Back in the trenches, getting ready for the new semester with two courses to teach, ‘Ciudad y Urbanismo’ —an introduction to the analysis of urban processes, related bog in Spanish here— and ‘Taller de Urbanismo’. The latter is a workshop in the new Master in Design of our School of Architecture, part of an educational structure aimed at the formal integration —for the first time in the institution— of all the departments in a single design studio; my course is included in the bloc coordinated by Juan Herreros, professor of architectural design not only in Madrid but also at the GSAPP, Columbia University. We will be working in several locations in the historical Ensanche of Madrid, turning massive extant infrastructural facilities, currently embedded in a dense urban fabric, into more complex places incorporating residential, retail, public space and other amenities.
While I am generally critical of the pedagogic potentialities of the usual design practices in architectural schools —too frequently they constitute mere morphological simulacra removed from concrete social, economic and political contexts, at least of the kind urban planners and theorists are used to— it feels like the approach this time is much richer and I look forward to participating in the experience. I am preparing some activities which will involve local social movements in preliminary analyses of the neighborhood and at the same time going back to the work of Graham, Gandy and others to assemble several lectures about the social and environmental dimension of urban infrastructure; in that sense I recently grabbed a copy of Graham and McFarlane’s edited volume Infrastructural Lives: Urban Infrastructure in Context (Routledge, 2015), which is especially helpful to convey the everyday aspects of infrastructure —broadly understood— through case studies of particular cities and places. Perhaps we will even have time to delve into more openly political theoretical material — the work by Swyngedouw, and Ekers and Loftus on hydrological infrastructure would be especially relevant, for we will be working with the local water supply system networks and spaces.
The semester ahead includes a schedule replete with dissertation committees, six in the next few weeks. Some of them I have already read during the summer, but others are still in the queue. Right now I am reading Carlos Santamarina’s brilliant ‘Culture and representation of man-made landscape: producing the image of territory in the USA, 1925-1975’, a very interesting and well-written work, which actually allows me to go back to some of the topics I investigated in my PhD years.
There will be visits to Barcelona, Valladolid and Weimar in the upcoming months, the first of them to join my research group Espais Crítics (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona + Universitat de Barcelona) in the conference on Neil Smith’s legacy, Global Capitalism and Processes of Urban Regeneration. A Tribute to Neil Smith. We will take the opportunity of the conference to discuss our joint research project —‘Spatial challenges of the global crisis’— and to organize the publication of the forthcoming book on Neil Brenner that Icaria will publish at some point in 2016 in its Espacios Críticos series (more information here, in Spanish).
Finally, some updates about publications and current writing. The definitive version of my article ‘Capitalist formations of enclosure: space and the extinction of the commons’ has been published in the last issue of Antipode. You can find more information about this piece here and download it here (thanks to the Urban Theory Lab for hosting this!); this is a contribution that somehow summarizes and develops my previous approaches to enclosure (eg the articles in Journal of Historical Geography and Social and Cultural Geography), tackling its spatialities with a more systematic conceptual and theoretical approach, and a broader historical scope.
Although I haven’t received my copy yet, the webpage of Transcript Verlag includes information about the release of Eckardt and Ruiz’s edited book City of Crisis: The Multiple Contestation of Southern European Cities, including my chapter ‘Crisis and the city: neoliberalism, austerity planning and the production of space’. You can have a look at the content here.
In terms of current writing the summer was relatively productive. I managed to finish a piece I had been preparing for just too long, now submitted and awaiting review — a reasonable achievement, taking into account the demands of the new ‘domestic landscape with baby’ at home… my partner and I joined the crazy world of parenthood last spring! With the preparation of this manuscript, the completion of the book on Brenner and the publication of the Antipode piece I feel a cycle is coming to an end. The semester should serve as a warm-up to move to another stage where either I start to expand my previous explorations of interwar urbanism in Germany and the US —the third part of the ‘social history of planning’ I began to forge in my dissertation, following the work on eighteenth-century English enclosure and nineteenth-century urban reform in Manhattan— or I develop and re-arrange all this material in order to turn it into a full, comprehensive monograph. In the next months I will explore some of the related literature I have been collecting in the last years, and decide whether I focus on a few additional articles —which are always an opportunity to do more speculative work— or I fully immerse myself in the design of a book-length manuscript.