ESALA Research Seminar: Nick Dunn


  • Wednesday, January 25, 2017 - 13:00 to 14:00

  • Minto House, Elliot Room
    20-22 Chambers Street
    Edinburgh
    EH1 1JZ

This week’s guest speaker, Professor Nick Dunn, is Executive Director of ImaginationLancaster, an open and exploratory design research lab at Lancaster University, where he is also Chair of Urban Design.

He is Associate Director of the Institute for Social Futures, where he also leads research in the Future of Cities and Urbanism.

His work responds to the contemporary city as a series of systems, flows and processes, and is explored through experimentation and discourse addressing the nature of urban space: its perception, demarcation and appropriation.

He has published numerous books related to architecture, art practices and urbanism and his papers have been published and presented internationally, and collaborative creative work exhibited across the UK, China and the Ukraine. His most recent book, Dark Matters: A Manifesto for the Nocturnal City (Zero, 2016) is an exploration of walking as a cultural practice, the politics of space and the right to the city.

Dark Futures: the loss of night in the contemporary city?

Cities are often understood as complex meshes of people, technologies and ‘animated spaces’ (Amin, 2015). However, the atmosphere of cities can change distinctly at night. For in the nocturnal hours identities become slippery, motives less easily defined, and architecture itself may appear far less assured of its role. Structures, rules and regulations that engender ‘tactile sterility’ (Sennett, 1994) in the urban realm quickly break down at night. The city at night may evolve into the ‘terrain vague’ (Levesque, 2002) with places undergoing transformation through conspicuous absence or cultures of darkness.

In this talk, Nick Dunn will seek to examine an underrepresented perspective on the nighttime urban landscape, and offer a new dialogue with the city. The processes of change that occur when walking in the city and urban hinterlands at night may be understood as ‘inscriptive practice’ enriched with the potentialities that Bergson (1913) describes. Freed from the spaces of everyday life, nighttime walking enables us to reconnect with the city and give things our undivided attention, a different experience of place, providing a welcome respite from the ongoing erosion and subdivision of our time and sense of belonging in the world.

This talk will draw on extensive empirical data and personal experience in order to elucidate on the on-going entanglement that occurs at the boundaries of body and urban landscape; day and night; space and materiality. It will raise questions about our environment, our lives and the future sustainability of our cities.

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