Interlude 17

Michigan / Mellon “Egalitarianism and the Metropolis”

At the inaugural Michigan/Mellon  Project on Egalitarianism and the Metropolis Symposium 1 at University of Michigan on April 11, 2015, a group of international scholars and designers met to share their work and build a research network. Drawing on research conducted in Detroit, Mexico City, and Rio de Janeiro, the Symposium aimed to investigate how to balance rights and priviledges in an urban metropolitan context. The public symposium was organized into four panels, each focusing on a different overarching theme of the Michigan-Mellon Project ( a 4-year, $1.3 million initiative funded by the A. W. Mellon Foundation) and a constellation of related questions.

Session 1 | Rethinking Modernist Orthodoxies
Presenters: Milton S. F. Curry, Johana Londono, Ronald A. Judy, Wallace Turbeville
The symposium’s first panel explored critiques of modernism utilizing case studies as diverse as the Puerto Rican barrio, the Tunisian Revolution, and the modern financial market. Some of the questions explored included what the problems and possibilities of the contact between modernist aesthetics and more localized traditions within Latino social spaces are; how cities enable the production of certain types of humanity, sociality, and intelligence; and possibilities for new, viable, intervention financial models in the aftermath of the recent Great Recession.

Session 2 | Privatization and the Commons
Presenters: Derek B. Collins, Arturo Ortiz Struck, Nanda Eskes, Jose Castillo, Gustavo Lipkau
Panelists in the second session discussed different relationships and conceptions of space, both public and private. Freely moving between the philosophical and the practical, case studies in Mexico City and Brazil exposed the ways in which privatization shaped cities and ways in which privatization has been resisted by cities and citizens.

Session 3 | Capital and Justice
Presenters: Sarah Mineko Ichioka, Toni L. Griffin, Paloma Vera, Erika Robb Larkins
Discussion in the third session raised questions on philosophies of urbanism and justice and methodologies and approaches to creating just urban environments. Panelists’ approaches and case studies drew from a broad field, including social impact design and tactical urbanism in London, conceptions of the Just City in New York, participatory economics in Mexico City, and gentrification of favelas in Rio de Janeiro.

Session 4 | Political Spaces of Media
Presenters: Matthew Biro, Reighan A. Gillam, Anya Sirota, Fernanda Canales, Livia Corona Benjamin
The fourth session of the symposium produced a conversation surrounding the ascendency of social practice as a contemporary design aspiration. The panel also addressed the impact of representation on the instrumentalization of social practice. A grassroots sitcom from Rio, photography of Mexico City’s suburban sprawl, a spaceship launch in Detroit served as a few examples of new ways of imaging social interventions in the city.

Hosted by the University of Michigan A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and College of Literature, Science, & Arts. Partial funding provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.