NSL Colloquium 2014|2
Guest: Mohsen Mostafavi

Link to the video recording

The NSL was very pleased to announce Prof. Mohsen Mostafavi as a guest for the NSL Kolloquienreihe. Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, was invited by the chair of Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani, Head of the Institute for History and Theory of Architecture.

Urban Design in Transition
The practice of urban design is in a state of transition. Transitions, if intended, can often be productive. Jose Lluis Sert established the first graduate program in urban design at Harvard University over fifty years ago, and since then urban design has come to occupy an important and productive space between planning and architecture. The focus of much of urban design’s work has been the middle ground, negotiating the space between architecture and the city.

Because of circumstance, the tools and methods of urban design have also been limited to the middle scale. This middle scale intentionally provides urban design with the capacity to use recognizable, yet unspecific, architectural objects. Architecture in urban design invariably functions as a placeholder, a placeholder that in all likelihood is based on recollection of past architectures, of what pre-exists.

But are the methods of urban design, many of which were developed in response to the rebuilding of the European city after the Second World War, capable of responding to the everchanging conditions of urbanization today? The aim of this lecture is to re-evaluate the criteria, in terms of both theory and practice, that might lead to alternative and contemporary strategies for the practice of urban design.

Biography Mohsen Mostafavi
Mohsen Mostafavi, architect and educator, is the Dean of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design. His work focuses on modes and processes of urbanization and on the interface between technology and aesthetics. His latest book is entitled Architecture Is Life.

He was formerly the Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning at Cornell University where he was also the Arthur L. and Isabel B. Wiesenberger Professor in Architecture. Previously, he was the Chairman of the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London (AA). He studied architecture at the AA, and undertook research on counter-reformation urban history at the Universities of Essex and Cambridge. He has also taught at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Cambridge, and the Frankfurt Academy of Fine Arts (Städelschule).

Mostafavi sits on the board of the Van Alen Institute, serves on the steering committee of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, and is a member of the Urban Council Board of The Skolkovo Foundation. At Harvard, he co-chairs the Harvard University Committee for the Arts and co-chaired the Common Spaces Committee, and continues to serve on the Advisory Committee for Common Spaces Projects and the Harvard Library Board. He is a member of the Executive Committees of the Mahindra Humanities Center, the Harvard Innovation Lab, the Laboratory at Harvard, and the Standing Committee on Middle Eastern Studies.

Mostafavi has chaired the jury of the Mies van der Rohe Prize for Architecture and both the European and North American juries of the Holcim Foundation Awards for Sustainable Construction. He served on the design committee of the London Development Agency (LDA), the juries for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Gold Medal and Annie Spink Award, and the advisory committee on campus planning of the Asian University for Women.

He is a consultant on a number of international architectural and urban projects. His research and design projects have been published in many journals, including The Architectural Review, AAFiles, Arquitectura, Bauwelt, Casabella, Centre, Daidalos, and El Croquis. His books include On Weathering: The Life of Buildings in Time (co-authored 1993), which received the American Institute of Architects prize for writing on architectural theory; Delayed Space (co-authored 1994); Approximations (2002); Surface Architecture (2002); Logique Visuelle (2003); Landscape Urbanism: A Manual for the Machinic Landscape (2004); Structure as Space(2006); Ecological Urbanism (co-edited 2010); Implicate & Explicate (2011);Louis Vuitton: Architecture and Interiors (2011); In the Life of Cities (2012);Instigations: Engaging Architecture, Landscape and the City (co-edited 2012); and Architecture Is Life (2013).