With two more days of work this summer and orientation beginning at the GSD on Monday, I think it’s pretty fair to say that I’ve completely failed in my goal of resurrecting my blog this summer. My new thought is that I’m going to try to update a little more often, but in a little more organic (meaning less polished) format focusing on two things: a) life at the GSD b) some of the various topics that have been swirling in my head.

Here goes.

I’ve been thinking through some new research in the last couple of weeks. A flight attendant at work asked me if it was “ok to walk in Boston” and it made me think about the various responses to that question. The easy answer (and the one she was probably looking for) has to do with safety. The less obvious one is about community’s reactions to outsiders in their neighborhoods. This all got me thinking about whether or not Jane Jacobs’ “Eyes on the Street” concept and Michel Foucault’s concept of the “Gaze” are different sides of the same concept. With an understanding of the increased surveillance and militarization of urban space and of the potential for social exclusion (I’m going to call it “othering,” to play with the Foucauldian terminology), should we (we being radical urban designers) rethink concepts of public/private space and, especially, should we be considering the provision of unsurveillable space (like the road underpass by my house where the Latino teenagers make out) a public good.

This all got me reading a lot of pretty interesting stuff, starting with Foucault (who’s about as much fun to read as… I just realized I have no way to end that sentence. Let’s just say it’s dense) and then getting into some pretty interesting writing on the topic of surveillance. The most interesting stuff so far has been in queer theory, where Michael Warner and George Chauncey especially have given me a lot of food for thought. I also just finished a book by an Israeli architect Eyal Weizman about the role of architecture in the occupation of Palestine. I was especially struck by his descriptions of how settlement architecture is purposely constructed to give settlers the ability to survey Palestinian space. And of course the other side of the coin, how “according to rules of engagement issued by the occupying forces at the end of 2003, soldiers may shoot to kill any Palestinian caught observing settlements with binoculars or in any other ‘suspicious manner’.” Somehow I don’t think that’s what Jane Jacobs had in mind…

As for the life at the GSD, the resources at Harvard overwhelm me. I just spent an hour goofing off on the websites of the Film Archive and the Map Library. Woo. I’ve got a fear that two years is too short to really take advantage of everything that there is on offer. That said, I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent so far with the other incoming people in my program and I’m really looking forward to getting into the meat of what we’re doing there.


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