Waste Infrastructure and the Architecture of Public Life

Release Date: February 3, 2012 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Garbage is not a typical topic of discussion for an architecture lecture, but in Erie and Niagara Counties alone we produce about 17.5 million pounds of waste a year. We're not staring it in the face every day, so where does it go?

Curt Gambetta is a designer and architect who questions the boundaries that define waste as a public or private dilemma and considers the role and uses (social, political and otherwise) of the large-scale infrastructure required to treat our household, municipal, industrial and technological offscourings.

Gambetta is the 2012 Peter Reyner Banham Fellow in the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning and will deliver the annual Banham Lecture on Feb. 8 at 5:30 p.m. in 301 Crosby Hall, UB South Campus.

His talk, "From Exodus to Attachment: Waste Infrastructure and the Architecture of Public Life" will be free and open to the public.

Gambetta says waste "has been disappeared from the city and the senses by mechanisms of modern sanitation and architecture, moved to the urban periphery and concealed inside increasingly refined membranes of storage and movement."

Ruptures or discrepancies in the waste stream -- such things as a proliferation of bacteria, odor, slime buildup, garbage pileup, the reappearance of "buried" toxic dregs and other threats to safety and health -- "are often read as signposts of failure of a certain project of the modern city," he says. But Gambetta reads these as productive irritants for working and reworking how we conceptualize public space.

In fact, he says, "It is within the friction produced by overlapping claims made to an issue like waste that public life emerges."

The lecture is a part of the UB School's Spring 2012 Relocation Lecture Series, a title that refers to the fact that school's main building, Hayes Hall, is undergoing renovation and the faculty and students have been relocated to other sites on the south campus.

Gambetta, a member of the Architecture Department's affiliated faculty, will discuss how architectural research can, itself, be an act of design and how it can generate politics outside of the architectural field to shape new forms of public life.

He has been the moderator of the Urban Study Group mailing list for the Sarai program in Delhi, India, a program of the Center for the Study of Developing Countries where he was a resident from 2002 to 2005. His research focuses on the material history of architecture in 20th century India, as well as the public life of infrastructure.

Gambetta holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Vassar College in 2002 and received a master's degree in architecture from Rice University.

The Peter Reyner Banham Fellowship and Lecture memorializes the work of the prolific British architectural historian, a founder of the field of architectural criticism who traced the rise and fall of modernism and society's attitudes toward it. He was a member of the UB architecture faculty from 1976 to 1980.

The UB Banham Fellowship in Architecture supports design work like Gambetta's that situates architecture within the general field of socio-cultural and material critique.

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