralizing Buildings. Notes on the Theory of Technology

What does a church do? What do mosques do? Constructivist sociology has usually argued that buildings don't do anything, but are enacted by users. Conversely, actor-network theory has interpreted buildings as actants that are stabilised by architect-controlled networks. In this article, I attempt a theory, which uses these opposing ideas about the agency of buildings in an ethnographic way, by observing how buildings do different theories in different situations. I use two different kinds of change of use to show that buildings do different things. First, I show that in the case of churches that are changed to other uses, the church attempts to associate the buildings to religion primarily with discursive means.  Second, I show that in the case of factories that are turned into mosques, very small material interventions with furniture I close with some observations of the relationship of buildings and power. 

*Please circulate this notice to interested people (they can register for notices on the website www.theurbansalon.org), and feel free to bring along some snacks or drinks to fortify informal discussions after the talks.  

About the The Urban Salon

The Urban Salon is a London based seminar series aimed at scholars, artists, practitioners and others who are exploring urban experiences within an international and comparative frame.

The seminars are informal and open, with relatively short presentations supporting circulated or visual material and plenty of time for discussion. We want to allow the diversity of urban experiences in different contexts to inform thinking about cities; we hope that narratives taken-for-granted in one context will disturb and be disrupted by experiences in other places. Or that accounts of the circulations of people and practices will expose commonalities across apparently quite divergent contexts.

All the while, we want to decentre the dominance of European and North American urban experiences in understanding urbanity, while keeping them in sight, but coming to them through a wider world of cities and urban experience.

We welcome suggestions for future events. Please contact one of the organizers.