The Mediterranean

The Mediterranean

Region-making by design

Harvard GSD | March 14-15 2013

Sponsored by The Aga Khan Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design
Organized by the New Geographies Lab

The concept of region in architectural thinking has proven to be quite resilient. While the energy that it had acquired in the 1990s with Kenneth Frampton’s critical regionalism may have waned, contemporary inquires into a “Regional World” (Strorper, Soja) are looking for a new architectural rendition. These two examples stand as the most recent examples in a long lineage of scholarly efforts and architectural practices to associate environment and function, culture and modernity, local and global through a concept that fixes the relationships of people to place.

With this broader examination of region as its background, the symposium focuses on the iconic Mediterranean region. The traditional definition of the Mediterranean as a de-facto cultural entity casts infinite stereotypes on land and people framing a nostalgic image of its cities, landscapes, and architectures. It also conceals the complexity of the underlying region making processes. While often conceived through solid frameworks ranging from the “vernacular” and the “classical” to the “Mediterranean city” the Mediterranean is at the same time cast as an interregional synthesis, a complex region of interrelating regions. This intense set of cultural, social and material interactions highlights the capitalist and cosmopolitan dimensions of the Mediterranean and offers a reference point for perceiving processes of global urbanization. As such the Mediterranean is also revealed as a world model.

With designers increasingly compelled to address larger contexts and new problems placed on their tables (complex infrastructural systems, emerging urban formations, rural and environmental questions), systematically re-addressing the question of architectural regionalism seems more relevant than ever before. By a critical examination of historical region making processes and contemporary transformations, the symposium aims to reveal the blind spots of conventional approaches to regionalism and open up the question of the agency of design and urban formations.

The definition and processes of region making are becoming increasingly complex. Radical social, technological, political and environmental transformations are questioning the rigidity of regional boundaries. Regions are becoming harder to define as fixed entities and region making processes harder to decode in the continuous dialectical interrelation between the historical and cultural specificity of local contexts and the structures of globalization. Consider for example the Catalan region: A complex interplay of strong cultural identity and multi-scalar development processes, from the local to the national and the European restructuring a territory of intense urbanization. Whether perceived as functional, cultural or ecological entities regions need to be conceptualized as persistent but still dynamically reconfigured constructs.

One of the key processes of a region’s configuration has been through architecture. However, from the functional “ecological region” of Geddes and Mumford to postmodern associations with identity through local vernaculars up to the latest dialectical approach of “critical regionalism” (Tzonis, Lefaivre, Frampton), architecture has mostly been required to deliver a respectful response to a given context and rarely an active force defining it. No matter in which terms a region is defined, architecture is most of the times considered a product of regional identity, adaptation or performance and rarely a shaping factor. For example the iconic settlement patterns of the Greek islands are typically considered an adaptive response to topographic and environmental constraints. Moreover, the construction of regional identity through form has been often considered a requirement rather than an open process of critical reconstruction.

Seen in this light, the aim of the symposium is twofold: On the one hand to revisit and challenge in a contemporary way theories and frameworks of region making with reference to the Mediterranean and on the other hand to offer a platform for repositioning architectural theory and practice as active forces within these region making processes. In this way the symposium will also complement and reflect the theme of the sixth volume of “New Geographies” journal (A. Petrov, editor): The interrogation of the Mediterranean as a spatial model that reconceptualises region making. The journal will serve as a reflexive reference to the symposium panels, which will animate and extend its content. Following the keynote lecture, the main symposium day will be organized around three panels. The first two panels will bring together frameworks of region making from various disciplines focusing on the Mediterranean: From an examination of selected episodes revealing the complexity of underlying region making processes –“the Mediterranean in History”, to contemporary transformations that continuously reconstruct it -“The Mediterranean Transformed”. Finally the third and closing panel will try to offer a platform for introducing the centrality of design agency into the contemporary and future “Region Making Challenges”.


