Using Bodies to Measure Urban Public Space

Tuesday, 09/27/16
494 Wurster Hall

The built environment of cities is created by human bodies, for human bodies.  But too often, cities fail to meet the people’s physical needs–as well as associated emotional and psychic needs­. Is it possible to use techniques rooted in dance and theater to better understand and design space? How can we use bodies not only to measure quantifiable space but also to determine how well it performs in terms of publicness, equity, comfort, etc.?

Choreographer Erika Chong Shuch and urban designer A. Ghigo DiTommaso conducted experiments in using performance as a design tool in their 2015 Global Urban Humanities course called Public Space: Placemaking and Performance. Their students created performances in spaces ranging from a Costco warehouse store to a plaza in Downtown Berkeley in order to ask questions about place, space, and the right to the city.  In this talk, they’ll describe their experience of working across disciplines, what they learned from each other, and how their professional practices were influenced by their pedagogical experiments.

Part of the Cities and Bodies colloquium of the Global Urban Humanities Initiative, an interdisciplinary project that investigates cities using methods from the arts and humanities as well as from the environmental design disciplines.

Erika Chong Shuch is a choreographer, director, and performer as well as a teacher.  She is the artistic director of the Erika Chong Shuch Performance Project, a group of artists and galvanizers who create and present original performance work. Valuing vulnerability and humor, the company’s ruminations coalesce into imagistic assemblages of music, movement, text, and scenic design. Shuch has a BA in Theater Arts with an emphasis in Dance from UC Santa Cruz and an MFA in Creative Inquiry from the New College of California.

A. Ghigo DiTommaso was a core member of the Rebar Art & Design Studio, which pioneered experiments in tactical urbanism including parklets and other temporary installations. Since 2014 he has been part of Gehl Studio, based in San Francisco. He was trained as an architect and urban designer in Florence and sharpened the tools of the trade in Barcelona, where he had a professional practice and conducted academic research. At the College of Environmental Design, besides teaching, Ghigo also coordinates the Adaptive Metropolis Alliance and leads a new undergraduate summer program focusing on urban innovation called Disc. Ghigo holds a PhD and a MScArch from EtsaB, Barcelona School of Architecture, and a M.Arch and a B.Arch from the Università di Firenze.

IMPORTANT: 494 Wurster is in the SOUTH Tower of Wurster Hall. If you are on the fourth floor in the North Tower you cannot walk across to the South Tower unless you go down to the third floor.  When you enter Wurster Hall's main (west) entrance, turn right and take the single elevators in the South Tower up to the fourth floor. If you take one of the double elevators you are in the North Tower.