Conflict Urbanism Aleppo
The first in a series of Mellon Foundation supported seminars on Conflict Urbanism.
   
About

This is the first in a series of multidisciplinary Mellon seminars on the topic of Conflict Urbanism, as part of a multi-university initiative in Architecture, Urbanism and the Humanities. This year, we will focus on Aleppo in Syria. Conflict Urbanism is a term that designates that cities are not only destroyed but also built through conflict.

This spring, the seminar focus will be on the city of Aleppo and the places now inhabited by refugees from the city. We will begin with an art historical, and historical survey of one of the most continuously inhabited cities in the world dating back to 10 000 BC. We will examine the urban artifacts of colonialization, the diverse religious and cultural monuments, and the trade routes that have formed the city as it existed until 2011. Then we will look beyond the recent dramatic eruption of state violence and civil war to its antecedents and contexts in rural-urban migration, largely driven by other factors, including poverty and drought. We will examine the time-based destruction of Aleppo at macro and micro levels, analyzing conflict patterns in its social and urban structure. We will then expand what we call "Aleppo" to include the tens of thousands of former residents now sheltered in other cities and in refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan. In order to re-imagine the city in it’s post-conflict state our work will be informed by an analysis of the problems encountered in the rebuilding of cities as diverse as Beirut, Kabul, and Sarajevo, which are in various states of rebuilding post-conflict and offer a range of results that need interrogation.

Methods

Our work will be by necessity multidisciplinary and include the history, architecture, politics, media, culture, literature and contemporary manifestations of particular cities as they relate to the topic of Conflict Urbanism. Our work will also be multi-media. To study cities today, we have an abundance of data and databases accessible to focus our research. Students will have access to a platform developed by the Center for Spatial Research for their work. It provides students a user friendly framework for navigating, analyzing, and interpreting a series of maps and imagery, characterizing changes resulting from social conflict or natural disasters during the conflict years in Aleppo. The platform can be used in one of two ways: to facilitate navigating and understanding the conflict from a distance, in order to and write about a topic; or, to add to the platform, in a multi-media format on a specific topic or issue, with regard to a specific neighborhood, monument, institution or network.

Final Projects

The final projects which emerged from the course were diverse in focus and approach. Students worked in groups (often composed of members from multiple schools or departments) and drew on diverse archives about the city including: data about the conflict, reporting on social media, official and ‘unofficial’ planning documents in the lead up to the war, records of cultural and religious artifacts in order to produce rich multimedia projects. 

The results of the student work have been collected and published online here

Course Files
 
Project
Close Up at a Distance, Mapping Technology Politics
person role
Author(s): 
Laura Kurgan
Publication date: 
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Publication name, page number: 
Zone Books, 2013
Description (optional): 
The past two decades have seen revolutionary shifts in our ability to navigate, inhabit, and define the spatial realm. The data flows that condition much of our lives now regularly include Global Positioning System (GPS) readings and satellite images of a quality once reserved for a few militaries and intelligence agencies, and powerful geographic information system (GIS) software is now commonplace. These new technologies have raised fundamental questions about the intersection between physical space and its representation, virtual space and its realization. In Close Up at a Distance, Laura Kurgan offers a theoretical account of these new digital technologies of location and a series of practical experiments in making maps and images with spatial data. Neither simply useful tools nor objects of wonder or anxiety, the technologies of GPS, GIS, and satellite imagery become, in this book, the subject and the medium of a critical exploration. Close Up at a Distance records situations of intense conflict and struggle, on the one hand, and fundamental transformations in our ways of seeing and of experiencing space, on the other. Kurgan maps and theorizes mass graves, incarceration patterns, disappearing forests, and currency flows in a series of cases that range from Kuwait (1991) to Kosovo (1999), New York (2001) to Indonesia (2010). Using digital spatial hardware and software designed for military and governmental use in reconnaissance, secrecy, monitoring, ballistics, the census, and national security, Kurgan engages and confronts the politics and complexities of these technologies and their uses. At the intersection of art, architecture, activism, and geography, she uncovers, in her essays and projects, the opacities inherent in the recording of information and data and reimagines the spaces they have opened up.
Intro text (homepage): 
Close Up at a Distance records situations of intense conflict and struggle, on the one hand, and fundamental transformations in our ways of seeing and of experiencing space, on the other.
Lead image: 
Author C4SR: 
Author Last Names for table: 
Kurgan
Publication short title (carousel): 
Close Up at a Distance, Mapping Technology Politics
Is Website?: 
no
dashboard_sort_date: 
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
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CitiBike Rebalancing Study
An investigation into ways to rebalance CitiBike stations throughout New York City.
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As has been recently documented by the press, one of the major challenges that Citi Bike is facing is the rebalancing of their stations. As origins and destinations of Citi Bike trips are not necessarily symmetrical during the day, Citi Bike has been forced to constantly move bikes around the city, taking them from full stations and delivering them to empty ones. This problem is both financially expensive and frustrating for Citi Bike users: many people complain about either not finding bikes at their stations of origin or not finding empty spots when they arrive at their final destinations.

