Visiting Scholar Seminar: Sébastien Marot

Palimpsestuous Ithaca, A Relative Manifesto for Sub-Urbanism
Seminar, 11 March 2005

Visiting Scholar Sébastien Marot presents his research on Sub-urbanism and Super-urbanism:

Sub-urbanism and Super-urbanism may be considered the most significant subversions to which the concept and practices of urbanism are currently subjected, one being initiated from the realm of landscape architecture, and the other by one of the most creative vanguard of contemporary architecture. While sub-urbanism could be described as a design experiment, which holds the site as the matrix in which the program should be deciphered, super-urbanism, quite to the contrary, stands for an attempt at literally inventing the site through the manipulation and building of the program.

The contemporary hero of super-urbanism is Rem Koolhaas and Delirious New York its undisputed manifesto. For several reasons, which are interesting to reflect upon, sub-urbanism has not yet found such a hero or leader, and has certainly not produced a tale that would have the power of challenging Koolhaas’ « retroactive manifesto for Manhattan ». Our ambition, however delirious or playful it may seem, is to correct that by moving the stage set from Manhattan to Ithaca, a small city (seat of Cornell University) located at the other end of New York State, where it happens that Koolhaas actually started to work out his theoretical and poetic plot. A tale cannot be challenged, except with another tale.

Our research, drawing, like Koolhaas, on the critical paranoid method, is thus concerned with gathering the ingredients of a relative manifesto for sub-urbanism able to suggest both that sub-urbanism can only be advocated relatively (not absolutely), and that super-urbanism is but a moment of sub-urbanism. In our presentation, we try to evoke the main directions of this research and some issues of composition and montage we are struggling with.

Sébastien Marot is a critic in architecture and landscape design. Trained in philosophy, he has been program director of the Société Française des Architectes in Paris, and also chief editor of the French periodical Le Visiteur. His personal researches and writings, aiming at a theory of sub-urbanism, are particularly focused on the exploration of the temporal texture of sites and situations and the ways it may be addressed, expressed and constructed through design. He has published several essays, including Sub-Urbanism and The Art of Memory (London: AA Publications, 2003; forthcoming Spanish and French editions). Defining himself as a « professing visitor » he has taught and lectured in Europe (IAUG Geneva, ENSP Versailles, EAVT Paris, AA London), and North America (Harvard GSD, University of Pennsylvania School of Design, AAP Cornell, Université de Montréal). Sebastien is currently working on a new book entitled Palimpsestuous Ithaca, A Relative Manifesto for Sub-Urbanism.

Sébastien Marot was a Visiting Scholar at the CCA in 2005.


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