Decoding the Landscape: Dolores Hayden & Anne Whiston Spirn HUM 595/ Engaged Scholarship/Public Culture
Spring 2013 Sponsors: UW Walker Ames, Simpson Center, Departments of Geography, History and Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies in the College of Arts & Sciences, and Landscape Architecture in the College of Built Environments Lead Faculty: Kim England, Geography; Lynne Manzo, Landscape Architecture; Margaret O’Mara, History
Overview: This microseminar extends the inquiries of the Now Urbanism Sawyer Seminar by engaging with two of the most important critical thinkers about space and place, nature and infrastructure, and the role of design in the 20th century: Dolores Hayden, Professor of Architecture, Urbanism, and American Studies at Yale University, and Anne Whiston Spirn, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning at MIT. Both will visit the UW in May 2013 as guests for the Walker-Ames lecture series and these lectures will be part of the microseminar (http://www.grad.washington.edu/lectures/).
The microseminar will explore how these two scholar-practitioners have re-shaped our understanding of urban landscapes by challenging how we see and interpret built environments, decoding the landscape from inner city to outer suburbia. Central to its inquiries will be the role of alternative lenses, including but not limited to feminist theories and sustainable design, in redefining understandings of the urban landscape.
In the work of Hayden, we will explore her research on the development of suburban environments and the challenges of sprawl and how they have transformed the American landscape over the last two centuries. In the work of Spirn, we will explore the West Philadelphia Project in the context of her research on how we design places that are functional, sustainable, meaningful, and artful, strengthening the human relationships with both the natural and the built. In the work of both scholars, we will consider the position of public scholarship as well as its role in offering alternative ways of seeing, reading, and decoding the landscape.
Learning objectives: Become familiar with conceptual frameworks and research methodologies in urban studies, and place-based disciplines, especially as connected to public scholarship of Dolores Hayden and Anne Whiston Spirn ; Develop a situated understanding of public scholarship at different scales across academic, professional, and community settings as reflected in the practices of Hayden and Spirn; Explore the role of alternative lenses, including but not limited to feminist theories and sustainable design, to redefine our reading of the urban landscape.
Logistics: The seminar will meet for five sessions (three Monday mornings and two Tuesday evening lectures). The introductory session will focus on a selection of readings by Hayden and Spirn and position their work within the larger framework of urban studies and critical writing. The following sessions will engage the respective speakers in a focused discussion pertaining to the readings and the topics of their public lecture. Students will attend the lectures, submitting a one-page reflection on the lecture as a form of public scholarship and its position within the microseminar discussion.
• Monday, April 29 9:20-11:00 am; microseminar meeting (Communications 202)
• Monday, May 6, 9:20-11:00 am; microseminar meeting (Communications 202)
• Tuesday, May 7, 6:30-8:30 pm; Green Fields and Growth Machines: Building American Suburbs, 1820-2000, Lecture by Dolores Hayden, Kane 120
• Monday, May 13, 9:20-11:00 am; microseminar meeting (Communications 202)
• Tuesday, May 14, 6:30-8:30 pm; Restoring Mill Creek: Reflections on 26 Years of Action Research in an Inner-City Neighborhood, Lecture by Anne Whiston Spirn, Kane 120
Content: Dolores Hayden is the author of Building Suburbia, A Field Guide to Sprawl, and several other award-winning books about the history of American landscapes and the politics of place. She is a professor at Yale University and past president of the Urban History Association. Most recently she has also published as a poet. In the work of Hayden, we will investigate the development of suburban environments and how they have transformed the American landscape over the last two centuries. Defining seven historic patterns in the American landscape, we will engage with Hayden as she seeks to “decode the maze of houses, tracts, highways and commercial edge cities where most Americans live and work” (Hayden lecture description). We will explore how her research has moved across the spectrum of academic and public scholarship, engaging a feminist critique in her early essay, “What would a non-sexist city look like” to her proposals for alternative perspectives on gender, race, and ethnicity to broaden the practice of public history and public art, enlarge urban preservation, and reorient the writing of urban history to spatial struggles as reflected in her nonprofit organization and the subsequent book The Power of Place. Finally focused on her most recent work on sprawl and the meaning and experience of suburbia, we will investigate the role of critical thinking and critical design.
Anne Whiston Spirn is an ecological planner and landscape architect as well as a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is also a photographer and author. Her work explores relationships between people and place. With the articulated goal to change the way human settlements are designed and built she engages the roles of narrative and participation in communities, most remarkably in the West Philadelphia Landscape Project (WPL Project), a project that has been in development for over 26 years. In the work of Spirn, we will explore the West Philadelphia Landscape Project as it has reshaped both the local community and the larger domain of research about landscapes and urbanism. Centered on Spirn’s belief that “Human survival depends upon adapting ourselves and our landscapes – cities, buildings, roadways, rivers, fields, forests – in new, life-sustaining ways, shaping places that are functional, sustainable, meaningful, and artful, places that help us feel and understand the relationship of the natural and the built” (Spirn website), we will consider the position of public scholarship in her WPL Project as well as her more recent studies in photography and the description of alternative ways of seeing landscape and place.