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  • Good evening.

  • My name is Pierre Belanger.

  • I'm co-director of the MDes program with Kiel Moe.

  • We'd like to welcome you to the spring annual event of the MDes

  • program.

  • And we really appreciate you taking time out

  • of your schedules.

  • We're always trying to figure out

  • what is the sweet spot that you can

  • have a lecture in the spring, where

  • people don't start falling off and start getting exhausted.

  • So we really appreciate you taking time out

  • of your schedules to be with us, also

  • for a special lecture with Keller Easterling.

  • We'd like to provide a brief introduction

  • to Keller's lecture, and also in the context of the MDes program

  • that Kiel and I, as well as a group of coordinators

  • have been really working with Mohsen over the past few years,

  • developing a postgraduate research vision.

  • We've been trying to ask a few questions

  • over the past couple of years with a number

  • of different speakers.

  • The central one is this idea of what does support urban life.

  • And I'm going to try to capture your attention

  • against the background of these really repugnant images.

  • You don't have to look at me.

  • You can just listen.

  • What's been particularly important also

  • is to be able to answer this question in really

  • practical, and also at the same time, undisciplined ways.

  • Pedagogically, we've also been exploring

  • the role of representation as part

  • of the role of research as a way to advance

  • the postgraduate environment conducive to advance research

  • studies dealing with what we could consider the design

  • arts and the design sciences.

  • In that light, we're also looking

  • to try to understand how do we extend

  • and also stretch knowledge from the platform

  • of the core disciplines themselves.

  • Towards this effort, last year, we received blogger Jeff Menaw,

  • as well as designer Christien Meindertsma,

  • who spoke about her book PIG 05049.

  • And they both captured our imagination, as well as

  • our attention, asking fundamental questions

  • about the mediation of our environments

  • and the measures of our research methods--

  • how do we do research in design?

  • This year, we also advanced these pursuits

  • with films and filmmakers, including

  • the work of Jennifer Baichwal and Ed Burtynsky.

  • Almost the same time last year, their film Watermark

  • that was screened for the first time in Boston.

  • They explored the scales, technologies, infrastructures

  • of urbanization.

  • And earlier this fall, with filmmaker Raoul Peck

  • with this film Fatal Assistance, which

  • profiled the failure of international humanitarian aid

  • following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

  • So through these creators, innovators, Kiel and I,

  • along with the coordinators of the MDes program,

  • have been trying to explore also how video, film,

  • time-based representation factors a pivotal role

  • in the communication of research and dissemination of design

  • across the world, this possibility of being

  • able to make design and the communication of it

  • searchable and scalable.

  • Launching our 30th anniversary year

  • since the creation of the MDes program in 1985 and 1986,

  • we were fortunate to receive Keller Easterling this evening,

  • who will be in conversation with Charles Waldheim,

  • chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture;

  • John Irving, professor of Landscape Architecture,

  • as well as founding coordinator the urbanism landscape

  • and ecology concentration of the MDes program in 2009, 2010.

  • I'd like to say a few words about the context

  • of Keller Easterling's work over, really, the past two

  • decades.

  • There was a long list of reasons to invite you.

  • So Shantel asked me to contain this to five minutes.

  • So I'm going to try.

  • I think it's important to understand the work of Keller

  • Easterling over the past two decades

  • as emerging out of an extremely turbulent era

  • of the early 1990s and the late 1980s,

  • where the shock of digitalism and deconstructivism

  • that mark a kind of a [speaking french] transition

  • was nothing short of both structurally turbulent and also

  • at the same time, surprisingly, has

  • been overlooked as an era of tremendous exhaustive and

  • exhausting transformation.

  • As one of its most reflexive as well as preemptive thinkers,

  • Keller Easterling's work transcends

  • this groundbreaking change that was

  • occurring in the early 1990s.

  • Not only did she live in or did she

  • pass through this major period of transformation,

  • but in hindsight, she can be seen

  • as the soft heroine of a spatial avant garde

  • that we're now just beginning to understand two decades later.

  • As writer, urbanist, and architect at Yale,

  • we can argue that her work belongs not only in the fields

  • and forms of professional disciplines as we know them,

  • but we could also propose that her work belongs in an entirely

  • different time zone.

  • Influenced by early collaboration

  • with film archivist Rick Prelinger in New York,

  • her collaboration on the laser disc on suburbia, Call it Home.

  • Keller Easterling's preemptive work

  • on the landscape of interconnectivity

  • was later compiled in a book, Organization Space,

  • published by MIT Press in 1999.

  • It profiled researchers Patrick Geddes,

  • Benton MacKaye, which remarkably,

  • yet not unsurprisingly, comes out

  • of the shadows of the school of deconstructivist

  • though of the early 1990s that essentially marginalized

  • and overlooked environments, overlooked ecologies

  • and infrastructures, scales at which

  • can be recognized in her contemporary adoption

  • of landscape as support and system

  • for contemporary urban life.

  • Today, Easterling's observational empiricism

  • is not only accelerated algorithmically

  • over the past two decades; it's grown in significance and kind

  • with two follow-up books, Enduring Innocence, which

  • chronicles the rise of new spatial products,

  • as well as the rise of infrastructural effects

  • in the book that she'll speak about tonight, Extrastatecraft.

  • Retroactively-- and I realize-- I turned the page-- I only

  • have a half a page left-- retroactively,

  • the importance of Keller's work can also be seen on two levels.