To study this problem we have created a series of visualizations which should serve as a starting point for further analysis.

First, we visualized the average activity for weekdays in October 2013.

Citi Bike Hourly Activity

As the above image shows, the activity hotspots remain pretty constant throughout the day, specially between 10am and midnight, with most of the activity centered around Union Square. In addition, we also see how both Grand Central and Penn Station become strong hotspots during peak hours. Of interest, though, is the sudden shift that occurs around 5am, with the activity hotspots switching from the East Village/Lower East Side area, to Grand Central and Penn Station. This is probably due to the fact that during most of the night, compared to other areas, the stations in the East Village/Lower East Side continue to have high activity, but during most of the day, and specially during peak hours, they are not as active as the stations around Union Square or Grand Central and Penn Station.

Citi Bike Hourly Balance

Next, we visualized overall patterns of origins and destinations. As the above image shows, the big hotspots of imbalance are mostly located around the East Village, Lower East Side, Midtown East and West and Union Square. However, the variation of these hotspots throughout the day is pretty extensive and it's very difficult to detect smooth transitions apart from peak hours. Of note are a couple of big "jumps" between origins and destinations, one of them around 1-2pm on the East Village/Lower East Side and another one around 5am also in the same area.

 

We also created a series of imbalance matrices (by hour of day) for every single station on the system. Again, using the same data as the animations above, this first matrix (Citi Bike Hourly Balance) clearly shows how the big imbalances happen (as expected) mainly between 6am and 10am (morning peak hour) and between 4pm and 8pm (evening peak hour). However, there are some stations whose imbalance starts and ends earlier, like 8th Ave. & 31st Street, W 33rd Street & 7th Ave. and W 41st Street & 8th Ave. (more origins than destinations starting around 2pm). In addition, this matrix also shows that not all of the stations suffer from big imbalances during peak hours. Indeed, stations like E 31st Street & 3rd Ave or E 32nd Street & Park Ave. barely have any imbalances during peak hours. You can download a high-res version of this matrix here.

Imbalance matrix normalized by hourly activity

Furthermore, as not all of the stations have the same level of activity, we produced two more matrices, both showing station imbalance, but this time comparing it to the overall hourly activity for each station. The first one (Imabalance matrix normalized by hourly activity) shows the imbalance as a percentage of the activity for that hour. Hence, the great imbalances appearing late at night, when there are fewer trips and there's a higher chance of having all of them as origins or destinations. However, it is still interesting to see that there are higher imbalances during the morning peak hour than during the evening one, as a percentage of the overall activity.

Activity and imbalance matrix

The second matrix (Activity and imbalance matrix) shows the imbalance as colors and the overall activity as brightness, so we can see how in the hours between the peak times there's still a lot of activity but it is mostly well balanced. In addition, we can see how late at night (imbalanced as it may be) there's still very little activity. Finally, we can also see some outlier stations with a lot of activity and still pretty imbalanced: for example, in the morning 8th avenue and 31st street, 17th street and Broadway, Lafayette and 8th street, and Pershing Square (north); and in the evening 8th avenue and 31st street, 41st street and 8th avenue and again Pershing Square (north). You can download both of these matrices at high res here and here.

