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Michigan/Mellon Symposium on the Egalitarian Metropolis

April 11, 2015 at 8:30 am - 6:00 pm

Michigan/Mellon Symposium on the Egalitarian Metropolis

Contemporary thinking on egalitarianism has focused on the flattening of social hierarchies, altering systemic obstacles to equality, radically transforming institutions that uphold exclusive access to collective resources and critiques of market capitalism. This inaugural Michigan/Mellon symposium explores the following themes as a way of opening up a new integration between contemporary urban design and humanities discourse: Rethinking Modern Orthodoxy; Privatization and the Commons; Capital and Justice; and Political Space of Media. Participants will move between ideological discussion and locally specific conditions and between the pragmatic and the speculative. Envisioned as a roundtable, our symposium is intended to maximize discussion. Each panelist will prepare brief presentations addressing a topic s/he believes to be especially significant. Panelists may focus on the program’s three main cities (Detroit, Mexico City, and Rio de Janeiro), or they may discuss related cities as well. We expect this will generate a myriad of useful points from which a productive discussion will take place.

The Michigan/Mellon Project on Egalitarianism and the Metropolis is a 4-year academic and research initiative focused on architecture, urbanism and humanities research in Detroit, Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro. It is made possible by a $1.3 million grant from the A. W. Mellon Foundation. The project allows design theory and practice to inform and be informed by questions of social justice, social movements and transformative creative arts movements–both past and present. The emphasis on cities and their specificity will focus humanists on linking theories of human interaction and collective life with the physical space of a city and its histories. The increased expertise in urbanism allows for humanists to better understand the market forces and economic constraints that inform design decisions that directly affect human life.

Egalitarianism remains a useful framework for examining the contemporary metropolis because it contains a theory of value based on both the inherent equality of individuals and on some notion of a fair distribution of resources to individuals. Egalitarianism is thus a more ample construct through which to view the challenges and opportunities of today’s modern metropolitan regions, because it does not assume a market-based or capitalist-driven imperative. Rather, egalitarianism can be used to ask what if the underpinnings of resource distribution, transportation, housing allocation and industrial wast management were in the service of the most equitable allocation of goods and services. Given the reality that contemporary metropolitan regions and post-industrial cities fall well short of this goal, egalitarianism then allows us to ask what is the best way to reduce or mitigate the harmful inequalities.

Michigan / Mellon Symposium: Session 1 from Taubman College on Vimeo.

Michigan Mellon Symposium: Part 2 from Taubman College on Vimeo.

Participants and Bios:

Session 1

  • Milton S. F. Curry, Co-Project Director

Milton S. F. Curry is associate dean for academic affairs and strategic initiatives at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan, and associate professor of architecture. He is director of the master of urban design degree and Michigan Architecture Prep program, and project director of the Michigan-Mellon Project in Egalitarianism and the Metropolis, a $1.3 million / 4-year research initiative focused on urbanization in Brazil, Mexico and the US (2014-2018). Curry was a professor of architecture at Cornell University from 1995-2010, and director of the Cornell Council for the Arts from 2002-2008.

Professor Curry’s work crosses the disciplines of architecture theory, political philosophy, cultural theory and urbanism. He founded two peer-reviewed academic journals: CriticalProductive and Appendx. His design work has been exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem. His writings have been published in edited volumes and journals, including in Where are the Utopian Visionaries (2012), Suburban Sprawl: Culture, Theory and Politics (2003); and in The Huffington Post. His current writings work in progress on egalitarianism and urbanism with a focus on race and social movement in North and South America, and work on the visual and spatial implications of US incarceration policies.

