Mellon Forum on the Urban Environment

The intellectual core of the Princeton Mellon Initiative, the Mellon Forum is an ongoing, flexible colloquium for the discussion and critique of faculty, student and guest speakers' research. At the Forum, Faculty and students present their research, whether a design, model, film chapter, performance, or particular source or problem for discussion.

A different set of conveners organize each semester with themes which tap into fresh configurations of the University community to attract new energy.  The Forum welcomes all disciplines. Forum events are free and open to the public.

See our Events page for more information.


SPRING 2020 / STAGED ENCOUNTERS: Embodiment, Architecture, and Urbanism

How does the built environment influence how we perceive race and national identity? How might design work for and against the disabled body? What are architectural design and urban planning’s political capacity in the twenty-first century? Staged Encounters privileges the site of the body (in its raced, gendered, and (dis)abled aspects) to think through the role of architecture and urbanism in the twenty-first century. It discusses how design, architecture, and spatial practices stage the body and, thus, impact how we frame and interpret social inequality. 

The Spring 2020 Mellon Forum is organized by Kinohi Nishikawa, Department of English, and Ashlie Sandoval, Princeton Mellon Fellow. The Mellon Forum is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Humanities Council, Center for Collaborative History, Department of Art + Archaeology, Program in American Studies, and the School of Architecture.

February 18 / Space / Brandi Thompson Summers, UC Berkeley, and Ashlie Sandoval, Princeton Mellon Fellow

Urban space and Blackness exist as embodied realities and material relationships, but they can also be subject to aestheticization, representation, and abstraction. This opening session of the Spring 2020 Mellon Forum on the Urban Environment will consider how the aestheticization or representation of Blackness and architectural design has impacted processes of urban renewal, designs for the urban environment, and the life conditions of Black communities. Panelists will consider the ways that aestheticization can serve to depoliticize the conditions of Black life, and also under what conditions aesthetics might be marshaled to respond to anti-Blackness within the built environment and urban design.

February 25 / Displacement / Jasmine Mahmoud, Seattle University, and Nora Akawi, Cooper Union

Displacement has been used to refer to the forcible removal of populations through militaristic, legislative, and financial acts. Displacement is also a process of forgetting, denial, and homogenization: forgetting who and what came before; a denial and (state, academic, and social) sanctioning of the violence of displacement; and a homogenization or flattening out of the multiplicity of subjects and agonisms that constitute a population, space, or state. This panel will consider how ritual and performance can serve as a response to survive or subvert acts of displacement, the ways in which architecture, urban space, or aesthetics are instrumentalized to produce dominating forms of national and racial identity as well as exclude those who are not represented by these hegemonic forms of life, and how notions such as “community,” “belonging,” or “memory” might influence or support processes of urban development and displacement.

April 9 / Disability / David Serlin, UC San Diego, and Bess Williamson, SAIC

Design’s relationship to disability is commonly discussed through the concept of universal design. However, the divergent approaches that operate under the term universal design point to the different stakes, ideologies, and politics that undergird design’s potential relationship to disability. The concept of universal design can be used to foreground disabled users and disability rights activism, drawing connections between the barriers faced by disabled users and the barriers faced by other spatially marginalized and excluded communities. Or the concept of universal design can steer away from disability-explicit design toward design for an imagined but unspecified “everyone.” In this conversation, the panelists will consider how an explicitly disability-focused design might differ from design that attempts to eliminate disability or build for an imagined “everyone,” and how the built environment might already reflect or challenge assumptions about the needs, abilities, life conditions, and desires of bodies. 

April 14 / Citizenship / Ronald Rael, UC Berkeley, and Lauren Williams, College for Creative Studies

Design has been used to create divisions between and within countries, such as border walls, prison walls, and surveillance technology. Through these objects, design can define who does and does not have the privilege of citizenship, mobility, and access to family and resources. But design can also bring us together. It can provoke and facilitate satirical and theatrical responses across borders, such as the case with responses to the U.S.-Mexico border wall. It can also be used to directly address and combat social injustices and hierarchies. This session will consider how design and architecture might be used to change how we think of citizenship, the possible roles that designers, architects, and scholars can take up in response to divisionary or carceral designs, and how new forms or uses of design might challenge norms around race and national identity.

April 20 / Home / Rashad Shabazz, Arizona State University, and Maxine Griffith, Columbia University

As an ideological figure in American media and political rhetoric, home is often represented as a space of leisure and rest, as a place separated and distinct from work, and as a detached realm of community and private family morals. These ideological representations often mask the ways that property, housing, and the figure of the home were and continue to be impacted by racial covenants, housing discrimination, predatory lending, policing, and gentrification. This final session of the Spring 2020 Mellon Forum on the Urban Environment will explore how we might bring different disciplines together (e.g. design intelligence, geography, Black Studies, and urban planning) to rethink how we access problems in the city and seek solutions, the ways housing policies, urban planning, and architectural design have made and unmade racial communities, and what effects new approaches to urban policy or the urban environment could have in undoing racially or economically inequitable urban landscapes and carceral geographies.


