In 2010-11, the Institute for the Arts and Humanities launched a new program focused on cities. The idea was to offer programming that appeals to audiences on campus and off, that allows for collaborative interdisciplinary exchange across the arts and humanities, and that highlights and publicizes the work of Penn State faculty and graduate students.
Our first year was devoted to New Orleans; our second year concentrated on Rome. In 2012-13, our examination of cities branched out beyond individual cites. In 2013-14 we returned to the single city focus with Tehran.
2015/16 Cities: CitySpace
In 2015-16, instead of focusing on individual cities or regions, the IAH will examine theories and practices of city space. From Jane Jacobs’ groundbreaking The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), and its searing critique of postwar urban planning, to the success of New York’s High Line reclamation project, the question of how cities use, misuse, and depend on public space has been of paramount concern– to planners, architects, residents, tourists, and everyone who cares about the quality of urban life around the globe. Over the course of the year, we will explore that question in five diverse and interdisciplinary presentations.
2014/15 Cities: Pacific Rim
Our “Cities” series focuses this year on the Pacific Rim– especially the west side of the rim. As usual, we will be hosting speakers from a wide variety of disciplines, exploring cities from Tokyo to Hong Kong, via topics ranging from water to bullet trains. Pacific Rim presentations will be held in the Palmer LipconAuditorium on selected Thursday evenings.
2013/14 Cities: Tehran
Ida Meftahi, Organizer, IAH 2013-2014 Postdoctoral Scholar
Almost all discussions of Iran in the United States are geopolitical. This is understandable, of course– but it is also regrettable, for what is not said and known about Iran in the U.S. The parameters of the said and known usually center on debates over sanctions, the status of Iran’s nuclear program, and the legacy of the 1979 revolution. But even that legacy, complex as it is, is discussed exclusively in political terms (internal repression or reform, regional rivalries and alliances) and almost never in cultural terms. This semester, drawing on the experience and expertise of IAH Postdoctoral Scholar Ida Meftahi (whose work concerns the history of dance in twentieth-century Iran, and who has put together this lineup of events), we hope to redress that oversight, and to contribute to a broader and deeper understanding of contemporary Iran and its history, beginning with its principal city– in dance, architecture, literature, and film.
Spring 2013 City Life/Living Cities
In Spring 2013 we developed “City Life/ Living Cities.” We realized that between the literary and artistic fantasies of utopian cities and the technocratic professional discourse that dominates urban planning, there is a wide swath of under-explored urban territory. We were especially drawn to New Yorker writer David Owen’s Green Metropolis (2009), which argues that the traditional densely populated city is the most sustainable form of human habitat. When Owen first proposed Manhattan and Hong Kong as exemplary “green” environments in the pages of the New Yorker, his argument was novel and provocatively counterintuitive. Now, in conjunction with the work of other urban theorists and environmentalists, it is beginning to influence not only planning professionals, but even real estate developers.
David Owen headlined our Spring 2013 Cities presentations with an appearance at the HUB Auditorium on Tuesday, March 26. He was preceded in the series by Dan Willis of the Department of Architecture, who on February 26 offered another counterintuitive look at cities and sustainability in a lecture titled “Less is Less: The Environmental Perils of Thinking Small.” Finally, on April 9, Daniel Purdy of the German Department gave us a look at Berlin architecture and public space in the shadow of modernism, in a lecture titled “Globalization and the European City.”
Fall 2012 Cities: South Africa
We explored the cities of South Africa, from pre-history through their modern identity. Events included lectures by Imraan Coovadia, author and professor at the University of Cape Town; Kristin Barry, a Ph.D. candidate in Art History at Penn State and archaeological architect; and Raymond Gastil, Professor of Landscape Architecture at Penn State.
2011/12 Cities: Rome