  • Johana Londono, Assistant Professor of Latin American Studies, SUNY Albany

Johana Londoño is an Assistant Professor on leave from the Department of Latin American, Caribbean, and U.S. Latino Studies at the University at Albany, SUNY. She holds a PhD and MPhil in American Studies, Department of Social and Cultural Analysis from New York University, and a BFA from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. She is largely interested in the intersection between cultural studies, urban studies, and Latina/o studies. In particular, her current research examines how late 20th century, early 21st century urban experts, including designers, planners, developers, ethnographers, and policy-makers, interested in U.S. Latino urbanization transform the way barrio culture has been thought about and discussed. At Princeton she will continue to work on revising her dissertation into a book manuscript titled Abstract Barrios: The Latinization of Cities, Urban Design, and Representations of Poverty. Her research has appeared in Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, Antipode Foundation: A Radical Geography Community, the edited volume Latino Urbanism: The Politics of Planning, Policy and Redevelopment (eds. David R. Diaz and Rodolfo D. Torres), and American Quarterly.

  • Ronald A. Judy, Professor of Critical and Cultural Studies, University of Pittsburgh

R. A. Judy is Professor of Critical and Cultural Studies at the University of Pittsburgh where he teaches courses related to the fields of American literature and culture, African literature, Arab literature, contemporary Islamic thought, as well as world literature, and literary theory and criticism. A recipient of prestigious honors, from the Ford and Mellon Foundations, he has been a Fulbright Fellow at the Institut Bourguiba des Langues Vivantes, Université de Tunis I, in Tunis, Tunisia. He is author of (Dis)forming the American Canon: The Vernacular of African Arabic American Slave Narrative (1992), and has published numerous essays in the areas of contemporary Islamic philosophy, literary/cultural theory, music, Arabic and world literatures. Professor Judy is a member of the Editorial Collective of boundary where he has edited numerous special issues and dossiers, most recently The Tunisia Dossier (2012).

  • Wallace Turbeville, Fellow, Demos

Wallace Turbeville is a Senior Fellow at Demos, a Special Advisor the UN Environmental Program’s Inquiry on Sustainable Finance and an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Law School.

Mr. Turbeville practiced law for seven years before joining Goldman, Sachs & Co. in 1985 as an investment banker, where he specialized in infrastructure finance and public/private partnerships. For six years, he was co-head of a group in the London office tasked to pursue financing of transportation, energy and environmental projects, particularly in the newly opened eastern European nations. While in London, Mr. Turbeville served on the consultative Committee for Public/Private Partnership Finance of Transportation Infrastructure of HM Treasury.

In 1997, Mr. Turbeville founded the Kensington Group, a firm focused on financial advisory services in domestic and international energy, environmental, transportation and telecommunications sectors. He led the development of an innovative business model for the post-trade management of credit exposures in over-the-counter derivatives transactions, adapting many of the characteristics of traditional clearing for initial application in the OTC energy markets. This business was spun off as VMAC LLC in late 2002, and Mr. Turbeville became its Chief Executive Officer.

Mr. Turbeville left VMAC in late 2009 to devote his efforts to financial reform, energy and environmental policy issues. He served as Visiting Scholar at the Roosevelt Institute and authored nearly 30 articles concerning financial reform, energy, the environment and political opinion.

In October 2010, Mr. Turbeville joined Better Markets, Inc. He was the primary author of dozens of comment letters relating to proposed rules and studies implementing the Dodd-Frank Act of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, Financial Stability Oversight Counsel and the Federal prudential banking regulators. He resigned from Better Markets in late 2011. He currently serves on the CFTC’s Technology Advisory Committee and Global Markets Advisory Committee and as an advisor to Americans for Financial Reform.

Session 2

  • Derek B. Collins, Co-Project Director

Derek Collins is the Associate Dean for the Humanities in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan and Professor of Greek and Latin in the Department of Classical Studies. He has written three books and more than a dozen articles on Greek poetry and the history of Greek religion and magic, and translated scholarly work from French into English. Dean Collins studied at UCLA, received his Ph.D. from Harvard University, and joined the faculty of U-M in 1999. His most recent book is about the history of magic in ancient Greece (Magic in the Ancient Greek World, Blackwell, 2008), and its legacy in Rome and the early medieval period.