Imbalance Hotspots - A.M. Peak Hour

Finally, we have created hotspot maps for both the AM and the PM peak hours. As you can see from the maps below, Citi Bike activity closely matches what we would expect to see in New York: the AM peak hour map shows people leaving residential neighborhoods (Lower East Side, East Village, Chelsea and Hells Kitchen) and arriving at Midtown East and the Financial District, and the PM peak hour map shows the reverse. To note, however, is the fact that these two maps are not completely symmetrical, meaning that there are certain trips that happen in the morning which do not have their counterpart in the evening, and vice versa. Also, there are some stations that while being inside imbalance hotspots do not show that large of an imbalance. These stations have been outlined on the maps and should be further studied. You can view high-res versions of these maps here: AM and PM.

Imbalance Hotspots - P.M. Peak Hour

 

 
Project
Justice Re-Investment New Orleans
person role
Author(s): 
Spatial Information Design Lab
Publication date: 
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Publication name, page number: 
Spatial Information Design Lab
Description (optional): 
This is the final report based on work done for a grant titled "Rebuilding Community, Prisoner Reentry and Neighborhood Planning in Post-Katrina New Orleans." The report contains three parts: 1. An Introduction to the concepts of Million Dollar Block maps and Justice Reinvestment. 2. Mapping Incarceration in Post-Katrina New Orleans. 3. A description of the neighborhood planing process and the four pilot projects were were implemented as a result of that process.
Publication PDF: 
Intro text (homepage): 
This is the final report based on work done for a grant titled "Rebuilding Community, Prisoner Reentry and Neighborhood Planning in Post-Katrina New Orleans." The report contains three parts: 1. An Introduction to the concepts of Million Dollar Block maps and Justice Reinvestment. 2. Mapping Incarceration in Post-Katrina New Orleans. 3. A description of the neighborhood planing process and the four pilot projects were were implemented as a result of that process.
Lead image: 
Author Last Names for table: 
Kurgan, Caputo, Brazier, Katz
Publication short title (carousel): 
Justice Re-Investment New Orleans
Is Website?: 
no
Methods: 
dashboard_sort_date: 
Sunday, February 1, 2009
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Project
The Pattern
person role
Author(s): 
Spatial Information Design Lab
Publication date: 
Friday, February 1, 2008
Publication name, page number: 
Spatial Information Design Lab
Description (optional): 
This publication documents the pattern of incarceration in four cities in the United States: Phoenix, Wichita, New Orleans and New York. Building on work already done jointly by the Council of State Governments, the JFA Institute, and the Justice Mapping Center, the lab’s mapping project seeks to help advocates and government officials focus attention on the conditions and needs of urban spaces which show high rates of incarceration. Rather than focus only on the punishment and rehabilitation of individuals, the research identifies particular places and emerging strategies for investing public resources in order to address the urban conditions from which prisoners come and to which most of them return.
Publication PDF: 
Intro text (homepage): 
This publication documents the pattern of incarceration in four cities in the United States: Phoenix, Wichita, New Orleans and New York. Building on work already done jointly by the Council of State Governments, the JFA Institute, and the Justice Mapping Center, the lab’s mapping project seeks to help advocates and government officials focus attention on the conditions and needs of urban spaces which show high rates of incarceration.
Lead image: 
Author Last Names for table: 
Kurgan, Cadora, Reinfurt, Williams
Publication short title (carousel): 
The Pattern
Is Website?: 
no
Methods: 
dashboard_sort_date: 
Friday, February 1, 2008
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Project
City Council of New Orleans Criminal Justice Committee Meeting
person role
Author(s): 
Spatial Information Design Lab
Publication date: 
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Publication name, page number: 
Spatial Information Design Lab
Description (optional): 
Presentation to City Council in New Orleans, June 12th, 2007. A more detailed report will follow in October 2007.
Publication PDF: 
Intro text (homepage): 
