The current issue of Fulcrum, the Architectural Association's weekly free sheet, is devoted to Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond's ArcelorMittal Orbit Tower in London's Olympic Park, the subject of Power Tower, the final City Seminar of 2011/2012. "Talking Towers" features texts by Cecil Balmond and the City Seminar's Michal Murawski.



The audio for the Power Tower talk by Professor John Milner and artists' collective Henry VIII's Wives is available here.


(In)Flexible Cities - Power Tower

Please join us next Tuesday (29th May) for 'Power Tower', the final CRASSH
City Seminar event of this academic year. We are very pleased to be
welcoming Professor John Milner (Courtauld Institute)and the artists HenryVIII's Wives to discuss the Tatlin Tower in relation to the ArcelorMittalOrbit in London's Olympic Park. The event will be followed by a wine reception at CRASSH.

The event is envisaged as an exploration of the legacy of Tatlin's tower,
and the manner of its (un)realization in the form of the Orbit by Anish
Kapoor and Cecil Balmond. How does the Orbit relate to the transformatory
impact the Tatlin tower was intended to have on social forms and urban
structures? How are the relationships between monumental structures and
cities thought about across eras, spaces and political systems? And what of the
ideological contexts of the towers in Soviet Russia and corporate London?

The event will start at 5pm in room S1 (N.B. 1st floor), CRASSH, Alison
Richard Building, 7 West Road.

Event info online here.

Image of the Orbit c/o Arcelor Mittal.


Ash Amin - audio

The audio for Ash Amin's talk 'Telescopic Urbanism' is now available online. Click here to listen.


Ash Amin - Telescopic Urbanism

Next week Professor Ash Amin (Geography, Cambridge) will be talking to the City Seminar with the title 'Telescopic Urbanism'.

Here's the abstract:

By 2030 between a third and half of the world's population will be leading a precarious, and often abject, life in the neglected urban interstices. Urban scholarship is beginning to turn to this eye-watering problem, and to questions of sustainable urban competitiveness and growth, but interestingly without referencing one to the other. This paper claims that the 'endless city' is being looked at through the wrong end of the binoculars, with 'business consultancy' urbanism largely disinterested in the city that does not feed international competitiveness and business growth, and 'UN-Habitat' urbanism looking to the settlements where the poor are located for bottom-up solutions to human well-being. The paper muses on the implications of such an urban optic on the chances of the poor, their areas of settlement, and their expectations of support from others in and beyond the city. While acknowledging the realism, inventiveness and achievements of effort initiated or led by the poor, the paper laments the disappearance of ideas of mutuality, obligation and commonality that telescopic urbanism has enabled, in the process scripting out both grand designs and the duty of distant others to address the problems of acute inequality and poverty that will continue to plague the majority city.

For more info please click here.


(In)flexible Cities podcasts

Podcasts are now online for the recent Kinshasa on Film and Wounded Cities events. Click here to listen to extracts of Filip de Boeck and Koen van Synghel discussing their Kinshasa film projects, or click here to catch up on Karen Till's 'Wounded Cities' talk.


Urban Reflections talk today

Professor Mark Tewdwr-Jones (UCL Bartlett) will be talking this evening as part of the (In)flexible Cities series. His title is 'Urban Reflections - Filmic Narratives of Place, Planning and Change' . The seminar starts at 5pm and will be in room SG2 at CRASSH, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road.

Here is some information about the event:

‘The eye does not see things, but images of things that mean other things.’ Italo Calvino's comment from 'Invisible Cities' captures the role and value of film in the urban realm. Cities have long been a feature of motion pictures and the use of urban landscapes for the setting has taken varied forms since the dawn of cinema more than 100 years ago. These landscapes form part of the narrative text to film that are necessary to convey a unified sense of space. The eclecticism of the contemporary study of cities - associated with a growing body of theory on place identity, on ‘placeness’, and spatial awareness, on the interrelations between place, space, people and politics, with a long standing interest in urban form and city life - provides an opportunity for an alternative critical perspective, gleaned from celluloid representation, that might explain the prevalence and significance of people's perceptions of places that social scientists often feel remote from or unable to discern. Similar to maps, films are just another way of looking at the world but evoke matters concerning power and contestation. Film as a product of modernity captures perfectly the dynamism of modernism and its impact of cities and landscape, looking forward excitedly at the prospect of the utopian future while glancing backwards and with nostalgia to familiar, cherished and vanishing scenes. Massey talks about space as ‘the sphere of the existence of multiplicity’. Perceptions of space, of representations and imaginations, will be multiple too. This is where the camera lens has the advantage - depicting multiple meanings of places, representing difference and distinctiveness, and challenging existing perceptions of places we think we already know well.

