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Neil Brenner is professor of urban theory at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he teaches classes on critical urban theory, urban political economy, and socio-spatial theory; he works closely with architects, landscape architects, planners, and cartographers to develop new approaches to understanding, representing, and influencing contemporary urban transformations. He previously taught sociology and metropolitan studies at NYU for more than a decade.
His most recent book is Implosions/Explosions, forthcoming with Jovis in early 2014, which builds upon Henri Lefebvre's ideas to elaborate the methodological foundations for investigating 21st-century forms of global urbanization. Other books include New State Spaces (2004), a study of urban governance and state spatial restructuring in Europe during the second half of the 20th century, and several volumes on the need for a critical approach to urban questions in the age of neoliberal capitalism .
Brenner directs the Urban Theory Lab at the Harvard GSD, a research collective which uses the tools of critical urban theory, historical geopolitical economy, and radical cartography to decipher emergent patterns of urbanization, dispossession and struggle under 21st-century capitalism. Their current work explores the urbanization of Earth's most remote places -- "extreme territories" such as the Arctic, the Amazon, the Sahara desert, the Himalayas, the Gobi steppe, the oceans, and the atmosphere.
Brenner's CCA lecture will be titled "The Urban Age in Question."
In what sense is the 21st century world "urban"? In this lecture, Neil Brenner critiques contemporary ideologies of the "urban age," which confront this question with reference to the purported fact that more than 50 percent of the world's population resides within cities. Against such demographic, city-centric understandings, Brenner excavates Henri Lefebvre’s notion of generalized urbanization for conceptual and methodological insights into the 21st century planetary urban condition.
He argues that the geographies of urbanization can no longer be conceptualized with reference to cities, metropolitan regions or even megalopolises, but today encompass diverse patterns and pathways across the planetary sociospatial landscape, from Manhattan to the Matterhorn, from the Pearl River Delta to Mount Everest, from the Nile River valley to the Pacific Ocean. This variegated urban fabric must become the focal point for new approaches to urban theory, strategies of collective intervention and imaginaries of built environments.
The 2013-14 Architecture Lecture Series is funded by Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP; Jensen Architects; John Marx / Form4; Kava Massih Architects; McCall Design Group; Perkins+Will; SmithGroupJJR; BraytonHughes Design Studios; Cary Bernstein Architect; Harley Ellis Devereaux; Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects; Levy Design Partners; Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects Inc.; Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture; ARCH Art & Drafting Supply; Blasen Landscape Architecture; David Gissen and Rachel Schreiber; Donald MacDonald, Architects; Gregory Ryan and Judith Rosenberg; Johanna Spilman; and TANNERHECHT Architecture.