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This seminar undertakes a wide-ranging consideration of the city—its history, functions, problems, and glories. Sessions are devoted to urban cultural and social history, and to the meaning of physical form and landscape of both American and world-wide cities. The heterogeneous nature of the seminar’s membership is reflected in the variety of subjects that the meetings address.

Mary Rocco

Elizabeth Milagros Alvarez

Meeting Schedule

11/01/2023 Zoom
7:00 PM
Collective Stewardship: Flexibility and Evolution for a Successful Public Private Partnership Joint meeting with (511)
Meredith S. Horsford, Historic House Trust of NYC; NYC Parks


After 20 years in the cultural heritage field working in a variety of organizations including a hands-on preservation nonprofit, a community-focused house museum, and even a mayoral residence, she brings a unique viewpoint to her joint roles as Director of Historic Houses at NYC Parks and Executive Director of the Historic House Trust of NYC. Join Meredith in discussing how to stay relevant in an ever-changing cityscape while remaining dedicated to the preservation of New York City’s built environment.

01/31/2024 Faculty House, Columbia University / Zoom
7:00 PM
Mapping Historical New York
Gergo Baics, Barnard College

Rebecca Kobrin, Columbia University

Dan Miller, GSAPP

03/20/2024 Faculty House, Columbia University / Zoom
7:00 PM
In the Life of a Building Our Moment is Brief”: J. Max Bond, Jr.’s Long View
Brian Golstein, Swarthmore College


J. Max Bond, Jr. pursued his profession as a tool in the long struggle for racial justice and civil rights. With his work, he rebuked an elitist field whose complicity in the unequal reshaping of U.S. cities had proven inarguable by the 1960s, most evident in the monumental modern projects that had displaced myriad majority-Black communities. Bond, one of few Black architects and one of the most influential, shaped a career—and a life—that instead centered the needs and desires of such communities: for freedom, self-determination, and the chance to make a world in their own image. He did so by decentering the architect and the heroic mythology the profession had cast. Focused on projects Bond and his collaborators designed in Harlem, Mississippi, and Atlanta between the 1960s and 1980s, this talk will explore Bond’s understanding of the architect as only one player in the long life of a building. Experiments with grassroots participation in planning; flexible designs shaped by residents; and the histories and expertise embodied in construction labor all addressed Bond’s desire to create more just places. “In the life of a building our moment is brief,” Bond once wrote. His long view offers a vision equally relevant to the present day, as well as a measure of work still unfinished.

04/17/2024 Cancelled
7:00 PM

Willow Lung Amam, University of Maryland