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Reawakening the Sensory Network

Posted on by Susan Moffat

On Saturday, February 27, Ava Roy, Artistic Director of the We Players site-integrated theater group led students in a workshop at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge to learn methods of using movement and bodily awareness to investigate public spaces.  For a complete description of the workshop, which was sponsored by the Global Urban Humanities Initiative, and other experiments in dance and architecture, see this blogpost.

REAWAKENING THE SENSORY NETWORK

by Jason Prado, Master in Landscape Architecture candidate

My recent fascination with Lawrence Halprin's design process and the development of my studio design is what brought me to Ava Roy's workshop.  In studio, I have become increasingly interested in how landscape design can not only benefit places ecologically, but also how it can create a theatrical stage for people in civic spaces to perform at all scales, from concerts and protests to the stand alone street performers.  It seemed like a perfect match!

However, I was still uncertain of what to expect, as I am new to the field of making spaces and even newer to the world of performing arts.  In any case, the workshop did give me a great excuse to visit Fort Point, which is an incredible site.  From the beginning, I felt at ease with Ava.  She did not start with lecturing us or even giving us context. 

 

 

She began with awakening our senses by asking us to close our eyes for just a few minutes and allow the other senses to take hold.  What do we hear in the distance?  What do we hear at our feet?  How does that make you feel?  I almost immediately entered a calming, meditative state.  It reminded me of practicing yoga, which helps to relieve the stresses of my day and ground me in my senses, which are often blurred with all the other noise of the day.  The exercises continued throughout the workshop and helped with bringing the group together and bringing meaning to the place.  It was an effective tool to shut out the outside world and bring yourself to be with the space and notice things that would otherwise be hidden at first glance. 

That is what I found so powerful about the workshop.  This kind of approach to the space allowed Ava to be successful in her production.  She diligently studied the space in a manner that soon revealed to her where, when, and how to set up her performance and this led me to think, “How can I bring this to my design?” 

 


Jason Prado at Fort Point
Image courtesy of Hien Nguyen

 

It is often that we find ourselves glaring at our phones, listening to our headphones, browsing social media, or performing other daily rituals that allow us to be unaware of our surroundings.  And thinking in terms of design, it presents a major problem because it is very difficult to make people stop and take notice.  However, the series of exercises I just underwent revealed the space in a way that I would not have captured otherwise. 

Can I use these exercises in my site analysis?  It seemed clear that they can be another set of tools to make sense of the current state of the site.  This kind of practice can reveal the awful noise of a site but it can also shed light on the uniqueness or beauty of a site.  This is where one can harness, for example, a faint pleasant noise and bring it to the surface to contribute to a more complete design.  


On Choreography, Power and Public Space

Posted on by Susan Moffat

by Susan Moffat, Project Director, Global Urban Humanities Initiative How do bodies construct and inhabit public space? In the past week I had the opportunity to participate in three transformative workshops—two sponsored by the Global Urban Humanities Initiative--that used dance, movement, and mindfulness to explore public space. Teatro Campesino in Wurster Hall, the Central Valley and Mexico City 2/25/2016 In a narrow, high-sided concrete courtyard hidden in an outdoor corner of the Brutalist Wurster Hall, Kinan Valdez of Teatro Campesino asked students and faculty to growl and shout; to walk, crawl, and leap; and to engage with props such as…


“You get friction and heat”

Posted on by Susan Moffat

  “Before you can synch up languages, they have to bump up against each other. You get friction and heat, and that’s good.” That’s what choreographer Erika Chong Shuch is saying in this picture as her co-teacher, urban designer Ghigo DiTommaso, leans in to listen. The two instructors from disciplines with different habits, words, and tools of the trade are already doing a lot of listening—and debating—in order to learn each other’s languages and figure out how to study and intervene in public space with both bodies and design. “With my artist colleagues, we can be recycling our language, talking…


Road-Testing Psychogeography on Oakland’s International Boulevard

Posted on by Susan Moffat

As part of the Global Urban Humanities Initiative Colloquium called Reading Cities, Sensing Cities, we have asked students and visitors to write responses to each of the weekly guest lectures.  On September 4, 2014, Darin Jensen invited listeners to consider the narrative and spatial aspects of two experiential mapping projects he created with his students: Mission Possible: A Neighborhood Atlas about San Francisco's Mission District, and Intranational International Boulevard about Oakland. Jensen is staff cartographer and lecturer in the UC Berkeley Department of Geography. His presentation is available here. Video of the first portion of his presentation is available here. By Scott Elder While not…


