Community-based Scholarship

Image: Le 56 / Eco-interstice, St. Blaise neighbourhood, Paris in Testify! The Consequences of Architecture (2011, pp.102-103)

After three long and wonderful years, I will be moving out of the Michigan Branch of Telluride Association (MBTA) next month. I would like to thank the organization and its people for contributing to my development as a thinker and community-based scholar in multiple ways. At MBTA, I experienced the joys and challenges of democratic self-governance and community participation, and observed the limits and potentials of each undertaking in overlapping settings. The ongoing exchanges at once paralleled and broadened my studies on architectures of voice and social difference, personalities and ideologies, everyday life and everyday user. The various involvements allowed me to live out the messiness of varied expectations, I write so passionately about in my academic work.

At the beginning of this month, the leaving housemembers were given an opportunity to purchase books for our house library—a trove of small and large publications that collectively speak to the organization’s commitment to sustaining wide ranging scholarly and socially-driven pursuits. In order to reach out to a diverse audience and encourage a broader understanding of architecture’s social responsibility, I purchased the following books. Each of them, I expect, will raise both current and future house member’s interest in locating architecture’s evolving social role between and among different disciplinary affiliations.

a) Jane Jacob’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) – I had to share this classic with the rest of my housemates, especially after introducing them to the activism of Jacobs in my presentation in January and whetting their curiosity about the book itself; b) Lukas Feireiss and Ole Bouman’s Testify! The Consequences of Architecture (2011) – I chose this book for its emphasis on built work and occupant testimonies as well as its juxtaposition of design intentions and multiple “lived insights.” Notwithstanding the underlying formalistic bias, the book would be a great conversation material in a community-oriented house such as MBTA; and c) Christoph Niemann’s Subway (2010) – This book is for people of all ages. There may be maps, drawings, and abundance of published information on NYC’s quintessential underground system, but nothing surpasses this storyboard of everyday lived experiences of Niemann and his two boys using the city’s subway.

The “social experiment of L.L. Nunn,” to quote a former house member, leaves me with very few words to express my earnest gratitude for such a lively and intense community-focused scholarship. These books are just another way to thank the House for adding a breadth of experience and wonder to my life. Thank you, Telluride Association.


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