Monday, September 10, 2007

CCA event next week

A History of the Zwischenstadt
(with photographs by Shawn Records)

Thursday evening, September 20, 2007, 7:00 pm

California College of the Arts
1111 8th Street
San Francisco
Free admission

Taking Beaverton Oregon, as a point of departure, this lecture investigates the new shapes and logic of what we have called "cities." The home of Nike and Linux, Beaverton is a nebulous sprawl — larger, more diverse, and more densely populated than Portland, the city of which it is at least nominally a suburb. Whereas most urban theorists identify the centerless cities of the American West as a recent phenomena, this lecture finds parallels between the "zwischenstadt" or "in-between city" of today and the spatial organization in an earlier iteration of American settlement: namely, the extensive trade and transportation routes established by Native Americans and Euro-American trade partners prior to the urbanization of the West.

The lecture asks whether the history of North American settlement can help us find the logic and the beauty of the zwischenstadt. It suggests that beauty is an essential resource to compel our full and wise use of an environment. The lecture argues that the widespread dismissals of "sprawl" as ugly or irrational rest in nostalgia for the concentric city and that we can no longer locate urbanity in the center, nor declare its absence from the periphery. Instead, urbanity permeates the whole.

The photographs of Shawn Records ( ) investigate the features of this transitory, nearly invisible landscape. Not made to be looked at, the zwischenstadt is nonetheless the site of moments of incongruous and quiet beauty. The subtle atmospherics of Records' photographs suggest that the "in-between city" is itself composed of in-between spaces — roads leading to nowhere, abbreviated forests, paved expanses.

Matthew Stadler is a writer whose books include Allan Stein, The Sex Offender, and Landscape: Memory (all novels). His writing on cities has been published in The Architectural Bulletin of the Netherlands Architecture Institute, Domus, Wiederhall, The Stranger, The Oregonian, and elsewhere.

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