Under the Influence: Negotiating the Complex Logic of Urban Property

Under the Influence: Negotiating the Complex Logic of Urban Property the excitement of city life cannot be preserved if all conflict is eliminated (it is important to) emphasize the positive aspects of conflict .As a means of describing its overall growth and organization, the contemporary city has been likened to a hive of diverse and competing constituencies. At the scale of its smallest common increment, the individual parcel, this analogy plays itself out via a set of economic, political and social self-interests whose complex and compelling interaction ultimately suggests a requisitioning of the architect\’s role in the act of citymaking. According to American land-use law, the rights to and ownership of a property involve not one, but numerous stakeholders – some by title and others by less formal association. The gerrymander-like negotiation between them can result in a complicated, even convoluted spatial arrangement whose messy physical appearance belies a certain formal richness. Further scrutiny of the behavior of these interests as they engage (overlap, intersect, interlock, intertwine) with one another in space yields an alternative logic of architectural composition and decision making. By allowing itself to be ordered by rather than attempting to discipline the uncoordinated and often irreconcilable forces of the larger urban \”program\” that act upon a given site, architecture may find not only formal invigoration, but also the ability to recover and even enhance social awareness, not to mention its own political irrelevance. The analysis of a series of case study properties in 4 cities – 2 of them American, one not – will serve as terms of the evolution of law surrounding land ownership and rights (i.e. mineral and air rights, easements, profits a prendre, etc.), and partly by drawing upon a range of different models (both legal and informal) of negotiation, such as that offered by the discipline of game theory (strategies such as Tit for Tat, Even Up, etc.)The studio will commence with a +/- 3 week analysis problem based upon a series of visits to 3 American cities: Los Angeles (with a short excursion to Tijuana), Houston and Boston, in that order. In Los Angeles (whose urban form is, appropriately, a product of speculative development, not planning), we shall tour several paradigmatic properties that serve to illustrate the studio\’s thesis in practice. Boston and Houston, the latter of which to this day still largely has no zoning, shall serve as the urban laboratories in which one case study site shall be identified by each student and analyzed. The final project will occupy the remaining 11 or so weeks for the term. A near-identical program will be given for 2 highly contested sites – one in L.A., the other in Boston – from which students may choose. 1-2 weeks will be spent collectively analyzing the project sites. Like the case study analysis, the research will involve the extensive use of diagrams to: a.) identify the various stakeholders in the property; b.) delineate their web(s) of relations; c.) rank their relative power/influence; and d.) assess their relationships with one another (conflictual, cooperative, etc.). In the spirit of negotiation with which the studio is concerned, students will be free to work on the final project in teams if they so choose. In addition to diagramming, students should expect a certain amount of field research, as well as 3D modeling. Lastly, there will be integrated into the studio work a set of eight readings (one set will be discussed during each visit by the instructor), each to be led by 1 or 2 members of the studio. All the students are, however, responsible for doing each session\’s readings and coming to each session prepared to discuss them.The work of the studio is expected to be rigorous, given the complexity of the project and amount of reading material. The instructor\’s schedule of visits over the term