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K-State Today

October 5, 2016

Thomas Campanella to present Ekdahl Lecture for College of Architecture, Planning & Design

Submitted by Thom Jackson


The Ekdahl Lecture, a part of the College of Architecture, Planning & Design's 2016 Distinguished Lecture Series, will present Thomas Campanella, at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, in Forum Hall at the K-State Student Union.

Campanella's presentation, "American Curves: Nature, Race and the Origins of the Modern Highway," is free and the public is invited.

"We tend to associate the emergence of the American expressway with the Eisenhower era and the interstate highway program. But the origins of the modern motor road date back much further, to a series of parkways built in Westchester County, New York in the 1920s," Campanella said. "The first of these, the Bronx River Parkway, was begun not as a road but as an effort to restore a terribly polluted waterway, led by one of the most problematic figures in American environmental history, Madison Grant."

Campanella's talk will explore the roots of the modern American highway, examine the individuals who brought it into being and unpack the design ideals that helped shape an infrastructure that would change the world.

Campanella is a historian of city planning and the urban built environment. He teaches at Cornell University and writes about the culture-space nexus in a variety of contexts, seeking to explain the manifold agents, actors and forces that have shaped urban landscapes around the world. Though primarily an Americanist, he also has studied and written about the extraordinary growth of Chinese cities in the post-Mao era.

Campanella has received Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships, and is a fellow of the American Academy in Rome and the James Marston Fitch Foundation. His books include "The Concrete Dragon: China's Urban Revolution and What It Means for the World," 2008, and "Republic of Shade: New England and the American Elm," 2003, winner of the Spiro Kostof Award from the Society of Architectural Historians.

He has held visiting appointments at Columbia University, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Nanjing University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Campanella received a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Cornell, and a bachelor's degree from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Founded more than 35 years ago as a memorial honoring Topeka architect and university alumnus Oscar Ekdahl, the Ekdahl Lectures bring practitioners, teachers, critics, theorists and artists to campus for interaction with students, faculty and alumni. The lecture series focuses on issues affecting the quality of the physical environment and the leadership roles played by the speakers. The purpose of the series is to inform and challenge as well as to reinforce and complement the educational programs of the College of Architecture, Planning & Design.

The APDesign Lecture Series is funded in part by the K-State fine arts fee with support from the Ekdahl family. American Institute of Certified Planners members can earn certification maintenance credits for this event. 

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