Introducing PLATFORM, a new digital forum for urbanists

[Editor’s note: The Metropole would like to introduce a new digital forum for urbanists. Below, Hunter College Professor Matthew Lasner offers a brief introduction into the project, PLATFORM, followed by a more detailed explanation regarding exactly what the site and its editors hope to publish. Take a look!]

Dear friends,

I have some exciting news to share. Swati Chattopadhyay, Marta Gutman, Zeynep Kezer, and I are preparing to launch an open digital forum for conversation on buildings, spaces, landscapes, called PLATFORM. The goal is to publish short-form critical essays that engage with contemporary culture, politics, and space.

The idea was prompted by discussion at a conference organized in honor of Dell Upton at CCNY last year. Those of you who were there will remember talk of the possibility of continuing the vibrant dialog in some new form/venue. PLATFORM is meant to be that venue.

We are soliciting short timely essays on any aspect of the built environment from the scale of the global and planetary to that of the building interior and detail. The idea is to publish 6 different categories of essays–Finding; House Histories; Opinion; Reading/Listening/Watching; Specifying; Teaching & Working. Most essays are 500-1000 words. Please see the attached description of PLATFORM and submission guidelines.

We don’t expect tightly argued prose studded with endnotes; we want this to be a forum for engaging with ideas that are critical to the present. It’s not a journal, it’s not a book, there is no print version. It’s not peer reviewed. It is a lightly moderated forum for speaking to diverse audiences, for thinking critically, and for taking a stand.

Attached is a screenshot of the site. We hope you will write for PLATFORM, support it, encourage your colleagues and students to write for PLATFORM, and help us make it a success!

Help us build Platform, Read, write and comment at Share our news and our posts. Follow us on Twitter (@PLATFORM_space).

With thanks and warm regards,
Matthew Lasner

Matthew Gordon Lasner studies the history and theory of the U.S. built environment, with particular focus on housing, and the relationship between housing patterns and urban and suburban form. Lasner’s first book, High Life: Condo Living in the Suburban Century, published by Yale University Press in 2012, examines the emergence and growth of co-owned multifamily housing – the co-op and condominium apartment, as well as the townhouse complex — as an alternative to single-family suburbia in the twentieth century. Lasner is also co-editor of Affordable Housing in New York: The People, Places, and Policies That Transformed a City, published by Princeton University Press in 2015. 





The content of PLATFORM falls into seven types of essays that highlight and address a range of issues about buildings, spaces, and landscapes:


Finding is where you share new thoughts on research and research findings. You know the feeling: you have made this amazing discovery in the field that might change the way we think about African diasporic architectural history; or looking through reams of dusty correspondence you have unexpectedly found a drawing enclosed with one of the letters. Now you want to share your thoughts on these finds with someone, hoping it will open up a new prospect in seeing a landscape, or it will open up a new research project for you or someone else. Or perhaps after years of thinking about how to tackle a set of disparate archival documents or find a sweet space between digital and analogue drawings you have figured out a method to address the problem.

This is the place to write about how we encounter evidence and how we weave evidence into narrative. Or how we foster conversations about the craft of writing about space, material culture and the built environment. A submission may focus on a specific document, image, film, recording, interview, or story, or it may be speculative.

 Length: 500-1,000 words

Home in Hampton Heights, the oldest neighborhood in Spartanburg, South Carolina, roughly midway between Atlanta, GA and Charlotte, NC, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, May 9, 2017, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress



House Histories explore where we live, how we live, and with whom we live. We want to learn what you know about apartment buildings, dorm rooms, homeless shelters, single-family houses, hotels, public housing, and the many other places where people lived historically and in the present day. We welcome essays that investigate what it means to dwell, considering emotions, memories, power, loss, and embodied experiences (sight, touch, smell, sound). What makes a house, an everyday building, into a place that someone calls home? We also invite essays that address the contemporary crisis in affordable housing and speculate on political, economic, and design solutions.

 Length: 500-1,000 words

Aerial view of CIA headquarters, Langley, Virginia, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress



Opinion is the place to take a stand on a range of urgent problems and ideas, from the surveillance state to the institutionalization of children and ethnic minorities, and tie these discussions to buildings, spaces, and landscapes.Is something making headlines that your research — new or old, on subjects contemporary or historical — can shed light on? Do you want to take a position on an issue in the news through the lens of a specific building or place, past or present? Submit a one-off, timely piece. Interested in publishing regular commentary reflecting on architecture, society, and politics? Become a featured columnist.

 Length: 1,000-3,000 words

New York, New York. Radio room of the New York Times newspaper. The Times listening post, between 10 and 12 PM, between first and second editions, Marjory Collins, September 1942, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress



We want to learn about that exciting article, book, or edited volume that you are reading now. Maybe it’s a podcast you think more people should know about. Maybe it’s a movie. Maybe it’s a startling use of data visualization. Share short descriptions of the work with notes about why you find it useful or interesting and how it would help platform’s readers think through questions of space, architecture, and the built environment, even if it addresses none of them in particular. We would like to hear about recent works, but revisiting classics with a new interpretive lens is welcome as well.

These entries in Reading/Listening/Watching are not traditional reviews of books, media, or exhibitions; they offer more information than an annotated bibliography or an publisher’s description. Tell us why you find this material interesting or engaging. Your remarks or contribution may contain a discussion of the main argument or one particular aspect of the work, or how it helps you think through a course, your research or design in terms of methods and theory. Would it make a good seminar reading? Is it a good intro-level book? Could it be watched in class? Does it make ingenious or creative use of evidence? Does it introduce a new way of seeing a problem in research or design? Is it an underexplored subject?

 Length: 500-1,000 words

Aerial view of the construction of Penn Quarter building, Washington, D.C., photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress



Specifying is the place for you to write about what we build, how we build, and who builds the places that we inhabit every day. Are you an architect or a builder who wants to bridge the schism between research, design, and construction? Or are you a historian who is eager to share your knowledge about labor and technology, and learn more about digital fabrication in the present day? Do you want to take a hard look at the causes of structural failure and fires in buildings and the attendant loss of life? Do you love combing through the drawers in hardware stores, looking for the perfect fastener? Specifying is the place to discuss the multi-faceted practices that adhere to building and builders—specifying, constructing, regulating, spec-writing, construction managing—and to assess the relationship of these aspects of the material world to past practices, labor, technology and other social/political issues.

 Length: 500-1,000 words.


This is an adult world, its problems are up to you! Free : Enroll – Federal adult schools : Many courses – many places – informal teaching, Fred Rentschler, 1938, Prints and Photographs Division Library of Congress

Academic labor has changed fundamentally in the last two decades. Teaching/Working is dedicated to teaching and current realities of working in academia. We welcome articles about issues related to tenure, adjunct and graduate student union organizations, enrollment issues, changes in visa and travel regulations, research funding, and changing job opportunities. We are also interested in discussing innovative methods of pedagogy in architecture schools, departments of geography, art and architecture history, urban studies, and related fields. Teaching also reports on conditions in colleges and universities. This section exposes PLATFORM’s readers to new methods that they can use in their own teaching and lets readers know that they are not alone. Often working in isolation or in small cohorts, we all struggle to give our students the best education possible, despite the lack of funding, classroom technology, and appropriate classroom space. Posts on teaching methods used in studio and in traditional classroom settings are welcome.
Length: 500-1,000 words

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