The Urban Theory Lab recently opened their exhibition “Operational Landscapes” at the Melbourne School of Design (MSD). Led by professor of urban theory Neil Brenner, the exhibition asks: In what sense do we today live in an “urban age”? Frequently invoked by scholars, policy-makers, planners, designers, and architects, usually with reference to the proposition that more than 50 percent of the world’s population now lives within cities, such a question provokes further questioning: Can the nature of our urban world be understood and mapped exclusively with reference to the growth of cities and their populations?
The exhibition turns this proposition upside-down and inside-out by speculating on a radically alternative mapping of contemporary planetary urbanization. What happens to our cognitive map of the global urban condition if we focus not on the global cities or megacities of the world, but on the wide-ranging sociospatial and environmental transformations that are currently unfolding in supposedly “remote” or “wilderness” regions such as the Amazon, the Arctic, the Gobi desert steppe, the Himalayas, the Pacific Ocean, the Sahara desert, and Siberia, and even the earth’s atmosphere? To what degree are such zones now being integrated within a worldwide fabric of urbanization? How are they being restructured and enclosed to support the energy, water, material, food and logistics needs of major cities?
Through speculative cartographies of these emergent “operational landscapes,” the exhibition aims to illuminate the radical transformations of land-use, infrastructure, and ecology far beyond the city limits that have made the contemporary formation of planetary urbanization possible.
Curatorial Team: Grga Basic (MDes ’15), Chris Bennett (MDes ’15), Mariano Gomez Luque (MArch II ’13, DDes), Daniel Ibañez (MDes ’12, DDes)
With support from: Office of the Dean, Melbourne School of Design; Office of the Dean, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University; Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University; Milton Fund, Harvard University Medical School