Power Moves: Damon Rich Gives First Annual Clarence L. Stein Lecture

Man lecturing at podium against a black background
Damon Rich delivers his public talk, titled "Power Moves: Shaping Freedom," for the first annual Clarence S. Stein Institute lecture. William Staffeld / AAP
Man in classroom seated with students
Damon Rich, front, attends an urban design review in the Department of City and Regional Planning following his public lecture. William Staffeld / AAP
Damon Rich delivers his public talk, titled "Power Moves: Shaping Freedom," for the first annual Clarence S. Stein Institute lecture. William Staffeld / AAP Damon Rich, front, attends an urban design review in the Department of City and Regional Planning following his public lecture. William Staffeld / AAP
News
April 6, 2018

The Department of City and Regional Planning (CRP) hosted their inaugural Clarence S. Stein lecture this March. Titled "Power Moves: Shaping Freedom," the lecture was given by internationally recognized designer, urban planner, and 2017 MacArthur Fellow, Damon Rich.

The Clarence S. Stein Institute for Urban and Landscape Studies has been closely aligned with CRP's goals and values since the 1990s when the institute was created with a generous endowment that continues to support research, teaching, and community service inspired by Stein's work. Over the past two years, the department has reviewed the institute's organizational structure in order to enhance its contributions to scholars worldwide, as well as to CRP. Along these lines, the institute added the Clarence S. Stein lecture to its programs.

According to department chair Jeffrey Chusid, the Clarence S. Stein lecture is an important addition to the department's speaker series because it provides the added resources necessary to bring extraordinary planning practitioners to AAP. In addition to the speaking engagement, Stein lecturers will also be invited to participate in classes and hold informal meetings with students, faculty, and other members of the CRP community during their visit.

"We invited Damon Rich to give the inaugural lecture because so much of his focus as a planner and educator has been on issues of longstanding concern to our department — social justice, equity, and community engagement," Chusid noted. "His work as a designer also provided a spotlight on our new concentration, Designing the City, which aims to enhance our student's skills in physical planning."

In his talk, Rich situated urban planning in what he calls democratically powered environments and presented his work in the context of Stein's. He highlighted the following passage from Stein's iconic 1951 book, Toward New Towns for America: "Up to that time in America, our attack on housing had been regulatory — legal don'ts. I went . . . in search of more constructive action."

Rich cited the passage as "… a challenge for us today, to assess where we are in this broader sweep of time in terms of the way that we work, our tools, and how we imagine broader forms of power that we might want to develop to make things real — to make power moves." With original graphs and aerial views of expansive yet intricately planned mid-century developments such as Sunnyside Gardens in Queens, Rich extrapolated on Stein's radical work and rigorous commitment to the development of progressive models for planned communities.

As Rich discussed his own career and projects, he shared his perspective on planning today. He touched on projects that visualize abstract urban systems and his founding of and service to the dynamic and widely respected Center for Urban Pedagogy in New York City. Rich went into greater detail about his time working in the Newark Planning Office where he encountered many different contexts to which he needed, like Stein, to respond in order to learn from public life, initiate change, and empower a broad base of stakeholders — all things he continues to do as he looks to the future of his planning and design practice.

After the lecture, Rich and Jae Shin, his cofounding partner at their design studio, Hector, also offered critiques to several groups including students in an urban design class working on the Ithaca waterfront, two Design Connect teams, and the team of students who are finalists in the ULI Hines competition.

In addition to his work at Hector, Rich has held positions in municipal government as well as teaching appointments at several schools including Harvard University, Barnard College, The Cooper Union, and Syracuse University. In 1997, Rich founded the Center for Urban Pedagogy, an award-winning nonprofit organization that advances design's role as a civic art. His and Shin's recent projects include a neighborhood park in Philadelphia, the Red Lines Housing Crisis Learning Center at the Queens Museum, and a memorial for ecofeminist Sister Carol Johnston.

By Edith Fikes