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Category Archives: Geography

Publication: No Cruising: Mobile Identities and Urban Life

Posted on by Anne Jonas
Filed under: Art, Geography, Los Angeles

The first Global Urban Humanities research studio, “No Cruising: Mobile Identities and Urban Life” took place in Spring of 2014, co-taught by Margaret Crawford (Architecture) and Anne Walsh (Art Practice). With six PhD students, three MFA candidates, and one undergraduate student from a diverse set of disciplinary backgrounds, the course took on Los Angeles and the multiple themes generated by the concept of mobility (and its inverse: immobility). Over the course of the semester, students visited LA multiple times and explored the city via car, bus, light rail, walking, and running, focusing on the circulation of bodies, stories, designed forms, performance, identities, labor, opportunities, and relationships.


Street sign saying 'No Cruising' against blue sky background


Out of the studio comes a new publication documenting these projects, also titled No Cruising. Student essays are accompanied by rich images of urban life, archival materials, and maps that reflect the social, political, cultural, and environmental histories that shape current experiences of movement and entrapment within the city infrastructure. These projects upend dominant myths of the city (spoiler alert: people do walk!) and disturb established spatial arrangements through performance and imagined design.


Book cover for 'No Cruising,' - A drag queen in a leopard-print blouse stands in front of a train, fanning herself with a lacy fan


As the faculty advisors write in their introduction, “The No Cruising projects address human agency–transit activists, artists and gallerists, teenage drag queens, and Midwestern, Mexican, and Taiwanese immigrants–as well as monumental forms like the Watts towers and palm trees, and finally the expressions of invisible but potent agents such as seismic and spiritual force fields.” This beautiful publication weaves together distinct experiences across a landscape, offering readers a chance to dive into the many complex threads that make up life in this iconic city.


A man in a wide brim straw hat, his face in shadow, stands on top of a bicycle in a dark parking lot


Students in the course:

  • Ying Fen Chen, Architecture PhD
  • Sarah Cowan, Art History, PhD
  • Jason Fritz, Art Practice, MFA
  • Megan Hoetger, Performance Studies, PhD
  • Kathleen Irwin, Architecture, MS
  • Lee Lavy, Art Practice, MFA
  • Fabian Leyva-Barragan, Art History, Art Practice, and German, BA
  • Michelle Ott, Art Practice, MFA
  • Sabrina Richard, Architecture, PhD
  • Noam Shoked, Architecture, PhD
  • Alec Stewart, Architecture, PhD

The Albany Bulb and Ephemeral Layers of Territory

Posted on by Genise Choy

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.


October 30, 2014
Nature, Culture, and Conflict at a Shoreline Landfill: The Albany Bulb
Susan Moffat (Global Urban Humanities Initiative)

Moffat presented on The Atlas of the Albany Bulb, her oral history and mapping project about a landfill on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay, which has been the location of bitter battles between people holding different notions of the proper uses of public space, and of what a park should be.


by Scott Elder

The Albany Bulb is not on everyone’s mental map. As a Bay Area native, I had never heard of it before enrolling here at UC Berkeley where it has acquired a certain long-standing focus of attention being at the confluence of heated local politics and bay-side ecological, preservation, recreation priorities. Susan Moffat’s lecture on the Bulb begins with the statement: the Bay is young. This is true, though it predates our familiar European settlement patterns by several thousand years, yet those same settlement patterns effectively continue the process of creating the Bay.

The Bulb is made of “fill” which, as we explored, is a generic name for a wide array of potential conditions affecting formerly open water or marsh space. “Fill,” as an idea, can also explode into a tangle of legal intentions too, but the fact beneath all this is that the Bulb is comprised of different elements from disparate places; be they disassembled, scooped, broken, accumulated or dredged, they have formed this small peninsula in an accretionary process. As the Bulb was not here during the Bay’s infancy, nor here even one hundred years ago, and will likely not be here a century into the future due to predicted sea level rise, it can only be understood in section as a temporarily physical story of layers, mostly manmade. It seems acutely ironic, in this case, that the actual human element living upon and adding to these layerings are now being required to leave.

Two questions/comments posed by listeners at the end of the lecture stuck with me. To paraphrase:

  1. The Bulb and its former residents/occupants should not be thought of as obligated to create a place that is comfortable for absolutely everyone.
  2. The former residents/occupants slowly overtook the available space and paths on the Bulb; therefore, regulating the shared qualities of the place became a problem.

These two opposing stances illustrate the root of the schism leading to increased levels of control at the Bulb, and ultimately the conversion to official park space, purportedly the most democratic, all-serving possibility. But I would challenge that the traditional idea of democratic park (design and management) might be able to take on a different strategy if it refocused on this idea of ephemerality embodied in the land of the Bulb itself.



In Rubble: the Afterlife of Destruction, Gastón R. Gordillo examines a wide array of pileups from past forces of capital acting upon the Chaca region of Argentina. While taking care to decouple the idea of “rubble” from the cleansed idea of “ruin,” Gordillo illuminates a continuum of accumulation from crumbling churches to abandoned infrastructure to buried bones of past massacres to memories of native lifeways built into the identities of the Gaucho culture of the territory. It seems that if this sort of wide-angled view were taken of the Bulb, accepting of its multi-layered temporality, and this view could then expand the concept of “park,” then the comments above might cease to be opposing. The idea of “fill” could then become more culturally accurate, and the idea of “park” could be young once again, like the Bay itself, before folding in as yet another layer of this transitory and charged place.