As a divisional Dean, he has primary responsibility for 19 U-M departments, centers and institutes, including all of the language departments; he presides over promotions of faculty at all ranks; he’s involved with the recruitment and retention of faculty at all ranks; and he manages all academic affairs issues.

A frequent traveler to the Mediterranean, Dean Collins toured with U-M alumni in both 2007 and 2009 to the Greek islands and Turkey. He has traveled extensively throughout Europe, and in 2010 returned to France, especially to la Côte d’Azur.

  • Arturo Ortiz Struck, Head, Taller Territorial de Mexico

Arturo Ortiz Struck was Head of the Mexico City Certificate Program of the Universidad Iberoamericana (UIA). He is also head of a new architectonic and urban research workshop: Taller Territorial de México. Mr. Ortiz Struck conducted a workshop at the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM) for two years (2002-2004). He has lectured in different universities and forums in Mexico, Switzerland, China and the United States. He studied architecture at the Universidad Iberoamericana (UIA), and received a master degree in urban research from the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM). He is a member of the National System for Art Creators, FONCA In a collaborative participation with Tatiana Bilbao, Derek Dellekamp and Michel Rojkind he founded the urban research center MXDF in 2003.

In recent years he has participated in different urban plans for the Federal District of Mexico City and in different states within Mexico. In his architectonic practice, he has developed projects in Mexico, China and the USA. Mr. Ortiz Struck has participated in different exhibitions of architecture and contemporary art in Mexico, Italy, Germany, the United States and China. Together with Rozana Montiel, he was recipient of a Holcim Foundation PhD Research Grant in 2007 for “Sustainability in poor areas: Chimalhuacan Informal squatter settlements in the context of the local and global discourses.”

Mr. Ortiz Struck presented the case study Community of Chimalhuacán: Developing sustainable urban identities in the workshop Stimulate stakeholders — With incentives to implementation and was a workshop expert in the Green Mobile Workshop: Housing and infrastructure in the peripheries — Mine the city at the 3rd International Holcim Forum 2010 in Mexico City.

  • Nanda Eskes, Partner, Atelier 77

Nanda Eskes is a member of Atelier77 architectural firm, a founding member of CASA Institute and a professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. Ms. Eskes coordinated for the architect Christian de Portzamparc the City of Arts project in Rio de Janeiro. Her office works with urban planning, cultural buildings, social and private buildings and interior renovations. Among its projects was the Community Center of Santa Cruz , which was unveiled in the last Bienal de São Paulo. She is also a coordination consultant for the HOME Institute that promotes quality urbanism, architecture and social housing.

  • Jose Castillo, Partner, arquitectura 911sc

Jose Castillo is an architect living and working in Mexico City. He holds a degree in architecture from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City as well as an MArch and a DDes degree from Harvard University’s GSD. Alongside Saidee Springall he founded arquitectura 911sc, an independent practice based in Mexico City. Among their built projects are the expansion of the Spanish Cultural Center and the transformation of the Sala Siqueiros, both in Mexico City, and the CEDIM campus in Monterrey. They are currently designing The City of Film in Mexico City, as well as the competition-winning Guadalajara’s Performing Arts Center, currently under construction. The work of arquitectura 911sc has also been showcased at the Rotterdam and the Venice Architecture Biennales and at the exhibition Dirty Work: Transforming Landscape in the Non-Formal City of the Americas at Harvard’s GSD.

  • Gustavo Lipkau, Architect, Mexico City

Gustavo Lipkau is a young architect with a background in experimental, artistic and sustainable urban development projects. Among his collaborations include the project of Lake Texcoco Futura Urban Development Workshop , co-founded with Alberto Kalach and Teodoro González de León; and Microurbanismo Workshop directed through the support of the Historical Center Foundation, with whom he has collaborated with various laboratories.

