PAUL GUZZARDO – ‘A Septic Turn in the Space of Appearance: a brief for a city with elites in decline’

‘Medusa’ detail of Geddes lecture notes courtesy of University of Strathclyde, photo by Lorens Holm. Poster by Prokalo.

‘Medusa’ detail of Geddes lecture notes courtesy of University of Strathclyde, photo by Lorens Holm. Poster by Prokalo.

 ‘A Septic Turn in the Space of Appearance: a brief for a city with elites in decline

5pm – Second Floor Evolution House 

Followed by discussion, drinks and nibbles 


ABSTRACT: Paul Guzzardo is returning to Scotland to present this lecture and discussion at PROKALO on his current work, which is part of the public exhibition ‘The City is a thinking Machine.’ He will discuss his work at the exhibition as well as A Septic Turn;

A Septic Turn offers a contemporary update on Geddes’ citizen survey and Civic Exhibition. The installation details an ongoing lawsuit between the plaintiff Paul Guzzardo and two defendants: Grand Center – a private corporation with statutory development powers in St. Louis, and Washington University – a bio-science research institution. Unlike Charles Dickens’s Bleak House the transactional is secondary here. This is about the role of digital media in collective consciousness and how media shapes the relation of people to places. It’s also about Marshall McLuhan’s role in the intellectual formation of St. Louis, and how Geddes’ synoptic vision got muscled out by a sycophantic one. Project journals and looping multimedia tell the story. The journals contains press, legal pleadings and testimony. Guzzardo’s documentaries and video depositions comprise the multimedia. The documentaries are buildbetterbarrel, the cartographer’s dilemma, and posses | protocol | perp walks. The deposition witnesses are: Emily Pulitzer, collector and founder of the Pulitzer Foundation of the Arts; Heather Woofter, teacher and chair of graduate studies at the Washington University School of Architecture; and Paul Guzzardo, lawyer and media activist/artist.

‌‘Town plans are no mere diagrams, they are a system of hieroglyphics in which man has written the history of civilization, and the more tangled their apparent confusion, the more we may be rewarded in deciphering it.’

-Geddes, Cities in Evolution

The exhibition of which this presentation will discuss is a research project whose aim is to evaluate Geddes’ thinking at a time when city regions are under increasing pressure to accommodate new populations without losing sight of their natural heritage and sustainability. Sir Patrick Geddes, the polymathic Scottish planner and botanist, published Cities in Evolution in 1915. This seminal text on civics promoted his Cities Exhibitions which he organised from 1910 onwards. He also proposed local Cities Exhibitions as permanent institutions in each city centre which he argued were a necessary condition for participatory democracy. This important exhibition on Geddes’ thought and work has three parts: city plans from Geddes’ touring Cities Exhibitions; his thinking and lecturing diagrams, drawn from the Archives at the Universities of Dundee, Edinburgh, and Strathclyde; and recent architecture and planning projects by affiliates of the Geddes Institute for Urban Research at the University of Dundee. Geddes’ diagrams have not to our knowledge been exhibited or published before, nor have these plans been brought to the public view since the Outlook Tower closed in 1949.

Lorens Holm, director of the Geddes institute says ‘Geddes sought to transform lives and transform environments. This exhibition is important because it brings together Geddes thinking machine diagrams – a key to this thought on civics and cities – with the exemplary city plans he collected for his Exhibitions, at a time when our cities are under increasing pressure to accommodate new populations without losing sight of sustainability and citizenship, the key principles for well-being in the built environment.’


BIO: Paul is a Fellow at the Geddes Institute for Urban Research at The University of Dundee. He is a media activist, designer, and lawyer based in St. Louis and Buenos Aires.

He has published papers in Urban Design Journal and AD: architectural design, and co-authored with Michael Sorkin and Mario Correa Displaced: Llonch+Vidalle Architecture. His installations and theatre pieces have been exhibited and performed in St. Louis, Buenos Aires, New York, Macomb, Illinois, and Newcastle and Dundee. His lecture, ‘A Septic Turn’ and video installation focus on the role of digital media in collective consciousness. He maps the devolving state of the American public sphere.

He is interested in epistemology and where urban designers, traditional creative practitioners and collectors fit, and or don’t, in a zoomed out digitized culture. His research is out on the street. It’s where he designs protocols for data sampling. He uses the street as a platform to assemble networks to critique the network. And he looks to the street as the place to probe how we’re being changed by the sweep of information technologies. His design praxis includes: nightclubs, outdoor multimedia projections, street-front media-labs, street theatre, remix concerts, gallery installations and documentary film. He exploits these venues and disciplines to design epistemic gear _ maps_ for navigating through this digital minefield. His writings have appeared in blogs, academic monograms and popular journals, including AD Architectural Design, Urban Design (UK), and Displaced with Michael Sorkin and George Ranalli. As a Fellow, Guzzardo has been involved in Exploring the Digital City and the Cartographers Dilemma, in which, with Lorens Holm, he has been working on recursive urbanism.


Next week! Piotr Lesniak – Archive of the Future: An Architectural Imaginary of Reconstructed Warsaw

PROKALO_Piotr Lesniak_WEB

Archive of the Future: An Architectural Imaginary of Reconstructed Warsaw

Piotr Lesniak

5pm (5:15pm start due to popular demand!) 

2nd Floor Evolution House, West Port

Join us for wine, nibbles, seminar and a good old discussion afterwards! 



What would it mean to imagine post-war Warsaw as a reconstruction of an architectural imaginary of the city’s future, rather than as a reconstruction of the city? What would it mean to imagine an archive of these imaginaries? The paper presented for this talk is a place for thinking through some of the paradoxes that make-up our (non)understanding of Warsaw—at once producing and erasing, recalling and repressing various historic narratives and national myths. Warsaw’s archive, the subject of this talk, is both material (bodily, architectural, physical) and immaterial (institutional, cultural, scholarly, fantastic, erotic). Its object, however, is par excellence material: the documents, drawings and photographs that recently were made available in the collections of the Warsaw Reconstruction Office (BOS), and other archival material from the National Museum in Warsaw and the National Digital Archives. Imbricated into this infinitely complex matrix of relations between materialities and immaterialities of the subject, and materiality of the object(s), is the paper itself—the presented text and the imagery that together (de)posit questions of how to study Warsaw’s history from an architectural perspective.


Piotr Leśniak graduated from the Warsaw University of Technology (BSc Arch 2006) and the University of Edinburgh (MArch 2009, MSc by Research 2010). He has worked in architectural practice in Poland and the UK, as a design studio and theory tutor at the University of Edinburgh, and as designer on several exhibition projects. He co-organised and chaired the symposium Plenitude and Emptiness on research by-design, and co-founded the architectural design research journal Drawing On. He is currently working on his design-led PhD thesis on architectural imaginaries of Warsaw, for which he holds the Principal’s Career Development Scholarship from the University of Edinburgh.