The intellectual core of the Princeton-Mellon Initiative is an ongoing, flexible colloquium for the discussion and critique of faculty and graduate student 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 pair 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 2018 / SENSORIAL URBANISM: The Aesthetics of Immateriality

The Spring 2018 Mellon Research Forum on the Urban Environment will focus on how architecture and cities are mediated, experienced, and represented through seemingly  immaterial means. Questions include, 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 will include architects, artists, scientists, designers and other scholars whose work seeks to unpack the aesthetic dimensions of immateriality in the city.
Organized by Evangelos Kotsioris (Architecture) and Phil Taylor (Art & Archaeology)
Forum events begin at 5PM and are held at the School of Architecture South Gallery.

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

Wednesday, March 28 / COLOR / Leslie Wilson (Purchase) and Katherine Bussard (Princeton)

Monday, April 2 / MICROBES / Orkan Telhan (UPenn) and Esther Choi (Princeton)

Monday, April 16 / SCENT / Joanna Fiduccia (Reed) and D. Graham Burnett (Princeton)

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


The Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities is pleased to announce its Fall 2017 research forum, 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.

Forum events begin at 12PM and are held at the School of Architecture South Gallery. 

Monday, September 25 / Biota
Stuart McLean (Minnesota), Peder Anker (NYU)

Our material environment includes not only nonliving material and human inhabitants, but also a wide range of nonhuman biota: animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, etc. How are these disparate biota conceived of and brought into engineered landscapes, and how can such intertwinings of human and nonhuman complicate our understanding of nature and culture? In this session, anthropologist Stuart McLean (University of Minnesota) and historian Peder Anker (NYU) discuss how humans and other biota co-create the landscapes in which we live. Following each 15-minute talk, we will have a discussion facilitated by anthropologist Andrew Alan Johnson (Princeton).

Monday, October 9 / Air
Erik Harms (Yale), Enrique Ramirez (Ball State)

Monday, Oct 16 / Carbon
Gökçe Gunel (Arizona), Ateya Khorakiwala (Princeton-Mellon)

Wednesday, November 15 / Cargo
Jesse LeCavalier (NJIT), Janell Rothenberg (UCLA)

Tuesday, November 28 /  Building Materials
Diana Martinez (Tufts), Catherine Fennell (Columbia)

Wednesday, December 6 - Water
Nikhil Anand (Penn), Mitch McEwen (Princeton)


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.

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

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

Wednesday, March 1 / Landscape as Urbanism: A General Theory      
Charles Waldheim (Harvard ), Rachael DeLue (Art & Archaeology, Princeton)

Wednesday, March 8 / Writing Atmosphere: Experiments in Spatial and Environmental Writing     
David Gissen (California College of the Arts),  M. Christine Boyer (Architecture, Princeton)

Wednesday, March 15 / What Does a Global History of Urban Segregation tell us about Global Urban History?
Carl Nightingale (SUNY Buffalo), Jeremy Adelman (History, Princeton)

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

FALL 2016| THE NATURE OF CITIES                 

In Fall 2016, the Mellon Forum for Research on the Urban Environment 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, Associate Professor of History, and Elsa Devienne, Princeton-Mellon Fellow.

Wednesday, Sept. 21/ Coastal Resilience: Past & Present Perspectives
Andrew W. Karl, (Virginia), Guy Nordensen (Architecture), Elsa Devienne (Princeton-Mellon Fellow)

Wednesday, Sept. 28/ Globalization Meets Decolonization: The Urban Linkage, 1940s- 70s
Cyrus Schayegh, (Near Eastern Studies), Ayala Levin (Princeton-Mellon Fellow)

Wednesday, Oct. 12/ Imagining a Nonhuman Philadelphia
Alan C. Braddock, (William & Mary), Rachel Price (Spanish & Portuguese)

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

Wednesday, Oct. 26/ The Bulldozer in the Countryside, 15 Years Later
Adam Rome, (SUNY Buffalo), Stan Allen (Architecture)

Wednesday, Nov. 9/ The Lessons of 19th Century Boston Harbor
Michael Rawson, (Brooklyn College/CUNY), Bruno Carvalho (Spanish & Portuguese)

Postponed / Wednesday, Dec. 7/ Perspectives on Urban Environmental History: The Case of Pittsburgh
Joel Tarr, (Carnegie Mellon), Vera Candiani (History)


In Spring 2016, 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.

