Infrastructure and Materiality: Building Materials

Nov 28, 2017, 12:00 pm12:00 pm



Event Description

The Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities' Fall 2017 research forum is curated by Andrew A. Johnson (Anthropology) and Curt Gambetta (Architecture).

A growing body of contemporary research about infrastructure in architecture, the humanities and social sciences takes as its object large-scale, seemingly immaterial infrastructures. Against assumptions about the invisibility of infrastructure, new scholarship accounts for the materiality of systems that range in time and scale from global networks and longue durée processes, to fleeting, microscopic phenomena. In working across different registers and sites, what possibilities and problems do work on materiality pose to theory, methods and critique? In order to understand this, our series creates dialogues across disciplinary boundaries that focus on a particular material, including water, carbon, biota, cargo and building materials, among others. In doing so, we seek to explore how material shapes the possibilities for human worlds, be they social, political, religious, cultural, or otherwise.

For a complete listing of sessions, visit

November 28: Building Materials

Catherine Fennell is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. Her work focuses on the decline and transformation of a key infrastructure of the 20th century US welfare state -- subsidized housing. She interrogates how the material and social legacies of such housing shape the politics of difference, collective care and obligation, and utopian imagination in the urban Midwest. Her recent book, Last Project Standing: Civics and Sympathy in Post-Welfare Chicago (Minnesota 2015), interrogates how an effort to demolish and rebuild troubled public housing projects also became one to rebuild the kinds of citizens who would be capable of caring for themselves and others, far better than any failed welfare bureaucracy. Her emerging research follows how inhabitants of "shrinking cities" manage the physical aftermaths of houses that have ceased being homes and have instead become waste. She also has interests in urban infrastructure and the urban sensorium.

Diana Martinez is Assistant Professor of Art History and Director of Architectural Studies at Tufts University. Her research focuses on the role that concrete and other architectural materials played in processes of colonization. She received her doctor of philosophy in architecture history and theory from Columbia University where she also received her master of architecture. She has practiced architecture in San Francisco, Manila, and New York City.