After Empirical
February 27-28
230 College St. Toronto

Session 3
Saturday February 28, 10:30 AM </3>

Leveraging the Marketplace

Robert Bruegmann - University of Illinois at Chicago
McLain Clutter - University of Michigan
Tim Love - Northeastern University
Roger Sherman - University of California, Los Angeles
+Robert Levit - moderator - University of Toronto

Robert Moses' projects in New York City - an expansive network of roads and "urban renewal" - were an exercise in highly controlled centralized planning. In this context, Jane Jacobs' role in defeating the proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway, and thwarting Moses, was as much an indication of the rise of libertarian politics as it was an expression of community activism. In Death and Life of the Great American City, Jacobs elevates the seemingly unplanned, accretive, transactional spaces of the 19th century mercantile city as an ideal.

Jacobs' writing and activism popularized the idea of self-organization within the discipline. Urbanists, in turn, have studied unplanned settlements in places such as Africa or South America, and the dispersed spaces of apparently unregulated, market-based North American cities like Atlanta and Houston. From these studies, practitioners have sought to extract lessons or mimic conditions. Rem Koolhaas, for example, draws his theory of bigness from the airports and malls he observes proliferating in the liberalized global economy. Critics have described projects akin to OMA’s “extra" large buildings as an effort to engage the unregulated context of market driven urbanization, but seem to be uncertain, or unwilling to speculate on the broader implications of such an approach to architecture and city-building.

Over the past decade a group of scholars have advocated for an architectural practice that engages market forces without "giving in" to them. Some practitioners have taken this argument as a call to openly embrace development in order to actively participate in the production of cities. Others see the potential for leveraging such engagement as a means to achieve some form of public good. With this panel we hope to gather critiques and stories about working with or within the marketplace, and to debate the role design plays in imagining, and changing the course of market-driven urbanization.