Study Abroad Seminar: Contested Territories: Geopolitics, Media and Design in Southern California

As a landscape of tenuous contradictions – cultural complexity and social isolation, exploitative settlement and fulfillment of the American Dream, ecological diversity and environmental degradation – as well as one of the most mediated cities in the world, Los Angeles is an amalgam of contested territories. This seminar will investigate (1) the conflicts over space, resources and place memory in Los Angeles, (2) how visual culture has contributed to the city’s spatial construction and image, and (3) how the design of urban space in the city (and region) has mediated some of its contestations and conflicts.

The seminar will integrate speakers – designers, theorists, geographers – who will address different aspects of the contested territories of Southern California (see below for tentative list). In addition to the guest speakers and lectures by Hirsch, students will be asked to conduct readings in preparation for discussion during each class session. Field trips in and around LA will provide first-hand exposure to some of the spatial complexities of the region(*). Finally, two film screenings – Chinatown (1974) and Crash (2004) – will additionally enrich students’ understanding of the city’s conflicted history and mediated construction.

In addition to readings, students will be required to complete a term project (image/mapping+text) on the contested geographies and place histories of the 1992 LA Riots.

Invited/pending speakers include:
· Ben Bratton (UCSD; Director of The Center for Design and Geopolitics; researches digital urbanism and media architecture)
· Teddy Cruz (UCSD; architect focused on US/Mexico border dynamics*) – GSD grad
· Mike Davis (UC Riverside; author of City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles, 1990; The Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster, 1998; etc)
· Joe Day (Sci-Arc; architect/principal, deegan-day design; researches the \’scopic economies\’ of privacy, surveillance, exhibition and display; author, Corrections and Collections: Architectures for Art and Crime, 2013)
· Aroussiak Gabrielian (USC; landscape architect; researches the relationship between visual culture and attitudes toward/treatment of the built environment, including the visualization of spatial conflict)
· Victor Jones (USC; architect; researches informal economies of Los Angeles; editor of (IN)Formal L.A.: The Space of Politics, 2013) – GSD grad
· Norman Klein (Cal Arts; author of The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory, 1997; etc)
· Alexander Robinson (USC; landscape architect; researches spatial/ecological/political conflicts over the LA River*) – GSD grad
· Marcos Sanchez (USC/Sci-Arc; architect; researches the visual, spatial and chemical aspects of Los Angeles’ urban atmosphere)
· Roger Sherman (UCLA; architect and co-author, L.A. Under the Influence: The Hidden Logic of Urban Property, 2010) – GSD grad
· Edward Soja (UCLA; author of Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places, 1996; etc)

*anticipated fieldtrips: LA River with Lehrer; Owens Lake with Robinson (pending); San Diego-Tijuana
border with Cruz (pending); Center for Land Use Interpretation and Vermont Ave transect with Hirsch