(Impossible Objects, Political Objects, and Measuring Objects)


Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

12 – 6 pm


The New School

Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Auditorium (Room N101)

66 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY


#SmartCitiesQuestionMark   #CityForces   @storefrontnyc   @NieuweInstituut   @newschool


What do we talk about when we talk about smart cities? How do we measure the smartness of a city? Who measures it? For whom? What are the tools, values, and constituencies involved in  measuring the built environment and the human edifices that inhabit them?


Smart Cities? was a conference of fictional and critical thoughts that was seeking to debate and measure the measuring of cities and the various urban epistemological models that define urbanization and development in the 21st century.


Organized in three panels: Impossible Objects, Political Objects, and Measuring Objects, this event presented a series of performances and presentations that bring architects, scholars, artists, sociologists, and scientists together to discuss the means and methods by which we think—and dream—about cities and urbanism, from the planetary scale to the city of New York.


Participants presented New Terms, New Indexes, and New Tools, bringing alive fictional and real pieces of technology, methodology, machine processes, information systems, and critical reflection in order to better understand and develop new and old forms of intelligence that shape our contemporary cities.

From biologically engineered urban agents to new cartographies, from technosolutionist approaches to postcolonial studies, Smart Cities? presented a series of projects, reflections, and propositional values that reflect upon notions of safety, fun, health, activism, education, infrastructure, diversity, memory, and the environment. Ultimately, the conference served as a forum to compel us to rethink the way in which various forms of knowledge are produced and reproduced within the value systems of our cities.


Smart Cities? was free and open to the public. 







12:00 pm

Welcome and Introduction by Eva Franch and Shannon Mattern



Impossible Objects (New Terms / New Constituencies)

12:00pm to 2:00pm, Moderated by Shannon Mattern



With Jürgen Hermann Mayer, Lydia Matthews, Jorge Otero-Pailos, Vyjayanthi Rao, David Smiley, and Luke Swarthout


The city, despite its multiple formal and political structures, is a constantly changing body. What are the historical forms of knowing and sensing the city? What are its yet-to-be-identified intelligences and values? What new terminology do we need to build on those grounds? Each panelist presented a new term (a neologism, appropriation, portmanteau…) that defines and describes important means of knowing and sensing a specific city.





Political Objects (New Values / Indexes)

2:00 to 4:00 pm, Moderated by Marina Otero



With Dorit Avganim, Dawn BarberMatthijs BouwIngrid Burrington, Farzin Lotfi-Jam / Mark Wasiuta, and Jim Venturi


Rapidly changing geographies of urban settlement, growth, and struggle in early 21st-century capitalism are transforming basic understandings of the city. What intelligences enable us to navigate across the disparate political spheres that define the city? Who owns, acquires, sells, shares urban intelligence? How might we form new alliances to reorient or subvert measurement and surveillance systems so they can aid in the creation of a more equitable metropolis? Each panelist presented a new index that provides a new indicator about the value of cities.




Objects of Measurement (New Tools/New Typologies)

4:00 to 6:00 pm, Moderated by Eva Franch



With Paolo CirioAriane Lourie Harrison, Agnieszka Kurant, and Jeff Maki


To measure, to quantify the physical and intangible dimensions of a place, is to articulate facts in order to construct values. What can be measured can be capitalized, historicized, distributed, or sold. By creating new standards and guidelines for measurement we have the potential to affect new epistemologies and ideologies, to make new claims about “what counts.” How might we design new measuring tools that change how and what we measure—how we assign value—in our cities.” ? Each panelist presented a new tool that expands our understanding of the city.





The conference was organized by Storefront for Art and Architecture in collaboration with The New School and the Urban Epistemologies seminar by Shannon Mattern, Kate Fisher, and Jack Wilkinson.


Smart Cities? was presented as part of City Forces, a year-long joint cultural crossover program between Storefront for Art and Architecture and Het Nieuwe Instituut, supported by the Dutch Culture USA program of the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York. This event was presented as part of Control Syntax Rio, an exhibition on view at Storefront for Art and Architecture through May 20th, 2017. Special exhibition support for Control Syntax Rio is generously provided by Samsung and FoyerLive.



Storefront’s programming is made possible through general support from Arup; DS+R; F.J. Sciame Construction Co., Inc.; Gaggenau; Knippers Helbig; KPF; MADWORKSHOP; ODA; Rockwell Group; Roger Ferris + Partners; Tishman Speyer; the Foundation for Contemporary Arts; The Greenwich Collection Ltd.; the Lily Auchincloss Foundation; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; The Peter T. Joseph Foundation; and by Storefront’s Board of Directors, members, and individual donors.






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