This Thursday at Studio-X NYC, join us for Landscapes of Secrecy: Data and Reporting in the Drone Debate. In collaboration with Bard’s Center for the Study of the Drone, this event will look to open a discussion on the gathering/reconstructing of data regarding U.S. drone strikes, placing in conversation three researchers to discuss their attempts to understand and represent the nature and extent of U.S. targeted killing operations, the relationship between secrecy and forms of surveillance and violence, and the production of “evidence” at the intersections of legal and physical environments. This will be the second in the Studio-X Global Network series on Security Regimes, which critically examines global spaces of exception. 

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Excited to be hosting Interpretations: Critical Shifts tomorrow, April 5th at 1PM. This is the fourth annual symposium hosted by the Critical, Curatorial, & Conceptual Practices in Architecture class of 2015, GSAPP. Please see a schedule and list of speakers here. If you can’t make it IRL, you will be able to stream online here.

Join us Wednesday, February 26 at 7PM for a conversation about the architecture and geography of women’s health. Lori Brown, author of Contested Spaces: Abortion Clinics, Women’s Shelters and Hospitals will discuss the intersections of politics, protest, and public space as they relate to access to care and the lives that are impacted by it. From her book:

Because protest has for decades been a part of the abortion debate, the way we understand and use public space is critical to rethinking access to reproductive healthcare. Citizen actors on both sides of the issue have been exerting political pressure. So much so that now anti-abortion groups have been successfully influencing state legislatures across the country creating ever more restrictive and unbalanced law. Although legal on paper, abortion is becoming more and more difficult to access for poor women of color. [Iris Marion] Young’s ideas of civic action and even disobedience are critical to a thriving democracy, but what happens when one set of actors are so successful in curtailing women’s legal rights to autonomy and control over their own body? What happens when the state intervenes too much? What needs to be done then?

OK, move over pigeons: it’s time talk about squirrels and the city!

Penn historian Etienne Benson has just published a new paper titled "The Urbanization of the Eastern Gray Squirrel in the United States," and it is a fascinating story indeed.

For starters, it turns out squirrels haven’t simply stayed in place as we urbanized around them: instead, they were eradicated and then deliberately re-introduced. In a press release, Benson explains:

By the mid-19th century, squirrels had been eradicated from cities. In order to end up with squirrels in the middle of cities, you had to transform the urban landscape by planting trees and building parks and changing the way that people behave. People had to stop shooting squirrels and start feeding them.

Benson tracks down the first documented squirrel introduction, in Philadelphia’s Franklin Square in 1847, and tracks their growing popularity as part of the Olmstead-era urban parks movement. At the height of their popularity, in the 1880s and 1890s, squirrels were not only seen as ornaments, adding natural beauty to the city, but also as a way to civilize the urban poor and immigrants: feeding squirrels would help tame their “native” cruelty, went the enlightened thinking of the day.

The article is open access and well worth a read, and Benson’s other work also looks super interesting: he’s currently studying how non-humans create their own infrastructural systems to live in human-dominated landscapes (inspired by zip-lining squirrels visible from his back porch), and in the past has written about wireless wildlife tracking and created an interactive map of applications to import polar bear trophies to the United States between 1997 and 2008.

Meanwhile, do not worry, we are already plotting a squirrel walk for the spring!

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Somehow we missed the leaked design drawings from the Church of Scientology’s $100 million “Super Power Building” when The Village Voice obtained and published them in January 2012.

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The Gensler-designed building was dedicated last month, although it is not yet open. Nonetheless, The Guardian takes this opportunity to re-visit some of its more unique features, which include a super-powers suite, complete with a human gyroscope, spike-enhanced “pain station,” and an “oiliness table” (?), an indoor running track, and a smell and taste wall whose flavors range from magnolia to fig.

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We are stunned. This must have been the most amazing design brief ever! More drawings at The Village Voice. Insider and early visitor reports very welcome!

Via Jake Barton (Local Projects), who would have killed to be on the design team for this.

History professr Ben Schmidt, of Northeastern’s NuLab for Texts, Maps, and Networks, has warped the MTA map of Manhattan to place it on top of the physical geography it simplifies. You can zoom and play with the transparency here.

Via @laurakurgan.

In 2008, architect Chris Downey had (successful) surgery for a brain tumor. Three days later, he went blind. Since then, he’s worked on San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center, as well as several eye clinics. Alison Prato talked to Downey about how losing his sight has affected his work:

These days, he says, he designs with a tactile palette, not just a color palette, in mind. “Blind people rely on acoustics to get around. I test materials with my cane to see how they feel. Instead of doing a ‘walk-through,’ we create a ‘tap-through,’ so you hear what it’s like when you tap your cane throughout the building.” He uses an embossing printer to print out drawings of the spaces he works on. 

Read the story in full here, and check out a gallery of Downey’s favorite places in the city.