MIT Department of Architecture
Spring 2019 Lecture Series
What is Spatial Research?
As a hub for interdisciplinary collaboration in spatial research, the Center links the work of the humanities with the fields of digital mapping, spatial data analysis, data visualization and design. Engaging in projects with civic and social orientations, as well as deploying an aesthetic project that treats big and small data as an urban resource, we map and visualize the complex and often invisible forces transforming cities today. Acknowledging the evolving features of this unruly terrain, our definition of spatial research treats cities and data as inextricably bound together. What are the varying effects that data-based approaches to the city have had on cities themselves? And how can we deploy data-based approaches, and critiques of those approaches, to imagine alternative futures for cities? I will show a range of recent projects undertaken by the CSR and ask questions which define an approach to spatial research.
Laura Kurgan is Associate Professor of Architecture at the Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, where she directs the Center for Spatial Research and the Visual Studies curriculum. She is the author of Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics (Zone Books, 2013). From 2004 through 2015, she founded and directed the Spatial Information Design Lab (SIDL) at GSAPP.
Her work explores the ethics and politics of digital mapping and its technologies; the art, science, and visualization of big and small data; and design environments for public engagement with maps and data. Her work has been exhibited internationally, most recently at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2018, in the Jerome L. Greene Science Center at Columbia's Zuckerman Institute 2018, at the Istanbul Design Biennial 2016, and at the Oslo Architecture Triennale 2016. Her work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and her work has also been shown at Palais De Tokyo and the Fondation Cartier in Paris, MACBa Barcelona and the ZKM in Karlsruhe. Her writings have been published widely, including articles in the Harvard Design Magazine, Grey Room, Volume, and Architectural Design.
For her work as a designer, Kurgan was awarded a United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship, in 2009, and she was named a Game Changer by Metropolis in 2012. As Director of the Center for Spatial Research and the Spatial Information Design Lab, she has been Principal Investigator on research supported by the Open Society Foundations, the Ford Foundation, the Andrew W Mellon Foundation, and the Gardiner Foundation. Current topics of her research at CSR include justice mapping, conflict urbanism, spatial inequality, and historical New York City.