FALL 2019 / NARRATIVE

This semester’s topic was “Narrative,” addressing the different ways citizens, academics, and artists build stories on the urban environment. The series focused on the innovative and interdisciplinary methods to address the current and past crises that change the way we envision cities and architecture. Each seminar was devoted to the related sub-topics of Mapping, Unreal Cities, Divided Cities, Trauma, and Buffer Zones.

The Fall 2019 Mellon Forum was organized by Anne Cheng, Professor of English and Director of American Studies, and Basile Baudez, Assistant Professor of Art & Archaeology at Princeton University, and supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional funding from the Humanities Council, Center for Collaborative History, American Studies, and Art & Archaeology. 

September 24 / Mapping / Laura Kurgan, Columbia University, and Matteo Pericoli
                                         
October 8 / Trauma
/ Esra Akcan, Cornell University, and Valentina Rozas-Krause, UC Berkeley

November 5 / Unreal Cities / Dominic Pettman, The New School, and Gyan Prakash, Princeton University 
                                            
November 19 / Divided Cities / V. Mitch McEwen, Princeton SoA, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Princeton University 

December 3 / Buffer Zones / Keller Easterling, Yale University, and Tali Hatuka, Tel Aviv University 

"Locating Politics" took up the rise and fall of recent uprisings as a springboard for examining a broader inventory and longer trajectory of spaces of contestation. We questioned the historical and emergent topologies of politics and their changing relations to race, migration, indigeneity, coloniality, and crisis. We asked how histories of sites of conflict, ranging from houses and streets to camps and prisons, might offer us not just understandings of different locations of politics, but of the overturning and re-bounding of the very limits of the political. The term location suggests both place (locus) and relational position, and it is to this intersection that this Forum spoke—where and with whom do we act politically today?

Organized by Princeton Mellon Fellows Nasser Abourahme and Noam Shoked, the Forum was supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from the Humanities Council, Center for Collaborative History, American Studies, Judaic Studies, Near Eastern Studies, Transregional Institute and Art & Archaeology. The Forum events began at 12PM and were held in the School of Architecture South Gallery.

February 6 / Settlement - Camp / Nasser Abourahme and Noam Shoked, Princeton Mellon Fellows

March 4 / Settler Colonial Urbanism: From Waawiyaataanong to Detroit at Little Caesars Arena / Andrew Herscher, University of Michigan, and Miguel Robles-Duran, Parsons School of Design 

March 27 / Protest Camp - Holding Ground / Jaskiran Dhillon, The New School, and Candis Callison, Princeton

April 17 / Camp - Migrating / Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi, Barnard College, and Jacob Dlamini, Princeton                       
                               
April 22 / Migration, Detention, Spatial Imagination / Sarah Lopez, University of Texas at Austin, and Vera Candiani, Princeton  

April 24 / Seizing Jerusalem / Alona Nitzan-Shiftan, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, and M. Christine Boyer, SoA


FALL 2018 / GENDER, JUSTICE, URBANISM

Organized by Alison Isenberg (History), Sheila Lin (SoA) and Ivan Lopez Munuera (SoA), the Forum events began at 12PM and were held in the School of Architecture South Gallery. The Forum was supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Humanities Council and the Program in Gender & Sexuality Studies. 

September 26 / "Away with Your Man-Visions": Gender as a Framework for Rethinking Housing and Urban Design" / Dolores Hayden, Yale University, and Dianne Harris, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

October 24 / “…A soaking, seeping, spatial politics” / Kian Goh, UCLA, and Kadambari Baxi, Barnard College

November 7 / "Just Space: Architecture, Education, and Inequality in Postwar Urban America" / Marta Gutman, CUNY, and Mónica Ponce de León, Dean, School of Architecture

November 14 / "The Way We Work" / Peggy Deamer, Yale University, and Alison Isenberg, Princeton

November 28 / "Maxixe in the Metropolis: Constructing Afro-Paulistano Respectability ca.1920" / Aiala Levy, Princeton Mellon Fellow, and Marília Librandi-Rocha, Princeton


SPRING 2018 / SENSORIAL URBANISM: The Aesthetics of Immateriality

The Spring 2018 Mellon Research Forum on the Urban Environment focused on how architecture and cities are mediated, experienced, and represented through seemingly  immaterial means. Questions included, how do theories of neurophysiology and urban form shape the way we map the inner and outer world? How do microbial landscapes determine our moods, food processes and even configurations of whole cities? And how do the ways that we smell the streets, represent the city in color, and hear urban life change the way we embody and redesign the city? Panelists included architects, artists, scientists, designers and other scholars whose work seeks to unpack the aesthetic dimensions of immateriality in the city.
 
