Platform 11: Setting the Table

The Platform exhibition represents a year in the life of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. Produced annually, the exhibition highlights a selection of work from the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and design, and design engineering. It exposes a rich and varied pedagogical culture committed to shaping the future of design. Documenting projects, research, events, publications, and more, Platform offers a curated view into the emerging topics, techniques, and dispositions within and beyond the GSD. In Setting the Table, the first student-led installment of the series, curators Esther Mira Bang, Lane Raffaldini Rubin, and Enrique Aureng Silva assembled a diverse body of work and cut it up—reinterpreting, rearranging, and ultimately composing a poetry revealed in each retelling.

“This year marks a new approach to the way Platform is considered and produced,” says Dean Mohsen Mostafavi. “In the past, a faculty member collaborated with a team of students to devise an overall theme as a means of framing the work of the GSD from across its various disciplines and practices. While both the former and the current models of production are based on collaboration across various fields and among individuals with different backgrounds, on this occasion the whole concept has special resonance as it is constructed through a student rather than a faculty perspective. One distinguishing feature of this installment is its concern with what is placed on the table for consideration, both literally and metaphorically.”

The curators adopted the use of a series of “tables” as configurational devices for bringing together a diverse body of work. These themes, with headings such as “Conveyor Belt,” “First Dates,” or “Tabula Plena,” enabled the curators to draw out a multiplicity of re-readings of the work. Each topic is conceived within as a specific collection or setting. The method deployed here is rational-objective, yet the result is a poetic construct. This strategy parallels the work and even more broadly the mission of the GSD, which lies at the intersection of imagination and implementation, of creativity and know-how. The capacity to conceive and realize complex design ideas and projects that can help enhance the built environment equally requires a range of negotiations and strategies between poiesis and praxis—a set of actions that exemplify the true art of making.

“To conceive of Platform as a means of framing people and objects, and to devise different relationships between them, is to approach the idea of a platform not as a neutral plane but as an active volume bringing together a multiplicity of conversations around it—literally and metaphorically as a table,” write Platform’s curators Esther Mira Bang, Lane Raffaldini Rubin, and Enrique Aureng Silva. “The table hosts a diverse body of topics from the witty banter of a first date to the weighty gravitas of a negotiation. Its materiality and temperament range from the cold sterility of a dissection to the adrenaline-pumping anxiety of an interrogation. Some guests are offered a seat at the table, some burst onto the scene uninvited, while still others must fight for their place.”

In the curatorial vision of Esther Mira Bang, Lane Raffaldini Rubin, and Enrique Aureng Silva, the table is reimagined as a new setting, “an active volume within the GSD, entangled within the very structure of the building, recasting projects upon a single shared datum,” they write. “After reading through hundreds of syllabi, event transcripts, project descriptions, research abstracts, and theses, we cut up these materials and collaged words and phrases that have special resonance for each table—shuffling them, reconfiguring them, juxtaposing them—ending up with a poetic construct: a table of contents that draws out the true art of setting the table.”

Esther Mira Bang
Lane Raffaldini Rubin
Enrique Aureng Silva

Design Team
Dan F. Borelli
Director of Exhibitions

David W. Zimmerman-Stuart
Exhibitions Coordinator

Installation Team
Liz Asch, Raymond Coffey,
Jef Czekaj, Anita Kan, Christine
April, Sarah Lubin, Jesus Matheus,
and Joanna Vouriotis

Mohsen Mostafavi
Dean and Alexander and Victoria
Wiley Professor of Design

Ken Stewart
Assistant Dean and Director of
Communications and Public

Ann Whiteside
Director of Frances Loeb
Library, Assistant Dean for
Information Services

Adam DeTour

Martin Bechthold
Kumagai Professor of Architectural

Rachel Stefania Vroman
Manager, Digital Fabrication