Day 1 | Thursday March 14, 2013

3:30 – 5:00
Panel 1: “The Mediterranean in History”
Selected episodes from history revealing the complexity of region making processes and challenging the Mediterranean as a stereotypical entity.
Peter Christensen (Harvard GSD)
Antoine Picon (Harvard GSD)
Michelangelo Sabatino (University of Houston)
Moderator: Sibel Bozdogan (Harvard GSD)

5:00 – 6:00
New Geographies 5 Journal launch
“The Mediterranean A Spatial Question – The Formation of New Regions, Ecologies and Hinterlands”.
Edited by Antonio Petrov

6:30 – 8:00
Keynote Lecture: Bertrand Westphal
Professor of General and Comparative Literature at the Université de Limoges
“The Mediterranean, or the shape of water”

Day 2 | Friday March 15, 2013

10:00 – 11:30
Panel 2: “The Mediterranean Transformed”
Investigating contemporary transformations and region making processes and introducing the Mediterranean as a spatial model
Mose Ricci (University of Genova)
Adrian Lahoud (Bartlett UCL)
Ginés Garrido (Harvard GSD)
Moderator: Joan Busquets (Harvard GSD)

11:45 – 1:15
Panel 3: “Regions and Region making”
Bringing together frameworks of region making from various disciplines and setting the agenda for (re)inventing their relation to design.
Neil Brenner and Nikos Katsikis (Harvard GSD)
Paola Vigano (IUAV)
Ajantha Subramanian (Harvard FAS)
Moderator: Bertrand Westphal


Biographical Notes

Bertrand Westphal is a Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Limoges, where he directs the research team “Espaces Humains et Interactions Culturelles” (“Human Spaces and Cultural Interactions”). He is a renowned promoter of geocriticism, which Robert Tally describes as “a new critical practice suitable for understanding our spatial condition today.” He is the author of numerous works on geocriticism; Austrian literature; the Mediterranean (L’Œil de la Méditerranée, Aube, 2005); and the theory of the novel. His work is interdisciplinary, and he regularly collaborates with designers, architects, and geographers. Works available in English: Geocriticism: Real and Fictional Spaces. Trans. Robert Tally. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, A Plausible World: Spaces, Places, Maps. Trans. Amy Wells. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Hashim Sarkis is the Aga Khan Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism in Muslim Societies and Director of the Aga Khan Program at the GSD. He teaches design studios on architecture, infrastructure and public space. He also teaches courses in the history and theory of architecture. Sarkis is also a practicing architect. His projects include the new town hall for the city of Byblos, a housing complex for the fishermen of Tyre, a park in downtown Beirut, and several urban and architectural projects. He has published several books including Circa 1958: Lebanon in the Pictures and Plans of Constantinos Doxiadis (Beirut: Dar Annahar, 2003), editor of CASE: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital (Munich: Prestel, 2001), coeditor with Eric Mumford of Josep Lluis Sert: The Architect of Urban Design (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008) coeditor with Peter G. Rowe of Projecting Beirut (Munich: Prestel, 1998), and editor of the CASE publication series (GSD/Prestel). He received his BArch and BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, his MArch from the GSD, and his PhD in architecture from Harvard University.

Antoine Picon is the G. Ware Travelstead Professor of the History of Architecture and Technology and Co-Director of Doctoral Programs (PhD & DDes) at the GSD. He teaches courses in the history and theory of architecture and technology. Trained as an engineer, architect, and historian, Picon works on the history of architectural and urban technologies from the eighteenth century to the present. His French Architects and Engineers in the Age of Enlightenment is a synthetic study of the disciplinary “deep structures” of architecture, garden design, and engineering in the eighteenth century, and their transformations as new issues of territorial management and infrastructure-systems planning were confronted. Picon has also worked on the relations between society, technology and utopia. This is in particular the theme of Les Saint-Simoniens: Raison, Imaginaire, et Utopie, a detailed study of the Saint-Simonian movement that played a seminal role in the emergence of industrial modernity. Picon’s most recent book, Digital Culture in Architecture: An Introduction for the Design Profession offers a comprehensive overview and discussion of the changes brought by the computer to the theory and practice of architecture. Picon received engineering degrees from the Ecole Polytechnique and from the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussees, an architecture degree from the Ecole d’Architecture de Paris-Villemin, and a doctorate in history from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.

Peter H. Christensen is a PhD Candidate in Architecture at Harvard University. His research centers on the practice and historiography of geopolitics (as a discrete field of inquiry since The Nineteenth Century) and its implications on spatial practices with particular interest in the borders of Islamic and Judeo-Christian civilizations. He also researches the museology of architecture and the critical practices of connoisseurship. His current doctoral research considers cultural, infrastructural and architectural exchanges between the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman Empires. Prior to his graduate studies, Peter served as Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art (2005-2008). Peter holds a professional Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University, a Master of Design Studies in the History and Theory of Architecture with Distinction, and a Master of Arts both from Harvard University. Peter is the recipient of the Philip Johnson Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians, as well as grants from the Fulbright Foundation, the Deutsche Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD), the Society of Architectural Historians, and the Society of Historians of Islamic Art and Architecture, among others.

