Student-Run Series

Sat Nov 8th, 1:00pm @ Greene Gallery


On Saturday, November 8th, 2014, the Rensselaer Positions Series fifth discussion, “Latent Territories,” took place in the Greene Gallery. Guest speakers Felipe Correa, Mario Gooden, and Madeeha Merchant joined architecture students for a conversation on the emerging territories in the Middle East, South Africa (Johannesburg), and the Ecuador (Quito). “Latent Territories” poses the following questions:

The year 2008 marked the first time in which the majority of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050, it is estimated that over 70% of the world’s population will reside in urban settings. 

Given that the bulk of estimated urban growth, and by extension, significant construction, will continue to occur in developing areas of the globe, how might architects further tap into these emerging territories and contribute to their construct? What are the imperatives at stake? What would constitute a healthy development of said areas?

The discussion began with an introduction by Miguel Lantigua-Inoa (B.Arch.) Felipe Correa began the presentation portion of the afternoon with “A Line in the Andes,” in which he considered the potential of large scale infrastructural projects, specifically the Quito Metro as the framework for more integral urban projects within the city. Correa elaborated upon the imperatives of local municipal collaboration for the execution of such large scale projects. Mario Gooden’s presentation titled “Emergent Utopias: The World Class African City,” examined Johannesburg’s emergent urban potentials in light of the government’s recent re-branding of the city as a “World Class African City,” as well as the effects of apartheid, which Gooden argues can still be felt today. Madeeha Merchant concluded the presentations with an investigation of the emergent urbanisms of contested territories in the Middle East, focusing on post-conflicted cities of the region (Baghdad and Beirut) and the informal refugee settlement in Zaatari.

About the Participants

Mario Gooden is a principal and co-founder of Huff + Gooden Architects and a Professor of Practice at the Graduate School of Architecture Preservation and Planning (GSAPP) of Columbia University, where he teaches advance studio and theory. His work, writings, and lectures frequently examine architecture and the translation of cultural landscapes defined by the parameters of race, class, gender, and technology. His urban and cultural theory research was published at the Dubai Initiative’s Urbanism in the Middle East: A Search for New Paradigms (2011) and Layered Urbanisms (Yale University, 2008). Gooden is also the co-director of Columbia’s Global Africa Lab, which explores the spatial topologies of the African continent and its diaspora. Gooden held previous academic appointments at the Yale School of Architecture as the Louis I. Khan Distinguished Visiting Professor, the Southern California Institute of Architecture (Sci-Arc), University of Arizona, University of Florida, and Clemson University.

Felipe Correa is Associate Professor in Graduate School of Design at Harvard University where he is Director of the Urban Design Degree Program as well as Director of the Masters in Landscape Architecture. A New York-based architect and urbanist, Correa works at the confluence of Architecture, Urbanism and Infrastructure. Through his design practice, Somatic Collaborative, he has developed design projects and consultancies with the public and private sector in multiple cities and regions across the globe, including Mexico City, New Orleans, Quito, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Seoul among many others. Correa is the co-founder and director of the South America Project (SAP), a trans-continental applied research network that proactively endorses the role of design within rapidly transforming geographies of the South American Continent.

Madeeha Merchant is a creative strategist and spatial consultant whose research investigates new frameworks of information architecture that embed design intelligence and computational tools from across a range of disciplines, mainly Architecture, Urbanism, Engineering, Data Science and Human Rights. Currently, she is a Research Associate at the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University and a Teaching Associate at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University. She received a Masters in Architecture from GSAPP, Columbia University, a Bachelors in Computer Systems Engineering with specialization in Mathematics and Engineering Management from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst and has worked at Intel Labs. Her work has been published in Volume, Domus, Wired, GSAPP- Abstract and the IEEE Journal.


The Positions Series is a collection of student-led discussion events taking place at the Rensselaer School of Architecture. It is sponsored jointly by the RPI chapters of the student organizations AIAS and NOMAS. Students Miguel Lantigua-Inoa (B.Arch), Allison Clark (M.Arch I), Elias Jackson Darham (M.Arch I), Carlos Felix (B.Arch), Emily Klein (B.Arch), Mallory Buckner (B.Arch), and Dillon Webster (B.Arch) have been instrumental in the formation of the Positions Series. With a conversational basis, this forum for discussion aims to examine imperative matters regarding the field of architecture, its pedagogy, and practice. Each gathering opens with a set of carefully-articulated initial questions, and is followed by discussion and debate. The series seeks to create an intellectual friction by encouraging all participants and observers to define their positions on issues of pertinence to the field of architecture.

All Positions Series events are free and open to the public.

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Evan Douglis, Professor


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