Critical Infrastructures: New American Approaches to Civic Activism and Research

2 February - 26 March 2011

Critical Infrastructures is a public lecture series and complementary exhibition at the AF Project Space, presenting three dynamic American non-profit organisations together for the first time in an international arena – Archeworks (Chicago), the Center for Land Use Interpretation (Los Angeles), and the Center for Urban Pedagogy (New York) – whose body of work critiques and engages with the economic, legal and political forces shaping contemporary cities.

From Archeworks’ socially and environmentally engaged alternative design curriculum to CUP and CLUI’s missions to make legible the complex impacts of policy, commerce and society upon the landscape, Critical Infrastructures compares the work of these pioneering organisations with the current British situation of government disinvestment, privatisation and ‘localism’. Critical Infrastructures aims to share and explore ideas on how to respond to the current situation, including the idea of the unsubsidised city and a changing and vulnerable civic arena, using the work of these three influential American organisations as precedents and points of departure for open discussion and debate.

The unique voices of Archeworks, CLUI and CUP combine satire, investigation, teaching and play – from posters graphically explaining public policy to bus tours of Los Angeles’ waste cycle – in an impressive range of strategies for understanding and affecting the complex contemporary built environment. Introducing these relatively underexposed approaches to the UK’s built environment discourse, three public conversations with the participating organisations will explore and demonstrate the influential roles that research, alternative education, and design-based advocacy can play in challenging and informing the way the built environment, civic life and the systems that shape them are perceived. The parallel exhibition – a curated archive of primary products of the organisations’ myriad initiatives – will both illustrate and extend the reach of the lecture series.

The AF Project Space becomes a reading room and platform for debate, offering a transatlantic perspective on how citizens and built environment practitioners can engage in, and with, our impacts upon the urban and suburban fabric and civic life.

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