CHUM Lecture: Prof. Elijah Huge, “Saving the City” — 10/1, 6 p.m.


Monday, October 1    6 p.m.     Russell House

Elijah Huge

Assistant Professor of Art, Wesleyan

Industrialization introduced new threats to the city (electricity, speed, explosives, etc.) while also dramatically increasing the scale of historical perils (earthquake, deluge, conflagration, etc.). In turn, these threats gave rise to a field of new products, accessory to conventional building. Negotiating the thresholds between the developing infrastructures of the city and its private spaces, these emergency devices may be understood collectively as a crumple zone intended not to prevent urban disaster but to absorb, limit, and contain its effects. Together, these devices (automatic sprinkler, panic bar, emergency light, etc.) trace a narrative of escalation between an expanding urbanism on the one hand and increased risks for catastrophe on the other, rendering all spaces as sites of imminent disaster. Their current ubiquity facilitated by invention, insurance, and legislation, the integration of these devices into the spatial and psychological landscape of the city is the story of the Encyclopedia.

Drawing on a selection of architectural emergency devices, this talk will examine the ways in which disaster events have reshaped the conditions for architectural production, while exploring the mercurial relationships between prediction, projection, imagination, invention, and testing that characterize the invariably speculative activity of designing for the catastrophic moment.