Michelangelo Sabatino (PhD) was trained as an architect and architectural historian in Italy, Canada, and the United States. His scholarship and teaching explore architecture and the allied arts by drawing from cultural and material history as well as anthropology and human geography. After completing a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University’s Department of the History of Art and Architecture and teaching at Yale University’s School of Architecture, he was appointed at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture where he now serves as Associate Professor and Director of the History, Theory and Criticism program. His sole-authored book, Pride in Modesty: Modernist Architecture and the Vernacular Tradition in Italy, has won four national awards including the 2012 Alice Davis Hitchcock Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians. Sabatino’s co-edited book Modern Architecture and the Mediterranean: Vernacular Dialogues and Contested Identities received a commendation from the UIA’s International Committee of Architectural Critics. His scholarly publications are available in Italian, German, and French.

Sibel Bozdogan holds a professional degree in architecture from Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey (1976) and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania (1983). She has taught architectural history and theory courses at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1986-1991), MIT (1991-1999) and GSD, Harvard University (part-time since 2000). She has also served as the Director of Liberal Studies at the Boston Architectural Center (2004-2006) and has taught at the Graduate Architecture Program of Istanbul Bilgi University where she is an Affiliated Professor (since 2006). Her interests cover cross-cultural histories of modern architecture and urbanism in Europe, the U.S., Mediterranean and the Middle East with a specialization on Turkey. In addition to numerous articles on these topics, her publications include a monograph on the Turkish architect Sedad Hakki Eldem (1987); an interdisciplinary volume Rethinking Modernity and National Identity in Turkey (1997) which she co-edited with Resat Kasaba; a major book Modernism and Nation Building: Turkish Architectural Culture in the Early Republic (University of Washington Press, 2001) which won the 2002 Alice Davis Hitchcock Award of the Society of Architectural Historians and the Koprulu Book Prize of the Turkish Studies Association and most recently, Turkey: Modern Architectures in History (Reaktion Books, 2012) which she co-authored with Esra Akcan.

Adrian Lahoud is an architect, urban designer, and researcher. Currently he is Director of the Master of Architecture Urban Design Program at the Bartlett University College London, where he is conducting a wide-ranging three-year design research project on the Mediterranean. His doctoral dissertation, The Problem of Scale: the City, the Territory, the Planetary, sets out to reconceptualize the action of scale in the context of design and teaching. Prior to taking up a position at the Bartlett School of Architecture, he coordinated the MA program at the Centre for Research Architecture, (Goldsmiths, University of London). He has also taught in the Projective Cities program at the Architectural Association (Angewandte, Vienna) and the University of Technology Sydney where he retains a position as Adjunct Professor. In 2010 he co-edited a special issue of Architectural Design titled Post-traumatic Urbanism and presently he is working on book project and exhibition exploring the possibility of a Fifth Geneva Convention with colleagues from the Centre for Research Architecture.

Mosè Ricci is a Full Professor of Urbanism at the School of Architecture of the University of Genoa and Emeritus of Italian Art and Culture. He is a member of the scientific committee and is curator of the Urbanism and Landscape section Recycle, Strategies for Architecture, Cities and Planet, International Exhibition MAXXI (2010-12). He has also been a member of Italian Society of Urban Planners Steering Committee (2007-11), the Mies Foundation Mediterranean Program Board (Barcelona, 2010-), and the Scientific Board of the International Doctorate Villard de Honnecourt (2004-). Academic appointments include, Visiting Professor of Sustainable Urbanism at Technische Universitat of Munich (2008-09) and Universitad Moderna de Lisboa (2006-07). In 2011, he was ranked in the top 100 world educators by the Cambridge Institute. In 2003, he was appointed Emeritus of Italian Art and Culture with Silver Medal of the Republic. From 1996-1997, he was a Fulbright Recipient and Visiting Scholar at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. His projects with the firm, RICCISPAINI, have received several prizes in international competitions and have been exhibited in the Venice Biennale in 1996 and again in 2012. He has edited the series, BABEL (2000-12) and authored several books, such as New Paradigms, UniverCity, iSpace and RISCHIOPAESAGGIO.

