May 26

Civitas at Large: A Public Conversation

Civitas at Large: A Public Conversation
Griffin, Marion Mahony (1871-1962) © Transforming Chicago into a Livable Industrial Center. 1991.274.1. Art Institute of Chicago
US Pavilion Courtyard

What role have cities and regions played in the making of modern citizens? In eras when the nation from recedes from relevance, cities often serve as a source for sustaining identity, protection, and agency. The Civitas at Large symposium is co-hosted by the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation at the University of Chicago and the School of the Arts Institute of Chicago, highlighting the work of UChicago and SAIC scholars, artists, and architects.


Niall Atkinson is Associate Professor of Architectural History in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Noisy Renaissance: Sound, Architecture, and Florentine Urban Life (Penn State University Press, 2016), an excavation of the historical meaning of sound and construction of urban space in Renaissance Florence. His research focuses the experience of space and the reception of architecture in early modern Europe, which has led to several collaborative projects involving the digital reconstruction of the social life and spatial context of Florence in the 15th century. His articles have appeared in I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance, Grey Room, and Senses & Society. His investigation of “Wandering in Rome in the Enlightenment,” co-written Susanna Caviglia, is forthcoming in Word & Image.

Shiben Banerji is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is the author of the forthcoming book Lineages of the Global City, research for which was funded by a Mellon Junior Fellowship in the Humanities, Urbanism, and Design from the University of Pennsylvania, a grant from the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Center for Research and Collaboration, as well as a William Bronson Mitchell and Grayce Slovet Mitchell Award. Shiben received a PhD in the History and Theory of Architecture and a Master in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and earned his BA from Columbia University.

Luís M. A. Bettencourt is the Pritzker Director of the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation and Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, as well as an External Professor of Complex Systems at the Santa Fe Institute. Trained as a theoretical physicist, he obtained his undergraduate degree from Instituto Superior Técnico (Lisbon, Portugal) in 1992, and his PhD from Imperial College (University of London, UK) in 1996. He has held postdoctoral positions at the University of Heidelberg (Germany), Los Alamos National Laboratory (Director’s Fellow and Slansky Fellow) and at MIT (Center for Theoretical Physics). His research emphasizes the creation of new interdisciplinary synthesis to describe cities in quantitative and predictive ways, informed by classical theory from various disciplines and the growing availability of empirical data worldwide. With over 100 scientific papers and several edited books, his research has been featured in leading media venues, such as The New York Times, Nature, Wired, New Scientist, and the Smithsonian.

Brodwyn Fischer is a professor of Latin American and Brazilian history at the University of Chicago. She is an award-winning author of two books about urban informality and citizenship, A Poverty of Rights: Citizenship and Inequality in 20th Century Rio de Janeiro (Stanford 2008) and Cities from Scratch: Poverty and Informality in Urban Latin America (co-authored with Bryan McCann and Javier Auyero, Duke 2014). She is currently writing a book about inequality and the urban legacies of slavery in Recife, Brazil and is beginning a new project about the “right to the city” in political ideology, popular practice and legal doctrine.

Ilona Gaynor is a designer, artist, and writer. Her work has been exhibited, published, awarded and presented internationally in recognized museums, galleries, institutions, and publications. She is the recipient of various awarded research grants and endowments, such as Ridley Scott prize endowment for cinematic research and the Wellcome Trust Arts Research Fund.

Benjamin Nicholson was educated at Architectural Association, Cooper Union, and Cranbrook Academy, and is now Associate Professor at SAIC. Guest taught at SCI-Arc and Universities of Edinburgh, London, Michigan, Houston, and Cornell. Publications include Appliance House, Thinking the Unthinkable House, and The World: Who Wants It?. Exhibited at Foundation Cartier, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Venice Biennale three times. Interests range from agriculture to gun culture and primitive geometry to labyrinths. Forthcoming co-edited book entitled, Avant Garde in the Cornfields: Architecture, Landscape & Preservation in New Harmony and now working on Locked, Loaded & Liberal, a book about America’s gun culture.


Jonathan Solomon, Director, Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects, School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Bill Brown, Senior Advisor to the Provost for Arts, Karla Scherer Distinguished Service Professor in American Culture in the Departments of English & Visual Arts, and the College, University of Chicago.









Civitas at Large: A Public Conversation, 2018. Photographs © Francesca Bottazzin. Courtesy of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago.

Civitas at Large: A Public Conversation, 2018. Photographs © Francesca Bottazzin. Courtesy of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago.