Abstraction Unframed: Murals and Urban Space in the 1950s—


Hans Hoffman Mural , 711 Third Ave, New York, NY

What is the public fate of abstract art in the twentieth century? Can it engage with the urban environment and its inhabitants? This talk looks at various abstract painters, like Lee Krasner and Adolph Gottlieb, who executed large-scale, public mural projects in 1950s New York. Installed on facades and in lobbies, these murals marked the thresholds between various institutions—civic, religious, and corporate—and the public streetscape of a changing postwar city. Taking their place amidst the soaring surfaces and glass curtain walls of mid-century International Style architecture, such murals traded painterly texture for the flinty gleam of mosaic, and thick pigment for the permeable translucency of stained glass. In these and other ways, the murals transformed what had often been a private, subjective idiom into a form of publicity: a public language capable of broadcasting an institution’s character or status to passersby. The resulting murals, little known today, raise important questions about abstraction and communication, the relationship between architectural and painterly modernism, and art’s role in the postwar urban fabric.

Immigrants As Transformers How Do Immigrant Entrepreneurs Culturally And Spatially Transform Their New Environments?—



Immigrants are no strangers in the history of urbanization in the US. The US has experienced four great waves of immigration. The latest wave, starting in 1965, has brought 59 million newcomers to the US. The impact of these new immigrants on the US communities is largely understood based on their contribution to the labor market, local economy, population size, and demographic composition. This narrative largely views immigrants as passive objects whose mere presence in the US imposes a cost (e.g. dependency on welfare) or provides benefit (e.g. consumption of local services) for the receiving communities. However, in return, they also shape and modify their new environments based on their owns needs, cultures and social relations. This pilot study aims to expand the current discussion on the “immigrants’ effect” by focusing on the active role that immigrants play in the host country.

The food industry is the largest employer of foreign born workers. Immigrants also use food as an essential tool to maintain their culture, self-identify themselves in a multiethnic country, and integrate into the culture of the host country by modifying and mainstreaming their ethnic foods. Moreover, the landscape of neighborhoods with ethnic food markets and services is subject to transformation through particular styles in which immigrants advertise and introduce their businesses. Thus, this study explores the ways that immigrant entrepreneurs culturally and spatially transform their new environment through their engagement in food-related practices by pursuing the following questions 1) How do immigrant entrepreneurs participate in the supply chain of ethnic foods? 2) How do immigrants (re)shape the food industry around their own needs, cultures and social relations?

Philadelphia, a gateway for early European immigrants, is now home to an increasing population of new immigrants from Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. The interaction between newcomers and their receiving communities plays a major role in the transformation of immigrant-recipient cities. Newcomers reside in old immigrant communities, reshaping the demography and economy of these places, and continuing the legacy of vibrant old immigrant neighborhoods through establishing small businesses. This study employs a qualitative research design, consisting of a visual ethnography of ethnic food markets and a multi-case study of immigrant food entrepreneurs in Italian, Mexican and Vietnamese food markets. The data relies on interviews with immigrant food retailers to understand how the cultural practices and ethnic identity of immigrants impact their individual businesses, the food industry, and consequently their urban neighborhoods.

Voiceless: The Construction of Homelessness Policies from 1980-2016—


Olivia Webb presents to H+U+D Colloquium

The project examines the history of homelessness policy from 1980 to 2016, both nationally and in Philadelphia. The construction of this timeline reveals how homelessness policy differs from other types of social welfare policy, and it highlights how a lack of civic participation by homeless individuals has rendered them largely voiceless in the American democracy.


Monumental Routes: Movement and the Built Environment in Iron Age Anatolia—


“Monumental Routes” is a multi-scalar project employing digital and geographic techniques to study the complex relationship between movement and the built environment on the Central Anatolian Plateau during the Iron Age (10th-8th c. BCE). The focus of my project is the cultural landscape of Gordion, an Iron Age urban center in central Turkey that has undergone almost continual excavation by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology since the 1950’s. My project combines digital and humanistic perspectives, connecting monumentality, route networks, and urbanism to analyze spatial organization within Anatolian communities.

