Ellen Shoshkes, Keller Easterling, Gediminas & Nomeda Urbonas, Irit Rogoff, John Palmesino, Ann-Sofi Rönnskog

Plan the Planet – Jaqueline Tyrwhitt and the Formation of International and Global Architecture - 2/2

Series: AA Think Tank conference
Date: Friday 20 March 2015
Time: 13:30
Venue: Lecture Hall
Running time: 143 mins

Organised with the support of the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts

The conference will celebrate and inquire into the career of one the AA’s first female students. It aims at re-establishing the legacy of the largely unknown Jaqueline Tyrwhitt (1905-1983), a key figure in the development of 20th century modern architecture and planning, with collaborations ranging from Sigfried Giedion, Constantinos Doxiadis to Buckminster Fuller and Marshall McLuhan, and at re-invigorating the debate on contemporary forms of planning and international cooperation.

At the centre of a vast series of major modern architectural innovations was a woman largely unacknowledged, whose work has contributed in reshaping the ways we think the world. Jaqueline Tyrwhitt was at the focus of innovative trajectories that linked modern architecture and urbanism to new technologies of vision and integrated spatial planning, international cooperations and new concepts of cohabitation around the entire planet. Tyrwhitt’s work is for the major part invisible: at the side of Sigfried Giedion for his American works, behind the scenes of the CIAM conferences, next to Constantinos Doxiadis for the Delos Symposion and the Ekistics research, she organised, structured, built up and constantly innovated a new way of thinking the ideals of the modern city.

Tyrwhitt was at the heart of the major architectural experiences of the 20th century, playing a key role in setting up, organising and forming a new culture of modern planning, international cooperation and innovative approaches to technology and government, yet Jaqueline Tyrwhitt remains a largely unacknowledged figure. From her studies at the Architectural Association, and her work on Patrick Geddes’ planning principles, to her collaboration with Sigfried Giedion on all his major English books, to the work for CIAM, UNESCO, the United Nations, and the further development of spatial strategies and planning principles; from her work at the side of Constantinos Doxiadis and Buckminster Fuller to her thoughts on integrated spatial analysis and multi-layered cartography, the work of Jaqueline Tyrwhitt was at the forefront of multiple strands of architectural innovation. Yet she was largely invisible, and her experience is rarely mentioned, if not rapidly in bibliographical notes.

The symposium brings together major thinkers and practitioners from the fields that Tyrwhitt has helped to form, investigating not only the heritage of her incredible career, but also re-invigorating some of the debates that marked her life. What does it mean to think of planning today? What are the scales and modes of intervention? How does architecture conceptualise its relation to other form-generating processes? What is it to think about architecture globally?


AA Think Tank roundtable event, moderated by John Palmesino


Keynote Ellen Shoshkes: Transnational life
An overview of the remarkable transnational life and work of Jaqueline Tyrwhitt offers a new perspective on well-known events in mid-twentieth century architecture and planning, as well as current debates on ecological urbanism and the inter-connection between global perspectives, regional planning and local activism.

Proposition Keller Easterling: Being Minor
Jaqueline Tyrwhitt keeps company with several other "minor" texts like Benton MacKaye who are obscured or relegated to footnotes in a post World War II period of institutional consensus building. Yet, from a position in the wings, they persistently inform other registers of form-making.

Proposition Irit Rogoff: Bad Judgement
The encounter with Jaqueline Tyrwhitt raises questions regarding the exercise of judgment within a Modernist paradigm. Does the Modernist ethos actually allows for the exercise of judgment, of differentiation, of withdrawal? Or does the compulsion to relentlessly move forward and ‘improve’ override it. Can Foucault’s understanding of technology as ‘a set of structured forms of action by which we also inevitably exercise power over ourselves’ – counter Modernisms investment in ‘Neotechnics’ ?

Proposition Gediminas and Nomeda Urbonas: artistic research at the techno-social moment
Informed by the cybernetic discourse of self-regulation, feedback loops and homeostasis, the advocates of art and technology such as fellows at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies saw the potential for artists to collaborate with scientists and engineers to create what they called “ecological feedback machines that sense our danger and work toward resolving the problem of man’s relations with his surroundings” (G.Kepes). This presentation will discuss experiments in art and technology as they relate to artistic research and knowledge production within histories of techno-social moment at MIT. Taking point of departure in the environmental art movement at MIT in the late 60s, and their interest in systems theory, and the role of new technologies in mitigation of the hazards of industrialization, this presentation will inquire notion of citizenship and public space in search of counter narratives.

