Interact. A seminar with Felicity D. Scott, December 10th

PhD Seminar Series 2010-2011
The Historical Project: Whatever Happened to Operative History?
Friday 10th of December 16.00 – 19.00 J.J.P. Oud room

2nd Open Seminar with Felicity D. Scott, Professor at Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation Columbia University, NewYork, Founding Editor of Gray Room, author of Architecture or Techno-utopia: Politics After Modernism, 2008


This presentation will address the recasting of the architect’s role within the institutional context of MIT in the late 1960s, looking at the development of techniques of controlling urban and environmental “systems” and the populations who inhabited them—their monitoring, quantitative description, regulation, management, organization, and visualization. Focusing on Urban Systems Laboratory and the Architecture Machine Group, it will trace how a systems-based environmental paradigm became inextricably coupled with heavily funded research into the application of computer technologies and scientific knowledge. Behind the apparent neutrality of systems-based analysis and quantitative methodologies, with their claims to objective evaluation and rationalized design responses, their seamless ability to modulate across fields ranging from art installations and “pollution barometers” to data on race and poverty, and their claims to institute new prospects for “choice” and “participation,” we can trace a symptomatic acknowledgment and simultaneous bracketing of contemporary social, political, environmental, and territorial injustices and instabilities (both in the US and globally) that suggests the need for further historical scrutiny. At a historical moment threatened by insurrection both at home and abroad, and in which military technologies and paradigms of governmentality were increasingly addressed to such figures of insecurity, we might ask for whom this environment was to be invented?