In my dissertation I identify and describe the ancient routes around Gordion that linked the city to other nearby, contemporary settlements. I detail how routes were monumentalized during the Iron Age by the construction of adjacent burial mounds, and describe the experience of travelling along them. To accomplish these goals, I employ techniques such as GIS (Geographic Information Systems) analysis, aerial photography, photogrammetry, and personally traveling these routes to gain an understanding of the landscape from a human perspective. My project clarifies the extent and intensity of communication between nucleated settlements within Gordion’s local region. It also helps us to understand the degree of political control exercised by the rulers of Gordion over the landscape and nearby settlements around them.

The current intensive agricultural practices and rapid development in Turkey are erasing the traces of past cultures in the landscape at a greater rate than ever before. My project seeks to investigate how people shape and are shaped by the landscape around them in a recursive cycle that is difficult but important to understand. It is critical to create a lasting record of the still surviving Iron Age features so that they can illuminate the complex spatial and social configurations of one of the great empires of ancient Turkey.Sunrise3

Towards an Urban Future: Density and Development in Postwar America—


In the second half of the twentieth century, American cities seemed to be both shrinking and expanding. After World War II, many cities “hollowed out,” losing people, industry, and political power. But as a largely white, largely middle class population migrated from city centers to outlying areas, metropolitan orbits distended. The rise of urban agglomerations suggested that America was becoming an increasingly urbanized nation and that Americans were becoming an increasingly urban people. From any vantage point, the definition of “city” as a densely settled, highly centralized, and clearly delimited place no longer seemed appropriate. The meaning of “urban-ness” was changing.

Taketomo PhotoThis project tracks the evolving meaning of “urban” and “urbanization” from WWII through the early 1970s. My three driving questions are: 1) How and why did urban-ness come to adhere to people as well as spaces in the second half of the twentieth century, and how did this relate to popular and scholarly conceptions of progress, development, and modernization? 2) How could the depopulation of urban cores and the perception of an “urban crisis” coexist with widespread anxiety that metropolitan expansion, over-urbanization, and megalopilization might lead to a dystopian urban future in the United States? 3) How did these fears about an urban future inspire policies and projects that sought to reinstate the physical and conceptual boundary between “urban” and “rural” space?

Part I of this study explores the dissolution of traditional boundaries between urban and rural spaces and the evolution of new definitions of “urban-ness” in the immediate postwar. Part II looks at policies and projects that opposed this taxonomical shift. Such policies and projects, I argue, sought to restore conventional understandings of urban space through reinvigorating city centers and by inventing the problem of and subsequently trying to contain “urban sprawl.”

The Skyscraper and the Suburb: Architecture’s Territorial Ambitions, ca. 1921—


watsonDuring the early twentieth century, the unlikely pairing of the skyscraper and the suburb transformed the cultural, political, economic, and physical landscapes of the United States. Of particular interest is how the same building type—the skyscraper—was used to simultaneously advocate for increased urban density and greater suburban dispersal. The extremes of these arguments are embodied in two projects: Rockefeller Center and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City. This study explores the changing relationship between city and suburb in the United States, as well as the role architecture plays in defining the limits and possibilities of urban thought.

Rockefeller Center and Broadacre City have often been understood as singular events in the history of the American built environment, as representatives respectively of a patron’s largesse and an architect’s ideals or, conversely, as prefigurations of postwar urban megastructures and suburban sprawl. They occupy pivotal, competing positions within late nineteenth and early-twentieth century attempts to reorganize the built environment around a rapidly expanding industrial economy, new modes of transportation, innovations in communications technology, and attendant sociocultural transformations. In other words, the juxtaposition of these two projects positions them within changing relationships between the city and region in the United States. As such, this project revisits the history of urban and regional planning by considering these projects as crucial, albeit idiosyncratic, contributions to the latter.

Poster: Studying Augmented Building Facades as a Mean of Understanding Urban Communication—


Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality. By contrast, virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one. Augmentation is conventionally in real-time and in semantic context with environmental elements, such as sports scores on TV during a match. With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally manipulable. Artificial information about the environment and its objects can be overlaid on the real world.

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