Friday, Feb. 26/ Art & Image
Judith Hamera, (Princeton), John Patrick Leary (Wayne State)

Wednesday, Mar. 2/ Urbanism & Design
Maurice Cox, (Director of Planning and Development, City of Detroit)

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

Friday, Mar. 25/ Philanthropy & Public Policy
Don Chen (Ford Foundation)

Wednesday, Mar. 30/ History, Race & Real Estate
Thomas Sugrue (NYU), Dan Kinkead (Detroit Future City), Jerry Paffendorf (Loveland Technologies)

2015-2016 | 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.

Wednesday, Sept. 23/
Opening Plenary
Joao Biehl (Anthropology), Mario Gandelsonas (Architecture), Gyan Prakash (History), and Judith Weisenfeld (Religion)

Wednesday, Sept. 30/ The Color of Modernity
Barbara Weinstein (NYU)

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

Thursday, Oct. 15/ Real Estate, Race, and Architecture
Andrew Sandoval-Strausz (Princeton-Mellon Initiative) and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (African American Studies)

Thursday, Nov 12/ Literature Between Home and the City
Lilia Schwarcz (PLAS)

Wednesday, Nov. 18/ Over the Ruins of Amazonia
Paulo Tavares (PLAS)

Monday, Nov. 23/ Latin America, Space, and the Cold War
Pedro Alonso (Princeton-Mellon Initiative) and Jean Louis Cohen (Architecture)

Thursday, Dec 3/ Inscribing Home in the City in Mexico and Colombia
Sebastian Ramirez (Anthropology) and Pablo Landa (Anthropology)

Friday, Dec. 11/ The Future of Public Housing
Leandro Benmergui (SUNY Purchase), Joseph Heathcott (Princeton-Mellon Initiative), and Li Li (Xiamen University)

Thursday, Feb. 25/ A woman's place? Rethinking Home in the Islamic City
Bridgett Purcell (Anthropology), Rachel Price (Spanish & Portuguese)

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

Wednesday, Mar. 23/ Beaches in the City
Elsa Devienne (Princeton-Mellon Fellow)

Tuesday, Apr. 5/ The Color of War: Race, Neoliberalism and Punishment in Late 20th Century Los Angeles
Donna Murch (Rutgers)

Tuesday, Apr. 12/ An Indigenous Woman's Map of the City: Indian Spaces in Progressive Era Washington, D.C.
Cathleen Cahill (University of New Mexico), Martha Sandweiss (History)

Thursday, Apr. 21/ Paris Remade: Architecture, Planning, and the Post-Industrial Imaginary
Joseph Heathcott (Princeton-Mellon Initiative), M. Christine Boyer (Architecture)

Thursday, Apr. 28/ Ganges Water Machine: Designing New India'a Ancient River
Anthony Acciavatti (Princeton), Pedro Alonso (Princeton-Mellon Initiative)


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.

Sept 22 | Thinking Hemispherically about Cities / Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities Kickoff Event
Stan Allen (Architecture), Fabrizio Gallanti (Princeton-Mellon Senior Fellow), Alison Isenberg (History)

Stadium Cultures in North and South AmericaSept. 29 | Stadium Cultures in North and South America
Sigrid Adriaenssens (Civil Engineering), Bruno Carvalho (Spanish/Portuguese), William Gleason (English)

From the new World Cup arenas in Brazil to suburban ballparks in the United States, how have stadiums reflected – and even helped to produce – broader social and cultural changes? The panelists will present different perspectives on how sports stadiums, whether described in the language of business, design, or religion, play a vital role in various facets of North and South American cultures.

