Press Releases

April 25, 2014

The Center for Architecture, in Partnership with ETC Zurich and Columbia University GSAPP, Announces the "Urban Nature: Between Human and Non-Human" Symposium, May 16, 2014

New York, NY, April 25, 2014 – On May 16, the Center for Architecture, in partnership with ETH Zürich and the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP), Columbia University, will present a full-day symposium exploring the relationship between urbanity and nature.

Organized as part of Zürich Meets New York: A Festival of Swiss Ingenuity, taking place from May 16–23, and in connection with the Center for Architecture’s exhibition The Swiss Touch in Landscape Architecture which opens May 13, the symposium will include eight speakers from universities in Switzerland and the United States.

For most inhabitants of Zürich, New York is the very emblem of the urban. New Yorkers, on the other hand, might identify Zürich with the pastoral and thus with “nature.” In reality, New York is at the forefront of the trend to turn cities green, while Zürich is witnessing the most rapid building boom of its history – and turning grey. This symposium explores the implications of these dynamics.
Today, the built environment and the urban are often perceived to be synonymous. Societies the world over are constantly attracted to the metropolis. The grand narrative of the urban has replaced that of progress which dominated the 20th century. At the same time, this new grand narrative is challenged as nature enters into the focus of our attention by way of global climate change, natural disasters, and ever more popular destinations for domesticated natural beauty, retreat, and recreation. What is meant by the “urban” and “nature;” however, remains largely up for debate.

“Can the concept of ‘urban nature’ help us focus more clearly on the interrelation between the human and the non-human?” asks Philip Urspung, Professor of the History of Art and Architecture at the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture at ETH Zürich.

Gavin Browning, Director of Events and Public Programs at Columbia GSAPP, says “GSAPP is very pleased to collaborate with ETH Zürich and the Center for Architecture on this important topic, which is relevant for students and practitioners of all aspects related to the contemporary built environment.”
A complete schedule of the symposium is attached below. To register, visit

Seats will be available for the press. Please contact Camila Schaulsohn, Communications Director, Center for Architecture,, 212-358-6114.

A program of the festival Zürich Meets New York: A Festival of Swiss Ingenuity, the symposium is presented in conjunction with the Center for Architecture’s exhibition The Swiss Touch in Landscape Architecture.

Zürich Meets New York: A Festival of Swiss Ingenuity, May 16–23, 2014, highlights the contemporary relevance of visionary movements and ideas born in Zürich and their impact on American culture. Building on the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Dada movement and Zürich’s role as a 21st-century hub for artistic and scientific innovation, the festival features 25 events at venues across the city, and is presented by the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York, the City of Zürich, ETH Zürich, and the University of Zürich (UZH).

Organized and presented by: ETH Zürich, in partnership with the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), Columbia University, and AIA New York Chapter | Center for Architecture.

Price: Free

Friday, May 16, 2014

Philip Ursprung and Mark Wigley, Opening remarks: The Concept of “Urban Nature”
D. Graham Burnett, Leviathan and the Young Republic
Laura Kurga, Respondent
Emily E. Scott, Exploding the Garden-as-Usual: Manhattan, c. 1969
Kate Orff, Respondent
David Benjamin
Christophe Girot, Respondent
Günther Vogt: Nature of the City
Jannette Kim, Respondent
Response to the morning session by Elisabeth Bronfen and general discussion
Lunch break
Laura Kurgan: Urban Datafication: Data Naturalization
D. Graham Burnett, Respondent
Christophe Girot: Next Natures and Other Topologies
David Benjamin, Respondent
Janette Kim: What Happens When You Sit Still for Too Long
Günther Vogt, Respondent
Kate Orff: Rebuilding Eco-Infrastructures
Emily E. Scott, Respondent
Coffee break
Discussion moderated by Philip Ursprung and Mark Wigley
End of conference

About the AIA New York Chapter
AIA New York is the oldest and largest chapter of the American Institute of Architects, with almost 5,000 architect, allied professional, student and public members. AIANY is dedicated to three goals: design excellence, public outreach and professional development.

About the Center for Architecture
The Center for Architecture is a destination for all interested in the built environment. It is home to the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter and the Center for Architecture Foundation, vibrant nonprofit organizations that provide resources to both the public and building industry professionals. Through exhibitions, programs, and special events, the Center aims to improve the quality and sustainability of the built environment, foster exchange between the design, construction, and real estate communities, and encourage collaborations across the city and globe.

About ETH Zürich
ETH Zürich is one of the leading international universities for technology and the natural sciences. It is renowned for its excellent education, ground breaking fundamental research and for putting its new findings directly into practice, providing solutions to the major challenges facing society. Founded in 1855, it has 18,000 students from over 100 different countries, 3,800 of whom are doctoral students. 21 Nobel Laureates have studied, taught or conducted research under its roof.

About the Graduate School of Architecture Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP), Columbia University
The fourth oldest architecture school in the United States, Columbia University GSAPP offers advanced degrees in Architecture, Urban Planning, Historic Preservation, Urban Design, Real Estate Development, and Critical, Curatorial, and Conceptual Practice in Architecture.

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