Proposition Territorial Agency: Shifting grounds
Arraying the planet through remote sensing, through continuous enquiry into the very possibility of making observation global, the International is a space where multiplicities of actors are re-organised and their territories undone, eroded, shifted and recomposed. The Anthropocene disposes a multiplicity of territories, recomposes their agencies and makes them available, through the kaleidoscope of technological vision, for controversies and radical negotiations, where no overarching rationality is practicable. The backgrounds from where Tyrwhitt operated are now acting on us.


Ellen Shoshkes is an urban planner and designer based in Portland, Oregon, where she is on the faculty of the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University. She has written widely in academic and professional journals on housing, community development, and topics in the history of urban planning and design. She holds a Ph.D. in Urban Planning from Rutgers University and a Master of Architecture from MIT. Her book, Jaqueline Tyrwhitt: A Transnational Life in Urban Planning and Design, was published by Ashgate in 2013. She also selected and wrote the Introduction to Society and Environment: A Historical Review, a collection of four texts by Tyrwhitt forthcoming from Routledge in May 2015.

Keller Easterling is an architect, writer and professor at Yale University. Her books include Enduring Innocence: Global Architecture and its Political Masquerades (MIT, 2005) and Organization Space: Landscapes, Highways and Houses in America (MIT, 1999). Her new book, Extrastatecraft: Global Infrastructure and Political Arts (Yale University Press, 2013), examines global infrastructure networks as a medium of polity.

Irit Rogoff is a theorist, curator, and organizer who writes at the intersections of the critical, the political, and contemporary arts practices. Rogoff is a professor at Goldsmiths College, University of London, in the department of Visual Cultures, which she founded in 2002.

Urbonas Studio, founded by Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas is an interdisciplinary research program that advocates for the reclamation of public culture in the face of overwhelming privatization, stimulating cultural and political imagination as tools for social change. Often beginning with archival research, Urbonas Studio methodology unfolds complex participatory works investigating the urban environment, architectural developments, and cultural and technological heritage. Nomeda Urbonas is PhD fellow at the Norwegian University of Science & Technology. Gediminas Urbonas is professor at the MIT Program in Art, Culture & Technology, Cambridge, USA. They are artists and educators, born in Lithuania.

John Palmesino and Ann-Sofi Rönnskog are architects and urbanists and are the founders of Territorial Agency, an independent organization that promotes and works for sustainable territorial transformations, combining analysis, contemporary architecture and urbanism, advocacy and action. Their work focuses on the transformations of the relation between polities and space. They are co-authors of the ‘Anthropocene Observatory’. They are directors of AA ThinkTank, AA Taiwan Project and they convene AA Diploma Unit 4. John is researching the spatial consequences of neutrality for his PhD. Ann-Sofi is investigating remote sensing and territorial change in the North for her PhD.

The session will take the format of a large round table, where all speakers are present to discuss at any moment. The keynote by Ellen Shoshkes will highlight the main elements of Tyrwhitt’s career, followed by propositions that outline her work in connection to current discourses on contemporary architecture, urbanism and planning at a global scale. The public is seated in the room around the speakers. The symposium will be recorded and made available online. The contributions will be collected and edited for a subsequent publication.

Two Symposia
The London conference is the first of two symposia, one on each side of the Atlantic, which trace the unprecedented trajectory of Jaqueline Tyrwhitt. The two symposia aim at closing a gap in the understanding of the development of modern architecture and urbanism, bringing new light to the work of Tyrwhitt and reconnecting debates of contemporary architecture and urbanism with new and larger audiences.
The first symposium takes place in March 2015 at the Architectural Association in London, and will mark the first major public event of the new AA Think Tank. A second symposium will take place in autumn 2015 in Chicago in the ambit of the first Chicago Architecture Biennial. It will bring together major experts in the development of CIAM, Ekistics, GIS and earth observation. It will focus on contemporary aspects of global architecture, development and infrastructures.

Recommended reading
Ellen Shoshkes: Jaqueline Tyrwhitt: A Transnational
Life in Urban Planning and Design, Ashgate 2013

AA Think Tank
In 2013 the AA School and public program appointed Ann-Sofi Rönnskog and John Palmesino as the directors of a new AA Think Tank, a research centre to think about the territories of the 21st Century. The AA Think Tank connects the research, teaching and learning at the AA with its Public Programme, it links real world issues with the architecture intelligence developed within the school.

Plan the Planet Poster

Plan the Planet Symposium Schedule

Image: Jaqueline Tyrwhitt with Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India as he visited the “model village” built for a UN Regional Seminar on Housing Improvement, New Delhi, 1954. Courts of the United Nations.

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