Session 3

  • Sarah Mineko Ichioka, Former Director, The Architecture Foundation

The urbanist Sarah Mineko Ichioka’s diverse portfolio includes high-profile leadership, strategic planning, and curatorial work for some of the world’s most respected institutions of culture, policy and research. A passion for cities and their potential unites her current role as Principal of the New Intentional Communities project, with her previous roles, including Director of The Architecture Foundation (London); Co-Director of the London Festival of Architecture; Consultant Curator for the Global Cities exhibition in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall; Founding Research Associate of the London School of Economics’ Urban Age project; Content Coordinator for the 10th Venice Architecture Biennale, for which she also co-edited the catalogue; and Community Development Fellow at New York City’s Department of Housing. She has served on numerous boards and juries for projects including: the Confluence Institute for Innovation and Creative Strategies in Architecture, Lyon; the selection and advisory committee for the British Pavilion at Venice, which she chaired in 2010; the European Prize for Urban Public Space; the UK Young Architect of the Year Award; and the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. Her publications include chapters in The Endless City (Phaidon 2008); the Mies van der Rohe / European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture 25th Anniversary Catalogue (Actar 2013); and Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age (Prestel 2014). Ms. Ichioka has been honored as a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, a British Council Cultural Leadership International Fellow, and in 2013 was named one of the Public Interest Design 100. At present she is most likely to be found in Singapore, the San Francisco Bay Area, or London.

  • Toni L. Griffin, Professor and Director, CUNY, J. Max Bond Center

Toni L. Griffin is Professor of Architecture and Director, J. Max Bond Center, Spitzer School of Architecture, City College of New York, CUNY. She has worked in both the public and private sectors, combining the practice of architecture, urban design and planning with the execution of innovative, large-scale, mixed-use urban redevelopment projects, and citywide and neighborhood planning strategies. She is currently creating a long-range development plan for the City of Detroit through its “Detroit Works” program. She has been Director for the Division of Planning and Community Development for the City of Newark, New Jersey; Vice President and Director of Design for the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation in Washington, DC; Deputy Director for Revitalization Planning in the D.C. Office of Planning, where she oversaw large-scale redevelopment projects for the downtown, waterfront, commercial corridors, and citywide neighborhood planning; and Vice President for Planning & Tourism Development for the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation in New York City. Prof. Griffin began her career as an architect with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP in Chicago, where she became an Associate Partner involved in architecture and urban design projects. She holds a Bachelor’s of Architecture degree from the University of Notre Dame and was a Loeb Fellow at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University.

  • Paloma Vera, Partner, Cano Vera Architecture

Paloma Vera is an architect who graduated from the Universidad Iberoamericana where she completed her MA postgraduate degree. She obtained her PhD at the Paris X at Nanterre and UNAM, Mexico. Now an architectural professor at the Universidad Iboroamericana, her pedagogical activities have extended to numerous symposia and lectures. She is currently a featured writer at Arquine magazine of Architecture as well as a member of its editorial staff.

In 1995, along with Juan Carlos Cano, she founded CANOVERA ARQUITECTURA (www.canovera.com). Their designs have been focused on both rural and urban housing and communities. The studio intends to put a special emphasis on a humanist approach to architecture, listening closely and involving the final users in the development of their designs. In their urban housing proposals they design cluster and courtyards configurations with lots of pedestrian spaces intending to promote a sense of community.

  • Erika Robb Larkins, Assistant Professor of International Studies, University of Oklahoma

Erika Robb Larkins is an Assistant Professor in the Department of International Studies at the University of Oklahoma. An anthropologist by training, her work focuses broadly on the study of violence and inequality in urban Brazil.

Her book, The Spectacular Favela (2015), explores the connections between the production of spectacular violence in Rio de Janeiro and its commodification and consumption, locally as well as internationally. She is currently working on an ethnography of the private security industry in Rio.

Dr. Larkins teaches courses on violence, security, Brazil, urban studies, police, and media studies. She received her Ph.D. (2011) in Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin. She also holds a M.A. (2004) in Latin American Studies from the University of Chicago and B.A. (2002) in History and Religious Studies from Indiana University.