Thoughts on Urban Villages by a Native of Guanghzhou

Posted on by Susan Moffat

As part of the Global Urban Humanities Initiative Colloquium called Reading Cities, Sensing Cities, we have asked students and visitors to write responses to each of the weekly guest lectures.  On August 28, 2014, Prof. Margaret Crawford (Architecture) gave a presentation on her continuing research on urban villages in the Pearl River Delta—independent jurisdictions that are being swallowed up physically and administratively by large cities. Along with Asst. Prof. Winnie Wong (Rhetoric), she will be teaching a studio course on the Pearl River Delta in Spring 2015. Her presentation is available here. Video of the first portion of her presentation is available…


Questions of Autonomy in Guangdong Urban Art Villages

Posted on by Susan Moffat

As part of the Global Urban Humanities Initiative Colloquium called Reading Cities, Sensing Cities, we have asked students and visitors to write responses to each of the weekly guest lectures.  On August 28, Prof. Margaret Crawford (Architecture) gave a presentation on her continuing research on urban villages in the Pearl River Delta--independent jurisdictions that are being swallowed up physically and administratively by large cities. Along with Asst. Prof. Winnie Wong (Rhetoric), she will be teaching a studio course on the Pearl River Delta in Spring 2015. Her presentation is available here. Video of the first portion of her presentation is available here. By…


“Reinserting the Human into the Urban”—Year One of Urban Humanities at UCLA and UC Berkeley

Posted on by Susan Moffat

By Susan Moffat What does the first year of an experiment in the emerging field of urban humanities look like on the campuses of two major public universities?  At a recent Los Angeles symposium, it was described by participants as diverse, exciting, and surprisingly unsettling. Over the past year, in parallel experiments at UCLA and UC Berkeley, graduate students explored Tokyo, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area using methods from film theory, anthropology, architecture, urban planning, history, art practice and other fields.  Both faculty and students came from a wide variety of humanistic and design disciplines and wrestled with the creative and epistemological tensions…


ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN GEOGRAPHERS LAUNCHES GEOHUMANITIES JOURNAL, SEEKS EDITORS

Posted on by Susan Moffat

By Michael Dear .   The Association of American Geographers (AAG), in cooperation with Routledge publishers, is sponsoring the launch of a new academic journal entitled GEOHUMANITIES. This exciting development is obviously of great interest to the Mellon-funded Global Urban Humanities Initiative, and will likely be a major catalyst for growth of work in the broader transdisciplinary realm. The AAG requests applications from individuals interested in becoming one of two co-editors of the journal. Very importantly, the Association plans to appoint one co-editor from Geography, and one from the Humanities (broadly understood). The announcement with complete information on the editorship can…


Breaking NEWS: Urban Humanities is a Real Field!

Posted on by Susan Moffat

By Margaret Crawford, Professor of Architecture On May 2nd I attended a conference at the Radcliffe Institute in Cambridge, MA. Convened to discuss both Mellon-funded and other examples of the Urban Humanities, it brought together academics from Harvard, Princeton, MIT, the University of Pennsylvania, UCLA, Boston College and USC. After a long day of presentations, Mariet Westermann, Vice-president of the Mellon Foundation and one of the initiators of the Urban Humanities Initiative, summed up her views of its development so far. First of all, after some initial skepticism, she now believes that urban humanities is a genuine emergent field, not…


INTERDISCIPLINARITY AT THE “MELLON MASHUP”

Posted on by Susan Moffat

  By Oscar Sosa On February 21st the Global Urban Humanities Initiative (GloUH) hosted a group of local and visiting faculty from the social sciences and the humanities who met for a few hours to discuss the advantages and challenges of engaging in truly transdisciplinary research.   In a nod to the funder of GloUH and its goal of mixing things up, Professor Michael Dear (Department of City and Regional Planning) dubbed the gathering the “Mellon Mashup.”  The event began with CED Dean  Jennifer Wolch engaging with professors Dear and  Jim Ketchum (American Association of Geographers), Sarah Luria (Holy Cross) and…