The Forum was organized by Evangelos Kotsioris (Architecture) and Phil Taylor (Art & Archaeology); events began at 5PM and were held in the School of Architecture South Gallery.

February 28 / NERVES / Lan A. Li, Columbia University,  and Anthony Acciavatti, Princeton Mellon Fellow

March 28 / COLOR / Leslie Wilson, SUNY Purchase, and Katherine Bussard, Princeton

April 2 / MICROBES / Orkan Telhan, University of Pennsylvania, and Esther Choi, SoA 

April 16 / SCENT / Joanna Fiduccia, Reed College, and D. Graham Burnett, Princeton

April 25 / MUSIC / Willem Boning, Arup, and Emily Thompson, Princeton


FALL 2017 / INFRASTRUCTURE & MATERIALITY 

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 created dialogues across disciplinary boundaries that focused on a particular material, including water, carbon, biota, cargo and building materials. In doing so, we explored how material shapes the possibilities for human worlds, be they social, political, religious, cultural, or otherwise.

The Fall 2017 research forum was curated by Andrew A. Johnson (Anthropology) and Curt Gambetta (Architecture). Events began at 12PM and were held in the School of Architecture South Gallery. 

September 25 / BIOTA Stuart McLean, University of Minnesota, and Peder Anker, NYU

October 9 / AIR / Erik Harms, Yale University, and Enrique Ramirez, Ball State University

October 16 / CARBON / Gökçe Gunel , University of Arizona, and Ateya Khorakiwala, Princeton Mellon Fellow

November 15 / CARGO / Jesse LeCavalier, NJIT, and Janell Rothenberg, UCLA 

November 28 /  BUILDING MATERIALS / Diana Martinez, Tufts University, and Catherine Fennell, Columbia University

December 6 / WATER / Nikhil Anand, University of Pennsylvania, and Mitch McEwen, SoA


SPRING 2017 / SEGREGATION, MIGRATION, & THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT

In Spring 2017, the Mellon Forum for Research on the Urban Environment focused on Segregation, Migration, and the Built Environment. The Forum was organized by Sarah Lopez, Princeton-Mellon Fellow.

February 13 / Far from Sanctuary: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights / Allyson Hobbs, Stanford University, and Stacey Sinclair, Princeton

February 22 /  Police and Infrastructure in the U.S. - Mexico Borderland / C.J. Alvarez, University of Texas - Austin, and Sarah Lopez, Princeton Mellon Fellow

March 1 / Landscape as Urbanism: A General Theory / Charles Waldheim, Harvard University, and Rachael DeLue, Princeton

March 8 / Writing Atmosphere: Experiments in Spatial and Environmental Writing / David Gissen, California College of the Arts, and M. Christine Boyer, SoA

March 15 / What Does a Global History of Urban Segregation tell us about Global Urban History? / Carl Nightingale, University at Buffalo, and Jeremy Adelman, Princeton 

March 27 / The Alien in our Midst: Memory, Displacement and the Making of our Everyday World / Arijit Sen, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, and Andrew A. Johnson, Princeton


FALL 2016 / THE NATURE OF CITIES

In Fall 2016, the Mellon Forum focused on The Nature of Cities, bringing together scholars to explore the complex and overlapping landscapes and ecosystems found in the urban built environment. The Forum was organized by Vera Candiani (History) and Elsa Devienne (Princeton Mellon Fellow).

September 21 / Coastal Resilience: Past & Present Perspectives / Andrew W. Karl, University of Virginia; Guy Nordensen, SoA; and Elsa Devienne, Princeton Mellon Fellow

September 28 / Globalization Meets Decolonization: The Urban Linkage, 1940s- 70s / Cyrus Schayegh, Princeton, and Ayala Levin, Princeton Mellon Fellow

October 12 / Imagining a Nonhuman Philadelphia / Alan C. Braddock, College of William & Mary, and Rachel Price, Princeton 

October 19 / New York Botanical Garden Mellon Fellows / Robert Corban, Sahar Hosseini, Rachel Koroloff, Lynette Regouby, and Lauren Trahan

October 26 / The Bulldozer in the Countryside, 15 Years Later / Adam Rome, University at Buffalo, and Stan Allen, SoA

November 9 / The Lessons of 19th Century Boston Harbor / Michael Rawson, Brooklyn College, and Bruno Carvalho, Princeton

December 7 (postponed) / Perspectives on Urban Environmental History: The Case of Pittsburgh / Joel Tarr, Carnegie Mellon, and Vera Candiani, Princeton


FALL 2015 - SPRING 2016 / CITY AS HOME

In academic year 2015-16, the Mellon Forum for Research on the Urban Environment brought together scholars from varying disciplines to discuss City as Home - issues and themes ranging from Property, Belonging, and Family, to Housing, Habitation, and Futures were examined.