Session 4

  • Matthew Biro, Co-Project Director

Originally trained as a continental philosopher, Matthew Biro came to art history through an interest in aesthetics and visual thinking. He is the author of two books, Anselm Kiefer and the Philosophy of Martin Heidegger (New York and London: Cambridge University Press, 1998) and The Dada Cyborg: Visions of the New Human in Weimar Berlin (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), and his articles on modern and contemporary art and philosophy have appeared in Art History, the Yale Journal of Criticism, RES, Art Criticism, and New German Critique, among other places. His reviews of contemporary art, film, and photography have appeared in Contemporary, Art Papers, and The New Art Examiner, and he has published book reviews for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Clio, CAA Reviews, and the European Legacy. He is currently working on a book about photography.

  • Reighan A. Gillam, U-M Lecturer, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies

Reighan A. Gillam is a Postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan. She recently received her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from Cornell University in 2012. In her dissertation, The Revolution Will Be Televised, she examine the development, construction, and demise of Brazil’s first Black television network called TV da Gente (Our TV). She received her BA from the University of Virginia in Anthropology and African-American and African Studies.

  • Anya Sirota, U-M Assistant Professor of Architecture

Anya Sirota is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Her interdisciplinary research and scholarship focuses on contemporary issues of architecture and urbanism with emphasis on experimental interventions, social networks, and generative cultural infrastructures.

Prof. Sirota is the principal of Akoaki, an independent practice that supports her ongoing speculative and constructed interests. The work has received recognition in the United States and abroad, with recent solo exhibitions in Switzerland and France. Akoaki’s installations and research have been featured in Frame, Bob and Architect Magazines, receiving an R+D Award in 2013.

In parallel, Prof. Sirota is the co-founder of the Metropolitan Observatory of Digital Culture and Representation (MODCaR). In 2012, collaborating with MIreille Roddier, she produced Imaging Detroit, a 36-hour film festival and pop up agora. The project was included in the Institute for Urban Design curated exhibit “Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good” and presented at “Making Visible the Collective Value” session of Grande Meeting di chiusura of the Venice biennale’s 13th International Architecture Exhibition “Common Grounds.” Since, with support from the Knight Arts Foundation and ArtPlace America, MODCaR has launched O.N.E. Mile, an urban-scale project in Detroit’s North End neighborhood that explores alternative and collective planning methods.

Sirota teaches graduate and undergraduate design studios as well as critical conservation theory. Since joining the faculty, Sirota has been awarded the Donna M. Salzer Award for Teaching Excellence, and was voted one of the 30 Most Admired Educators for 2013 by Design Intelligence.

Prof. Sirota received her masters of architecture from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, where she earned the Araldo Cossutta Prize for Design Excellence. She holds a B.A. in modern culture and media from Brown University.

  • Fernanda Canales, Principal, Arquitectura Fernanda Canales

In 2013, Fernanda Canales received her PhD degree with outstanding cum laude from the ETSAM in Madrid. She was recipient of the career award from the FCARM, the Mexican Federation of Architects’ Associations on 2012. Dr. Canales also studied at the Universidad Iberoamericana, México City (Bachelor with Honours, 1997) and at the Universidad Politécnica de Cataluña in Barcelona (MA, 2001). She was awarded a fellowship from the FONCA (Fondo Nacional de Cultura) in the Young Creators category (2003-2004) and has worked for architects such as Toyo Ito (Tokyo), Ignasi de Sola-Morales (Barcelona) and Luis Fernández-Galiano (Madrid). She has recently been named art creator from the National System of Creators FONCA CONACULTA for her project Artículo 123 Bis. The Mexican Association of Architects (CAM) awarded her an honorific distinction as an emerging architect in 2010 and the Young Architect award in 2012.