Ginés Garrido is an Associate Professor at the ETS Arquitectura, UP Madrid and, currently, a Visiting Fellow at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He has been a Visiting Professor giving workshops and lectures worldwide. He has spent fifteen years studying the Soviet avant-garde architecture and has published seven books and more than twenty articles on this subject. From 1995 to 2003, Gines was the Editor for the magazine, BAU. He is an architect and graduate of the ETS Arquitectura, UP Madrid and PhD ETSA UP Madrid [Extraordinary Doctorate Award]. Ginés is co-principal at Madrid-based Burgos & Garrido Arquitectos [BGA]. Over the last ten years the work of the office has focused on the design and construction of public spaces, parks, and land planning, from the perspective of social and environmental sustainability. The Madrid Rio River Park, recently finished and for which he has been the director, is probably the most ambitious and complex public space project constructed in Europe over the last few decades. BGA are currently working on other large-scale urban projects in Spain, Perú and Slovenia, among other projects of social housing and public buildings in Spain, The Netherlands and Australia. BGA’s projects have been published internationally and its works have been recognized internationally with more than thirty first prizes in architecture and landscape competitions.

Antonio Petrov received his doctoral degree in the History and Theory of Architecture, Urbanism and Cultural Studies from Harvard University. Currently, he is teaching at the University of Texas in San Antonio. He is also program director at Archeworks in Chicago, co-founder and current editor-in-chief of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design publication New Geographies, the founder and editor-in-chief of DOMA, a bilingual magazine published in Macedonia, and the director of WAS, a think tank located in Chicago. Antonio’s research explores new discourses in regionalism and architecture with focus on the Mediterranean. His research seeks to reconceptualize active processes of region making by dismantling prevailing geographic, spatial and cultural meanings. His perspective on the Mediterranean recasts the region as a contemporary phenomenon and spatializes its region making and region formation processes as a larger geographic entity challenging conventional boundaries between the sea, cities and hinterlands. Currently, Antonio is investigating new spatial paradigms to be presented in his forthcoming book, Superordinary: New Paradigms in Scared Architecture. Before coming to the University of Texas, Antonio taught at Harvard University, Wentworth Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Iowa State University, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Ajantha Subramanian is Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies at Harvard University. Her research interests include political economy, political ecology, colonialism and postcoloniality, space, citizenship, South Asia, and the South Asian diaspora. Her first book Shorelines: Space and Rights in South India, chronicles the struggles for resource rights by Catholic fishers on India’s southwestern coast, with a focus on how they have used spatial imaginaries and practices to constitute themselves as political subjects. Her current research is on the relationship between meritocracy and democracy in India that considers the production of merit as a form of caste property and its implications for democratic transformation.

Neil Brenner is a Professor of Urban Theory at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and the coordinator of the Urban Theory Lab-GSD. His writing and teaching focus on the theoretical, conceptual and methodological dimensions of urban questions in relation to the developmental dynamics of modern capitalism, state strategies and sociopolitical struggles. He is currently working on a new book with Christian Schmid of the ETH-Zurich, Planetary Urbanization. Brenner’s previous books include New State Spaces: Urban Governance and the Rescaling of Statehood, Cities for People, not for Profit: Critical Urban Theory and the Right to the City (co-edited with Peter Marcuse and Margit Mayer), and Spaces of Neoliberalism: Urban Restructuring in North America and Western Europe (co-edited with Nik Theodore).

Nikos Katsikis is a Doctor of Design Candidate at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He holds a professional degree in Architecture – Architectural Engineering with highest Distinction and a Master of Science in Architecture and Spatial Planning from the National Technical University Athens (NTUA). He is a registered architect in Greece and has practiced architecture and urban design both individually and as an associate architect. He has worked as a Teaching Fellow and Research Associate at NTUA and GSD and the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture. His research focuses n theoretical, conceptual, and methodological models from urban and economic geography, and their connection to questions of regional morphology and design. His research in the DDeS program at the GSD is supported by grants and scholarships from the Fulbright Foundation, A.S. Onassis Foundation, and A.G. Leventis Foundation.

Paola Viganò is an architect and urbanist, has a PhD in architectural and urban composition and is associate professor in urbanism at the Università IUaV of Venice. she is also a guest professor at several european schools of architecture (including KU Leuven, ePFL Lausanne, aarhus) and serves on the boards of the PhD in Urbanism at IUaV and the european Masters of Urbanism programme (eMU). In 1990 Ms. Viganò founded studio with Bernardo secchi and has won several international competitions. studio is currently working on various projects at different scales in europe. In 2008 studio was one of the ten teams selected for the Grand Paris research project. Her major publications include La città elementare, Territori della nuova modernità/Territories of a new modernity and Antwerp: Territory of a New Modernity.