Mark Tewdwr-Jones is Professor of Spatial Planning and Governance at University College London Bartlett School. His work is multi-disciplinary, spanning planning, politics and governance, architecture and film studies, and housing and environment.

His latest book, Urban Reflections: Narratives of Place, Planning and Change, was published in 2011. It provides a series of narratives that examine our perception of place and change, both through official town planning accounts and through literary, cinematic and social depictions and reactions to urban change and development.



City Seminar #2 - Karen Till on Wounded Cities

Tomorrow we're welcoming Dr Karen Till (National University of Ireland, Maynooth) to Cambridge to talk about 'Wounded Cities', the title of her current book project.

The talk starts at 5pm, SG1 at CRASSH, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road. Please click here for more info.

Here is the abstract for Karen Till's talk:

In contrast to theorizing cities that have experienced disaster or trauma as systems that need to become more resilient, in this talk Karen Till argues that cities marked by past structures of violence and exclusion should be understood as both wounded places and as environments that offer its residents care. The talk draws upon her book in progress and ethnographic research in Bogota, Cape Town and Roanoke, Virginia -- cities in which settlement clearances have produced spaces so steeped in oppression that the geographies of displacement continue to structure urban social relations. She will introduce her concepts of 'wounded city', 'memory-work' and a 'place-based ethics of care' as a means of retheorizing the city. She argues that the memory-work of artists, activists and residents offer alternative models to imagine more socially just urban futures. A deeper appreciation of the lived and place-based experiences and expertise of these urban inhabitants would enable planners, policy makers and urban theorists to consider more ethical and sustainable forms of urban change.



The first city seminar of Lent term is already next Tuesday (31 January). Further seminars will take place on the following Tuesdays: 7 February, 21 February and 6 March. Please click here for a link to the programme.

Tuesday's seminar (Kinshasa on Film: Between Dystopia and Utopia) is a special event, a screening of two films on Kinshasa, plus a discussion with the directors: anthropologist Professor Filip De Boeck from KU Leuven and architect/curator Koen Van Synghel. Van Synghel and De Boeck have carried out a number of urban-focussed projects together, including the Belgian Pavilion at the 2004 Venice Architecture Biennale, which won the Golden Lion.

Please note that this event will start at the earlier time of 4.15pm, and will run until 7pm.

De Boeck and Van Synghel with show extracts from two films: Cemetery State (2010, dir. Filip De Boeck), which deals with the urban politics of death in a Kinshasa graveyard; and an excerpt entitled The Tourist City from the film The World According to Bylex (2008, dir. Koen Van Synghel and Filip De Boeck), which takes the form of an interview with Bylex, a utopian artist and social visionary from Kinshasa.

For an abstract of the event, please click here.

The film showings will be preceded by an introduction from the directors, and followed by a discussion. This promises to be a very exciting event indeed - we hope to see many of you there!



The City Seminar meets on Tuesdays at 5pm in the Seminar Room at CRASSH's *NEW* headquarters, the Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road. All are welcome.

31 January (16.15 - 19.00)
KINSHASA ON FILM (film showing and discussion with the directors): Cemetery State (72') and The Tourist City (15')
Professor Filip De Boeck (Anthropology, KU Leuven) and Koen Van Synghel (architect and curator)

7 February (17.00 - 18.30)
Dr Karen Till (Geography, National University of Ireland, Maynooth)

21 February (17.00 - 18.30)
Professor Mark-Tewdwr-Jones (UCL Bartlett School of Architecture)

6 March (17.00 - 18.30)
Professor Ash Amin (Geography, Cambridge)