Columbia University GSAPP
Director, Events and Public Programming
“This is how we do it: Who. What. When. Where. Why. How. Wood.”
Gavin Browning interviewed by Andrea Marpillero-Colomina
Originally published in Architizer, February 1, 2012
Andrea Marpillero-Colomina: The theme of this semester’s calendar seems to be “Where is New York?” So I can’t help but ask you, where you think New York is today, both physically and culturally?
Gavin Browning: For me, New York is the collection of places where I spend time and feel personally invested. I think most people experience the city in a similar way. So, instead of trying to pinpoint one New York experience, a monthly sub-series within the lecture series zooms in to local ones, and does so from different disciplinary perspectives. It’s called “Where is New York?” Like so much in New York, these conversations are often about development, and what change means for communities. By inviting stakeholders to discuss the future of Willets Point or Pier 42, for example, I hope the series uncovers macro and global connections. New York is not confined to the five boroughs, the United States, or North America. It’s many different places simultaneously, and by May, we’ll have a map of all the places where we thought New York was.
AMC: Why do you think it’s important to pose questions?
GB: Because questions imply conversation. This lecture series swaps statements for questions. They were mostly submitted by the speakers themselves, and I think the resulting list is really funny and provocative. I hope it simplifies things, too. The poster has to convey a lot of information at once and therefore risks a sense of pile-on. But by listing these questions on both sides—you flip the poster mid-semester—the design by Sagmeister Inc. gives each question some space to resonate.
AMC: Taking a jaunt in our time machine to visit architects and urbanists of the past.… Who is the person you would have most loved to see grace the podium of Wood Auditorium?
GB: Jane Adams. Her questions changed the city in tangible ways.
AMC: What is the absolute best thing about Events at GSAPP?
GB: Never getting bored. The range of speakers and subject matter is really diverse, and that’s thanks to guidance from Dean Mark Wigley and the GSAPP faculty. This semester, I’m looking forward to a panel on imagery and copyright; conferences on Colombian urbanism, Lewis Mumford, and technology transfer; a conversation on environmental health between Helen Caldicott and Kate Orff; events from the Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture around the MoMA exhibition Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream; think tanks on the future of the building industry in Brooklyn and Toronto; and appearances by Odile Decq, Carme Pinós, Arquitectonica, Teddy Cruz, and David Chipperfield in memory of Paul S. Byard, to name just a few.
AMC: How do you plan on outdoing yourself next semester?
GB: Let me borrow that time machine and I’ll find out.