Since 1996, Dr. Canales has developed her independent practice of architecture and research based in Mexico City. Her firm has won several competitions, including the Elena Garro Cultural Center, the new CEDIM Campus in Monterrey and the theater complex in Guadalajara. Her firm is currently engaged in both public and private projects, focusing on housing, educational and cultural programs. Her essays have been published in The New York Times, El País, Reforma, Letras Libres, Praxis, Arquitectura Viva, Wallpaper, Domus and Arquine, and her work has been exhibited in venues such as the Venice Biennale, the Museum of Modern Art and the National Center for the Arts, both in Mexico City. She has been involved in editorial projects such as 100×100 Mexican architects of the 20th century, Duograph Series Mexico, The Barragán Guide, Cultural Spaces Abraham Zabludovksy and Central de Arquitectura.

She has been a professor at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Design and Urbanism, the CMAS Master in Urbanism, and at the Master Laboratory of Collective Housing for the 21st century in collaboration with the UPC at Barcelona; She has also taught at UNAM’s Max Cetto workshop, and at the ETSAB in Barcelona. Canales is a member of the editorial board of Arquine and La Tempestad.

  • Livia Corona Benjamin, Photographer, Mexico City and New York

The work of Livia Corona Benjamin explores the social and political implications of architecture and its promises. Her photographs and texts comment on how these affect and modify human relations. She received a BFA from The Art Center in Pasadena, CA, is a 2009 Guggenheim Fellow and a current recipient of an SNCA Endowment for the Arts, granted by Mexico’s Commissions of Arts and Culture, as well as a 2013 Pictet Prix Nominee.

Her works have been exhibited worldwide including at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; the Bronx Museum of The Arts; the Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City; the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Valencia, Spain; The Museum of Modern Art, Mexico City, Mexico; The Bozar Center for Fine Arts, Brussels, Belgium; Ballroom, Marfa, Texas; Fundación Joan Miró, Palma de Mallorca, Spain; and The Museum of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Her photographs are in the collections of the Portland Museum of Art, The Mount Holyoke College Art Museum and The William Benton Museum of Art, as well as in numerous private collections. She is the author of two monographs, Enanitos Toreros, 2008; and Of People and Houses, 2009, and is preparing a third book on her acclaimed Two Million Homes for Mexico Series. Ms. Corona Benjamin lives between New York and Mexico.


8:30 am – 9:00 am LIGHT REFRESHMENTS
9:00 am – 9:05 am OPENING REMARKS

Monica Ponce de Leon, Dean, Taubman College

9:05 am – 9:20 am

Derek B. Collins, Co-Project Director/Associate Dean, College of LS&A
Milton S. F. Curry, Co-Project Director/Associate Dean, Taubman College
Matthew Biro, Co-Project Director; Chair, U-M Department of Art History


Milton S. F. Curry, Co-Project Director (Moderator)
Johana Londoño, AssT. Professor of Latin American, Caribbean, U.S. Latino Studies SUNY Albany
Ronald A. Judy, Professor of Critical and Cultural Studies, University of Pittsburgh
Wallace Turbeville, Senior Fellow, Demos


Derek B. Collins, Co-Project Director (Moderator)
Arturo Ortiz Struck, Head, Taller Territorial de México
Nanda Eskes, Partner, Atelier 77
Jose Castillo, Partner, arquitectura 911sc
Gustavo Lipkau, Architect, Mexico City

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm LUNCH (provided at UMMA Ground Floor)

Sarah Mineko Ichioka, Former Director, The Architecture Foundation (Moderator)
Toni L. Griffin, Professor and Director, CUNY J. Max Bond Center
Paloma Vera, Partner, Cano Vera Architecture
Erika Robb Larkins, Assistant Professor of International Studies, University of Oklahoma


Matthew Biro, Co-Project Director (Moderator)
Reighan A. Gillam, U-M Lecturer, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies
Anya Sirota, U-M Assistant Professor of Architecture
Fernanda Canales, Principal, Arquitectura Fernanda Canales
Livia Corona Benjamin, Photographer, Mexico City and New York

5:00 pm


Milton S. F. Curry, Co-Project Director/Associate Dean, Taubman College

5:30 pm



April 11, 2015
8:30 am - 6:00 pm