Scott Elder is a PhD candidate in the UC Berkeley Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning.


Bay Area Landscapes and the Conflict Over Open Space

Posted on by Genise Choy

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.


October 30, 2014
Nature, Culture, and Conflict at a Shoreline Landfill: The Albany Bulb
Susan Moffat (Global Urban Humanities Initiative)

Moffat presented on The Atlas of the Albany Bulb, her oral history and mapping project about a landfill on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay, which has been the location of bitter battles between people holding different notions of the proper uses of public space, and of what a park should be.


by Alana MacWhorter

Susan Moffat, project director of the Global Urban Humanities Initiative at UC Berkeley, presented an overview of the politics and history of Albany Bulb this past week through her work, The Atlas of the Albany Bulb-- an oral history and mapping project of the Bulb and the community formed on the repurposed Bay fill landscape.


Source: Susan Moffat


The complex rhetoric framing the site’s interweaving cultural and natural landscapes sheds light on the deeply emotional conflict over open space management and the displacement of the Bulb’s temporary residents. In order to thoughtfully delve into the politics of the contested Albany Bulb, we must reflect on the impact of overarching competing Bay Area narratives by environmentalists, social justice activists and bohemians. All of these are juxtaposed to expose a lack of intersecting discourses addressing these landscape typologies embedded with conceptions of divergent cultural and ecological meaning. Therefore, our contemporary activists are without the necessary toolkits to address both the aesthetics of and access to “wilderness” within the region, as well as the politics of representation in such landscapes.

This spurs self-critique--are we a progressive region accepting of hybrid landscapes of “wilderness” and diverse groups of people, or are we only comfortable within our own homogeneous niches? Must we feel comfortable in every context and with all groups of people and types of environments? If that’s not necessary, must we still continue to intensify the stark binaries of such environments, or can we acknowledge and respect the proclaimed multicultural, ecologically diverse landscapes that comprise the Bay Area?

Alana MacWhorter is a graduate student at the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design working toward a joint degree in Landscape Architecture and Urban Design.


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 explicitly framed as such, it’s great to see the possibilities of Psychogeography dusted off and road-tested in the Bay Area. Under the leadership of Darin Jensen, UC Berkeley’s Cartography and GIS Education Lab (CAGE) digs in to explore the complex intersections of the physical and observational worlds.  The resulting collection of mappings shows spontaneity and graphic savvy, but looking into the territories chosen for exploration provides us more questions than answers.



One project, already complete, zeros in on San Francisco’s complex Mission District CAGE Lab teams up with Mission Local, a district-based news site, to create a 22-map “Atlas” and illuminating a variety of slightly absurd but suggestive juxtapositions.  Each map tells a story through cartographic creativity, rather than text.  Mapped gourmet coffee prices vs. depleting Latino neighborhoods, cupcake bakeries vs. reported gang activities, households with children vs. house-pet infrastructure (shops, kennels, parks)…these all provide suggestions of the frictions at work in the district, and often by comparing retail trends to demographics.  An upcoming CAGE Lab project will focus similar scrutiny on a linear territory, Oakland’s International Boulevard, in advance of sweeping changes about to emerge from the planning pipeline.  In both SF and Oakland projects, the underlying “story” often flirts with themes of gentrification.  It’s important to note, though, that these map-based examinations are being requested and performed as gentrification-related dynamics swell, not plateau or recede.  This raises the question of whether the creation and distribution of these map/stories constitutes just an observation, or whether they in fact abate or propagate the territorial shiftings identified.

A question from the audience suggested that the factors chosen for mapping on International Boulevard seemed to lean towards the “institutional," rather than perhaps looking at more mobile and elusive district factors such as prostitution.  This insinuates that such mapping might have a bias toward the more fixed and permanent components of life.  The subtle possibilities of what this bias might catalyze, however subtly, is worth considering and, given the exploratory nature of CAGE Lab, fully open to question.

Another question from the audience raised the topic of mapping data derived from charge card usage or cell phone use/location.  This rich and emerging source might of course yield new avenues of cartographic creativity, especially relevant here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Scott Elder is a PhD candidate in the UC Berkeley Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning.


Maps as Stories: Manufacturing Place

Posted on by Genise Choy

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 Yael Hadar

Maps have always fascinated me, and as a graduate student in the department of Landscape Architecture I find myself looking at maps all the time as a source of information. My perception of maps was that they are an objective tool that gives us accurate information. Sitting in Darin Jensen’s lecture inspired me to look at maps in a different way – as storytelling devices. Just the fact that most maps orient to the north is a conception that says something about the story a map is trying to convey.



Darin refers to maps as storytelling devices where the cartographer brings in his own emotion and personal experience. Maps convey a complicated story in a certain moment in time, and the reader of the map can enter that story wherever he chooses. So in that perspective, each person creates a different story from the map, depending on the things he noticed first and the things he put an emphasis on.

The project of Mission Possible that Darin and his students did, where they mapped different things in the Mission District in San Francisco, was very inspiring. The ideas that they had about what and how to map in order to tell a story of a neighborhood got me thinking about the information which surrounds us all the time--information that when put on a map can really manufacture the story of a place.

Yael Hadar is a graduate student in the UC Berkeley Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning.