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“The Culture Now Project” led by Thom Mayne, CA, USA

19 Sep 2012

UCLA Architecture and Urban Design Publication

UCLA Architecture and Urban Design publishes “The Culture Now Project” led by Thom Mayne

Pritzker prize-winner and UCLA distinguished professor Thom Mayne has labored since 2010 on his massive research and design study, the Culture Now Project. The project seeks to answer the questions surrounding how we approach complex urban problems in a time of great economic and cultural uncertainty and how the current political mood affects the work of architects, urbanists and researchers.

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With urbanist Karen Lohrmann and UCLA Architecture and Urban Design graduate students, Mayne is now bringing this academic research into the real world with the publication of “The Culture Now Project (part 1) – Midsize America,” the first in a series of books chronicling the project.

An immersive investigation of the important relationships among public policy, urban design and contemporary cultures, the Culture Now Project extends the dialogue across disciplines and encompasses institutional and political models.

Mayne, Lohrmann and an advisory panel of professionals and public figures have led a group of innovative architecture and urban design graduate students toward understanding what culture is today. The objective is to identify and leverage existing networks, projects, events and initiatives that promote economic and ecological transformation as catalysts for addressing urban problems.

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This research program examines systems supporting art, culture, education, media and production and how they stimulate reactivation and recovery of the America city. The project originally focused on eight midsized cities: Flint, Mich.; Atlantic City, NJ; Mobile, Ala.; Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio; New Orleans, La.; Tucson, Ariz. and Merced, Calif.

The first volume of “Culture Now” presents impressive visuals that translate abstract statistical data into accessible graphics, helping readers understand the current economic situation.

For example, the section “High-Speed Small Town” looks at urban growth and agricultural preservation in Merced, where 25 percent of the nation’s produce is grown on 1 percent of the nation’s farmland. Located in California’s agricultural heartland, the city is poised to expand from a farm-oriented community into a campus community with the establishment in 2005 of the newest University of California campus and a proposed high-speed rail station. A town once recognized only for agricultural production is now quickly becoming a 21st-century city.

In spring 2011, Mayne presented the Culture Now Project to fellow members of President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and the Mayor’s Institute on City Design in Chicago, a National Endowment for the Arts leadership initiative in partnership with the American Architectural Foundation and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

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In fall 2011, the Culture Now Project continued with a new group of UCLA students and expanded to collaborate with other universities across the country engaging the fields of urban design, architecture, environmental studies, landscape architecture and cultural studies. Partnering schools include Columbia University, Cornell University, Harvard Graduate School ofDesign, University of Kentucky College of Design, MIT, University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, Pratt Institute, Princeton University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rice University and Syracuse University.

UCLA students involved in the “MidSize America” publication were Dylan Barlow, Emily Cheng, Grady Gillies, Cheng Ha, Christopher Harris, Matthew Kendall, Wayne Ko, Jai Kumaran, Layton Petersen, Stacey Rigley, Clayton Taylor, Bryan Tranbarger, Sepa Sama and Yang Wang.

“The Culture Now Project (part 1) – Midsize America” (Los Angeles: UCLA Architecture and Urban Design, $25) is available at bookorders@aud.ucla.edu.

UCLA Architecture and Urban Design

UCLA Architecture and Urban Design pursues issues confronting contemporary architecture and urbanism through its bachelor’s of arts program in architectural studies and its four advanced degree programs” master’s of architecture I, master’s of architecture II, master’s of arts in architecture and doctorate of philosophy in architecture. The programs’ primary focus on advanced design is complemented by concentrations in technology and critical studies of architectural culture. Website: http://www.aud.ucla.edu/

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