• New Geographies 10: Fallow
    Michael Chieffalo and Julia Smachylo
    Harvard Graduate School of Design and Actar Publishers, 2019
    Harvard University–Graduate School of Design

David Brooks, An evolving boundary between humans and nature. Courtesy of Unsplash.

The New Geographies journal aims to examine the emergence of the geographic—a new, but for the most part latent paradigm in design today—in order to articulate it and bring it to bear effectively on the social role of design. Through critical essays and design projects, New Geographies seeks to position design’s agency amidst concerns for scale, infrastructure, ecology, and globalization, with the “geographic” condition, reflecting a desire for a synthetic scalar practice. One that links attributes understood to be either separate from each other or external to the design disciplines, opening a range of technical, formal, and social repertoires for architecture. New Geographies 10 (NG10) borrows from agriculture the term fallow as a metaphor to critically examine the role of strategic dormancy in cycles of valorization and devalorization of the built and unbuilt environment. While fallow in agriculture is understood as a process of restoring latent ecological value through idleness, when applied in urban discourse, this lack of productivity is often described negatively as abandoned or marginal, produced through industrial exploitation. Rather than a strict binary of fecund or barren, however, NG10 conceives of fallowness as a rich and complex terrain to provoke a critical examination of both the sites, strategies, scales, and imaginaries of the unused, the devalued, and the dormant, and explore modes of revalorization in all its forms: economic, social, ecological.

Michael Chieffalo is a doctoral student and practicing architect. His current research engages with processes of agrarian urbanization; socio-environmental dimensions of factory farming; the diverse built environments of industrial agriculture; and the relation between geographies of industrial agriculture and processes of planetary urbanization. Using comparative analysis, he critically examines how organizational rationales for cities and zones of agricultural production evolve over time and in different political-economic contexts. He holds BArch from Roger Williams University, a MSAAD from Columbia University, and an urbanism, landscape, ecology focused MDes (with distinction) from Harvard.

Julia Smachylo is a doctoral student, urban designer, and a registered urban planner in Canada and the United Kingdom. Julia’s doctoral work responds to an increased awareness and shift towards valuing natural capital in research and policy, as well as the growing influence of nonstate actors such as environmental organizations, landowners, and the private sector in shaping regional landscapes in response to climate change. At Harvard she is a member of the Urban Theory Lab, and is pursuing a secondary field degree in critical media practice, which integrates media production into her academic work. She holds a master’s of urban planning from University College London and a master’s of urban design from the University of Toronto. Before coming to Harvard, Smachylo worked in planning and urban design offices in London and Toronto, and is a registered urban planner in the UK and Ontario. She is a former lecturer at Ryerson University and the University of Waterloo.

Neil Brenner is professor of urban theory at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). His writing and teaching focus on the theoretical, conceptual, and methodological dimensions of urban questions. His work builds upon, and seeks to extend, the fields of critical and regional studies, comparative geopolitical economy and radical sociospatial theory. Major research foci include processes of urban and regional restructuring and uneven spatial development; the generalization of capitalist urbanization; and processes of state spatial restructuring with particular reference to the remaking of urban, metropolitan and regional governance configurations under contemporary neoliberalizing capitalism. Prior to his appointment to the GSD, Brenner was professor of sociology and metropolitan studies at New York University (NYU), where he also served as director of NYU’s Metropolitan Studies Program. Brenner has cosupervised PhD research in sociology, geography, history, political science, American studies, law and society, urban planning, and architecture, among other fields.

The mission of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design is to advance the professions concerned with the planning and design of buildings and landscapes, together with their urban, suburban, and rural settings; and to matriculate students poised to challenge the conventions of design and transform the built environment in an increasingly complex and competitive global landscape. New Geographies is a student-edited journal founded in the Fall of 2008.