refining infrascape

Please accept my apology for not posting as often as I (and you, my readers) would have liked over the past few months, as it’s been a (very) busy spring, and turning into an even busier summer. The focus of much of my extracurricular effort has been landing a tenure-track spot, so I’m very pleased to announce that I will be joining the Landscape Architecture Faculty at Cal Poly Pomona in the fall!

Pomona has always been one of my top choices for their long standing leadership in environmental/sustainable design, but there were a few days where it looked like I might be heading to NYC instead of Los Angeles (but that’s a story that I rather not share to avoid hurting the other school). So this summer is all about packing up, jettisoning unused stuff,  tying up loose ends in Minnesota (including a bunch of overdue posts), and heading back to California. As I settle into the world of publish or perish academia, I’ll be sharing more about teaching and my writings when time permits. Hope to still keep the random observations about infrastructure, landscape, art, cities, and sustainability  that generate most of the new visitors to Infrascape Design.

Other activities (soon to have posts of their own)  from the first half of 2011 that have reduced my posting to Infrascape to the bare minimum includes developing three new courses, writing a grant proposal to establish a research coordination network for urban heat island mitigation (stay tuned for news if we get funded), submitting  two abstracts to the AASHE conference (both were accepted!) and writing another book review for Landscape Journal (also to be shared soon).

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The academic job search ended up being a cathartic and very revelatory process as it forced refining my interests and methodologies that are the foundation of my concept of infrascape into succinct statements. Through numerable iterations as I sent out a dozen-and-a-half applications, I had the opportunity to craft a Research Statement, a Teaching Statement, and a ‘teaching talk’ [see below]. Variations of this teaching talk got presented in 4 skype interviews,  in 2 in-person interviews, and as a ‘teaching portfolio’ sent to most of the search committees. All of these iterations that have deepened my understanding of who I am, and sharpened what I hope to accomplish through research, teaching, and service at Cal Poly.

For Fall Quarter at Pomona, it looks like I’ll be leading a section of the 301 studio, and co-teaching the 510 studio. Stay tuned for details of new courses in development and the adventures in selecting studio sites in the urban wilderness of Los Angeles and Southern California.

teaching talk about infrascape

A teaching talk (for those of you outside of academia) is a lecture where you present your current research and creative works, examples of coursework produced by your students, and articulate your future aspirations to demonstrates your potential to be a strong scholar. The tough part is finding a common narrative  to tie together the complex tangents and threads of interests that one accumulates in life. I’m sure there are many variations possible, but I’ve only recently seen two other folks present (as part of their interviews as the UMN last spring), and few seem to be shared on the internet.

Here is  my teaching talk at Cal Poly (the talk was 30 minutes with 20+ minutes of questions). I’m grateful to all my UMN student’s who’ve shared their work.

defining infrascape

In naming this blog, I chose a contraction of two topics that greatly interest me: INFRAstructure & landSCAPE. These are the basic premises for my nascent design practice and my teaching. For me, infrascape’s are occupied territories surrounding and permeating our cities that are shaped by eco-technical systems *. These systems aren’t just dumb concrete pipes or taut wires stretched from pylon to pylon, but are dynamic organizations that respond to changing inputs and stimuli. But this hybrid ecology and infrastructure is a concept that is far from reality in most places.

In most cities, there is a binary opposition between infrastructure and landscape. Most infrastructure is uninhabitable, except by urban explorers and squatters. A few get occupied through an mechanized interface such as highways and cars, or railway tunnels and subway cars. Most infrastructure is not intended to host an ecological community, but to provide a shortcut to keep nature away from our buildings as David Gissen explores in Subnature.

Riverbank State Park, NYC – a great example of an infrascape.

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