Platform 2 Exhibition

November 2, 2009–December 20, 2009 
Felipe Correa, curator 

A Year of Research Through Studio Work, Theses, Exhibitions, and  Conferences at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design

The Graduate School of Design is the site of many research-based conjectures and experiments. In core and options studios, seminars, independent study, and thesis work, students and faculty expand the literal, figurative, and virtual boundaries of design. Despite our diverse disciplinary affiliations, the work of the school also strives to be collaborative and insistently cross-disciplinary, for only in this way can we make significant and innovative contributions to creating a better world. 

Our intention is to explore the productive space between disciplinary advancement and cultural and social aspirations. We believe in the role of design as a form of constructed imagination that incorporates an ethical and political dimension. This engaged character of work provides a voice—a participatory and perceptual presence—to our design efforts. In this process, the advances in research and scholarship of the disciplines are informed by a much wider and more complex set of influences. 

This exhibition seeks to feature examples of the work undertaken at the GSD that confront these issues. In addition, it attempts to present the milieu, the intellectual conditions and contexts, for the production of that work. Each year we invite a faculty member to take on the role of selecting and editing the themes and projects that, for him or her, form the focus and organizational logic of our work, and hence of the Platform exhibition and publication. This task is made more challenging by the remarkable quality of the projects of our students and faculty, as well as the scale and breadth of events sponsored by the school. One of the main aims of the exhibition is to be selective yet broadly inclusive, and to reimagine the school by demonstrating both its diversity and the grounded specificity of ideas. This year, Felipe Correa, an assistant professor in the department of urban planning and design, together with the assistance of a talented group of students, has compiled a thought-provoking collection of projects and writings that highlight many of our current preoccupations. It is the amalgam and the consistency of these endeavors across multiple disciplines that makes the GSD so distinct.

Mohsen Mostafavi
Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design


PLATFORM 09 amalgamates in a single exhibition some of the most salient research and design initiatives undertaken at the Harvard Graduate School of Design throughout the 2008–2009 academic year. The show presents a synthesized cross-section of material distilled from an expansive array of academic initiatives. In doing so, it unfurls the complex diversity of design hypotheses, pedagogical focuses, research agendas, and disciplinary backgrounds that operate under a single roof. 

This curatorial effort presents a symptomatic reading that post-rationalizes the massive body of work that the school produces from September to May. It temporarily suspends the school’s three departmental affiliations—architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning and design—to highlight inconspicuous congruencies between studio work, theses, research, lectures, conferences, and writings. This allows for an alternative taxonomy that provides a cross-disciplinary reading of the critical ideas and interests currently being explored in the school’s academic programs. 

The exhibition is structured by two underlying systems. The first one, organized by gray-scale tones and placed along the gallery walls, brings together seven discrete topics:  Geography: Contested Grounds; Authorship: Open Source Models; Practice: Modes of Practical Knowledge;  Transformation: Adaptive / Responsive Systems; Technology: Automation and Mass Customization; Invention: ConditionalUtopias; and Form: Processes of Formation.

Each topic is thickened by a body of work that explores contrasting tendencies within each particular rubric. The second system, conceived as a series of volumes that occupy the centerpiece of the gallery, presents the work done in core studios of each of the three departments. This material in some cases presents “trans-departmental couplings,” to highlight moments of overlap among the foundational courses of each discipline within the school. 

Far from being a comprehensive overview of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Platform presents a “freeze frame” of a constantly shifting and expanding body of work. Its ultimate objective is to go beyond simply chronicling the events of one academic year, and register affinities and differences in a format that acts as a rich pedagogical platform that can address a wider audience within the design fields at large.  

Felipe Correa
Assistant Professor of Urban Design


Related Media
Platform 09 Book

Gund Hall Gallery