September 23 /
Opening Plenary / Joao Biehl, Princeton; Mario Gandelsonas, SoA; Gyan Prakash, Princeton; and Judith Weisenfeld, Princeton 

September 30 / The Color of Modernity / Barbara Weinstein, NYU

October 7 / J.B. Jackson's Vision of the City as Part of the Landscape Helen Horowitz, Smith College, and Carla Yanni, Rutgers University

October 15 / Real Estate, Race, and Architecture / Andrew Sandoval-Strausz,  Princeton Mellon Fellow, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Princeton

November 12 / Literature Between Home and the City / Lilia Schwarcz, Princeton 

November 18 / Over the Ruins of Amazonia / Paulo Tavares, Princeton 

November 23 / Latin America, Space, and the Cold War Pedro Alonso, Princeton Mellon Fellow, and Jean Louis Cohen, SoA

December 3 / Inscribing Home in the City in Mexico and Colombia / Sebastian Ramirez, Princeton, and Pablo Landa, Princeton

December 11 / The Future of Public Housing / Leandro Benmergui, SUNY Purchase; Joseph Heathcott, Princeton Mellon Fellow; and Li Li, Xiamen University

February 25 / A woman's place? Rethinking Home in the Islamic City / Bridgett Purcell, Princeton, and Rachel Price, Princeton 

March 7 / The Black Market as City: New Ressearch on Alternative Urban Space in Occupied Japan, 1945-52 / Kosei Hatsuda, University of Tokyo/Princeton, and Akito Sakasai, University of Tokyo/Harvard

March 23 / Beaches in the City Elsa Devienne, Princeton Mellon Fellow

April 5 / The Color of War: Race, Neoliberalism and Punishment in Late 20th Century Los Angeles / Donna Murch, Rutgers University

April 12 / An Indigenous Woman's Map of the City: Indian Spaces in Progressive Era Washington, D.C. / Cathleen Cahill, University of New Mexico, and Martha Sandweiss, Princeton 

April 21 / Paris Remade: Architecture, Planning, and the Post-Industrial Imaginary / Joseph Heathcott, Princeton Mellon Fellow, and M. Christine Boyer, SoA

April 28 / Ganges Water Machine: Designing New India'a Ancient River Anthony Acciavatti, Princeton, and Pedro Alonso, Princeton Mellon Fellow


SPRING 2015 / DETROIT 101

In Spring 2015, the Detroit 101 lecture series examined the underlying causes that perpetuated Detroit's decline, and used these as a lens to supplant rhetoric and explore new territories across multiple fields of study.

February 26 / Art & Image / Judith Hamera, Princeton, and  John Patrick Leary, Wayne State University

March 2 / Urbanism & Design / Maurice Cox, Director of Planning and Development, City of Detroit

March 11 / The Arts of Urban Transition / Oge Ude, Alexander Quetell, Lauren Wodarski (Princeton Undergraduate Students)

March 25 / Philanthropy & Public Policy Don Chen, Ford Foundation

March 30 / History, Race & Real Estate Thomas Sugrue, NYU; Dan Kinkead, Detroit Future City; and Jerry Paffendorf, Loveland Technologies

FALL 2014 / AMERICAN PLACES

The Fall 2014 Forum on American Places was convened by William Gleason, Chair of the Department of English and Bruno Carvalho, Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures.

September 22 / Thinking Hemispherically about Cities / Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities Kickoff Event / Stan Allen, SoA; Fabrizio Gallanti, Princeton Mellon Fellow; and Alison Isenberg, Princeton

September 29 / Stadium Cultures in North and South America / Sigrid Adriaenssens, Princeton; Bruno Carvalho, Princeton; and William Gleason, Princeton 

October 13 / Postwar New York / Mariana Mogilevich, Princeton Mellon Fellow; Aaron Shkuda, Princeton Mellon Initiative; and Zahid R. Chaudhary, Princeton 

November 3 / Chocolate Cities and Vanilla Suburbs: Race, Space and American Culture After World War II / Eric Avila, UCLA

November 11 / Unequal Ties: Gilberto Freyre’s Recife and the Challenges of Urban History in the Global South / Brodwyn Fischer,  University of Chicago

November 17 / Cities of Latin/o America: Culture, Policy, and Built Environments / Arlene Dávila, NYU; Zaire Dinzey-Flores, Rutgers University; and Johana Londoño, Princeton Mellon Fellow

December 8 / The Struggle for the Future of New Orleans / Josh Guild, Princeton, and Malik Rahim, Common Ground Relief