Postwar NYOct. 13 | Postwar New York
Mariana Mogilevich (Princeton-Mellon Fellow) and Aaron Shkuda (Princeton-Mellon Initiative); Discussant: Zahid R. Chaudhary (English)

The story of postwar New York is one multiple transitions, from center of the world to the nadir of urban crisis, from the Naked City to gentrification and the global city. How do we write a history of urban transition - physical, cultural, ideological? And what does the history of New York City - both exceptional and emblematic - tell us about urban change more widely? Two narratives - the story of artist-led gentrification in SoHo and a series of obscure design experiments in urban open space during the mayoral administration of John V. Lindsay - can help elucidate the relationships between esthetics, culture and the politics of urban planning and development.

Chocolate Cities and Vanilla SuburbsNov. 3 | Chocolate Cities and Vanilla Suburbs: Race, Space and American Culture After World War II
Eric Avila (History, UCLA)

In Chocolate Cities and Vanilla Suburbs, Avila proposes a new interpretation of postwar American culture, moving away from standard Cold War narratives to explore how the structural transformation of urban life after World War II — highway construction, suburbanization, urban renewal, slum clearance, de-industrialization and white flight — engendered new discourses of identity, new imaginings of community, and new expressions of social conflict.

Unequal TiesNov. 11 | Unequal Ties: Gilberto Freyre’s Recife and the Challenges of Urban History in the Global South
Brodwyn Fischer (The University of Chicago)

Brodwyn Fischer is a historian of Brazil and Latin America whose interests are focused on cities, citizenship, law, race, local politics, and urban history in Rio de Janeiro and Recife, Brazil from the late 19th century to the present. Fischer’s current project, “Understanding Inequality in Post-Abolition Brazil,” addresses some of the paradoxical ways in which struggles for survival and social mobility have historically reinforced rather than disrupted larger inequalities within Brazilian society.

Cities of Latin/o AmericaNov. 17 | Cities of Latin/o America: Culture, Policy, and Built Environments
Arlene Dávila (NYU, Anthropology), Zaire Dinzey-Flores (Rutgers, Sociology), and Johana Londoño (Princeton-Mellon Fellow)

Colonial legacies, migration patterns, tourism, and free-trade policies across the western hemisphere have produced contemporary urban spaces with varied cultural values and political economic ideologies. Latin-ized US cities and Gringo-ized Latin American cities are 20th and 21st century manifestations of this ongoing diversity, hybridity, mestizaje, along a north-south axis. Three distinguished scholars will discuss a wide array of built environments, texts, and visual materials to explore the transnational flows and materialities of policy and culture, and their impact on identities, representations, and urbanism in the Americas. In particular, three disparate topics--the Latin American shopping mall boom, colorful representations of Latino urbanism in the US, and the origins of US urban policy in Puerto Rico--will be put under the microscope to address the following question: How do convergences between varied peoples, ideas, and cultures of the Americas challenge and expand conventional understandings of urbanism and its related disciplines?

Struggle for the Future of New OrleansDec. 8 | The Struggle for the Future of New Orleans
Josh Guild (History and African American Studies) and Malik Rahim (Co-founder, Common Ground Relief)

Nine years after failed levees produced catastrophic flooding following Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is a changed city, with a population that is both smaller and whiter than it was before the storm. While many swaths of the city bear few traces of the devastation of 2005, other areas remain mired in a fitful recovery nearly a decade later. The dismantling of public housing, the privatization of public education, and the gentrification of residential neighborhoods have defined post-Katrina New Orleans for many residents. Meanwhile, southeast Louisiana loses the equivalent of about a football field worth of land to erosion every hour, virtually guaranteeing future environmental disaster in the Crescent City. Given this picture, how should residents and those who love the city respond? How can preparations for New Orleans’ future be guided by the tenets of racial, economic, and environmental justice? And how will what lies ahead for New Orleans impact people elsewhere?