Presentation to City Council of New Orleans Criminal Justice Committee Meeting on June 12th, 2007.
Lead image: 
Author Last Names for table: 
Kurgan, Caputo, Brazier
Publication short title (carousel): 
Presentation to the City Council of New Orleans
Is Website?: 
no
Methods: 
dashboard_sort_date: 
Thursday, July 12, 2007
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Project
Scenario Planning Workshop
person role
Author(s): 
Spatial Information Design Lab
Publication date: 
Friday, September 29, 2006
Publication name, page number: 
Spatial Information Design Lab
Description (optional): 
This publication documents the results of a Scenario Planning Workshop, hosted by SIDL and facilitated by the Global Business Network on September 29th, 2006. The workshop took place at the Architectural League of New York as part of the exhibit, Architecture and Justice which was on view from September through October, 2006.
Publication PDF: 
Intro text (homepage): 
This publication documents the results of a Scenario Planning Workshop, hosted by SIDL and facilitated by the Global Business Network on September 29th, 2006. The workshop took place at the Architectural League of New York as part of the exhibit, Architecture and Justice which was on view from September through October, 2006.
Lead image: 
Author Last Names for table: 
Kurgan, Cadora, Reinfurt, Williams
Publication short title (carousel): 
Scenario Planning Workshop
Is Website?: 
no
dashboard_sort_date: 
Friday, September 29, 2006
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Project
Architecture & Justice
person role
Author(s): 
Spatial Information Design Lab
Publication date: 
Friday, September 15, 2006
Publication name, page number: 
The Architectural League
Description (optional): 
A guide to accompany the exhibition Architecture and Justice, at the Architectural League opening on September 14, 2006. Using rarely accessible data from the criminal justice system, the Spatial Information Design Lab and the Justice Mapping Center have created maps of these “million dollar blocks” and of the city-prison-city-prison migration flow for five of the nation’s cities. The maps suggest that the criminal justice system has become the predominant government institution in these communities and that public investment in this system has resulted in significant costs to other elements of our civic infrastructure — education, housing, health, and family. Prisons and jails form the distant exostructure of many American cities today.
Publication PDF: 
Intro text (homepage): 
Using rarely accessible data from the criminal justice system, the Spatial Information Design Lab and the Justice Mapping Center have created maps of these “million dollar blocks” and of the city-prison-city-prison migration flow for five of the nation’s cities. The maps suggest that the criminal justice system has become the predominant government institution in these communities and that public investment in this system has resulted in significant costs to other elements of our civic infrastructure — education, housing, health, and family. Prisons and jails form the distant exostructure of many American cities today.
Lead image: 
Author Last Names for table: 
Kurgan, Cadora, Reinfurt, Williams
Publication short title (carousel): 
Architecture & Justice
Is Website?: 
no
dashboard_sort_date: 
Friday, September 15, 2006
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Project
Beyond the Bricks
person role
Author(s): 
Spatial Information Design Lab
Publication date: 
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Publication name, page number: 
Spatial Information Design Lab
Description (optional): 
A study of topography, prison admissions and expenditures in New Orleans including a focus on one specific housing project in the Ninth Ward, The Florida Homes.
Intro text (homepage): 
A study of topography, prison admissions and expenditures in New Orleans including a focus on one specific housing project in the Ninth Ward, The Florida Homes.
Lead image: 
Author Last Names for table: 
Kurgan, Cadora, Reinfurt, Williams, Spielman
Publication short title (carousel): 
Justice Re-Investment New Orleans
Is Website?: 
no
Methods: 
dashboard_sort_date: 
Thursday, September 29, 2005
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Urban Design Event Series - Activity Mapping

As part of the Urban Design Event Series (5 Borough Studio, Summer 2014), Juan Francisco Saldarriaga presented the lecture Activity Mapping, at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University.

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