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Uhlenbeck Lecture 2012: Metaphor and Metropolis

Nancy Stieber, Art Historian and NIAS Fellow 2007/08, will hold the annual Uhlenbeck Lecture. On 30 May 2012 she will talk about the metaphores we use to make sense of the modern city.

Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas provocatively declared that the city no longer exists. He argued that we now live in generic cities, that yearning for cities with identity, character, and landmarks is mere nostalgic romanticism while cities that maintain an aura of distinctiveness, like Amsterdam, Paris, or Istanbul, have devolved into museums for touristic consumption. This lecture presents an alternative interpretation of urban identity by examining our tendency to view cities as organisms and personages, as theaters, as paths, as metonymic icons. By probing the ways metaphorical images have been used to make sense of the metropolis, it investigates the multifarious efficacy of the cultural work achieved by our imaginations when grappling with the complexities of urban experience. Our metaphors may be illusory, but they allow us to contend with metropolitan space and time in a visceral fashion. Indeed, construing the space of the city is often tantamount to construing its place in time.

About Nancy Stieber
Nancy Stieber is an Associate Professor in the Art Department of the University of Massachusetts Boston where she teaches architectural history. Specialized in the history of housing and urbanism of the twentieth century in the Netherlands, her research has examined the ways in which the city of Amsterdam was represented in a variety of media at the turn of the century. She construes architectural history not as the study of great monuments and architects, but rather as a site of intellectual, social, and cultural negotiation through which a variety of participants – including the ordinary people who engage with the built environment – contest, explore, and invent the meaning of space. She was a NIAS Fellow in the Research Year 2007/8.

About the Uhlenbeck Lecture
The Uhlenbeck Lecture is the highlight of the annual NIAS Fellows Association Day. The Lecture is named after the founder of NIAS, Professor E.M. Uhlenbeck (1913-2003). It is delivered by one of the former NIAS Fellows. Previous lectures by, amongst others, Paul van den Broek, Peter Mair and Frits van Oostrom, can be downloaded here.