  • She's attempted to overtly and indirectly correct

  • the course set in motion more than 40 years

  • go by so-called revolutionary architecture

  • of the 20th century, a course that, according to postmodern

  • theorist Charles Jencks proposed, and I quote,

  • "has not been healthy or good for the environment."

  • I'm quoting out of an article from Architectural Review

  • that Charles Jencks did on the evolution of architecture.

  • Reporting on the sexist and dogmatic arrogance

  • of the 20th century architect, according to Jencks in 1999--

  • and I quote again-- "the revolutionary century

  • has been dominated by men, and there are very few women

  • among the 400 protean creators gathered from other writers."

  • He's specifically referencing the diagram

  • that has been so famously recycled and been reiterated

  • in four or five different occasions as part of his work.

  • Moving forward-- and this is a rare moment of self-reflection

  • as part of Jenck's work on his own work-- Jencks

  • proposes-- and I quote again, from 1999--

  • "an urbanism both more feminine and coherent

  • would have been far superior to the over-rationalized and badly

  • related boxes that have formed our cities."

  • That's the end of the quote.

  • So between the bank art traditions of geography,

  • once considered, early beginning of the 20th century,

  • as girl science, and American cultural geographers,

  • such as Denis Cosgrove, JB Jackson,

  • Keller's work can be seen as injecting the field of urbanism

  • and the system of landscape as geographic subject

  • of critical importance by making a transitive, transdisciplinary

  • leap into the fields of design.

  • This leap is extremely important to understand

  • as part of her work over the past two decades.

  • And if her work seems to fall in between certain cracks,

  • it's only because of the distance

  • that certain divides have between disciplines

  • of architecture, economy, ecology, anthropology,

  • and engineering.

  • Easterling's eye crystallizes as what

  • preeminent human geographer Carl O'Sauer saw in 1963 in his book

  • Land and Life as the value of, what he quotes,

  • "being unspecialized," where her synthetic and telescopic

  • optic has enabled us to see urbanization

  • as both the stratification or the strata

  • and synthesis of power relations expressed

  • through different skills and spaces of information.

  • And we can see that as a transition

  • from her work dealing with organization space

  • to infrastructure space.

  • In some total, her work elucidates urbanism's chaos

  • and complexity, translating it for us-- and again,

  • quoting Sauer-- into a vocabulary of wider

  • and clearer intelligibility and where

  • power forms its foundations.

  • So I guess we can say, as the dean

  • of infrastructural thought, Keller's work

  • reveals the very nature and essence of infrastructure

  • that's realized as part of the process

  • of infrastructural products and effects

  • in her latest book Extrastatecraft-- The

  • Power of Infrastructure Space.

  • I'd just like to finish off with a quote from her book, which

  • I think captures both the work that she's

  • done over the past two decades, but also at the same time,

  • if you listen carefully, one can begin

  • to understand how to be able to predict the next two decades.

  • I'm quoting directly from her book Extrastatecraft.

  • "Infrastructure space is a form, but not

  • like a building is a form.

  • It's an updating platform unfolding in time

  • to handle new circumstances, encoding

  • the relationships between buildings or dictating

  • logistics.

  • There are object forms, like buildings, and active forms,

  • like bits of code and the software

  • that organizes building.

  • Information resides in the often undeclared activities

  • of this software-- the protocols,

  • the routines, the schedules, choices it manifests in space.

  • Marshall McLuhan's meme, transposed to infrastructure,

  • might be "the action is the form."

  • Please join us in welcoming Keller Easterling.

  • [applause]

  • Thank you, Pierre, for that introduction.

  • It's a pleasure to be here at this excellent place

  • with these exceptional faculty and exceptional students.

  • I'm showing you a bit of urban porn here.

  • And I'm sorry that was so distracting.

  • And in many ways, the book that I just finished

  • is meant to be a book in dialogue with people like you.

  • Some of my books and writings have really been reportage.

  • But Extrastatecraft is hoping to be an adventure in thinking,

  • and one that rehearses a habit of mind about design.

  • So you all probably know that I have long

  • been working on unfocusing eyes to see not only buildings

  • with shapes and outlines, but also the almost

  • infrastructural matrix space in which buildings are suspended.

  • That's not an infrastructure of pipes and wires

  • into the ground, but something like an operating system

  • for shaping the city.

  • And it's coded with laws and econometrics and informatics

  • and global standards and formulas

  • for making spatial products.

  • You know it.

  • You know it.

  • It's the cartoon of skyscrapers and turning radii and malls

  • and resorts and franchises and parking lots and golf courses

  • and airports and airport lounges and free zones.

  • Again, not an infrastructure that's hidden, far from it--

  • Something that's pressing into view

  • and looking the same, whether it's in Texas or Taiwan,

  • and telling emotional stories about Arnold Palmer golf

  • and Beard Papa cream puffs.

  • And this is, as you know, inner Mongolia.

  • And some of the most radical changes

  • to the globalizing world have been

  • written in the language of this matrix space,

  • so much so that it's become a de facto medium of polity.

  • And you know this space is currently

  • coded by org men and World Bank yes men

  • and 28-year-old McKinsey consultants and quality

  • management specialists.

  • It's the secret weapon of some of the most powerful people

  • on Earth.

  • And sometimes, it seems like it's

  • a secret that's best kept from those of us who

  • are trained to make space.

  • No one's leading, really, with spatial variables.