The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) is a nonprofit organisation based in Brooklyn, New York, founded in 1997 by artist-architect Damon Rich together with artist Oscar Tuazon, designer Stella Bugbee, media activist Josh Breitbart, architect Jason Anderson, Sarah Dadush and filmmaker Althea Wasow, who were all interested in how the city works and believed that in order for a democracy to function the needs and desires of all citizens have to be engaged.
CUP's name speaks of their working method: they devise pedagogical projects for schools, young people and also for the community at large in order to allow people to intervene meaningfully within their locality. Through bringing together these diverse people CUP not only build interesting projects such as exhibitions or school curricula, but they also affect the work and thinking of the professionals through exposing them to a range of knowledges and issues that they may not normally come into contact with.
Their projects ask basic questions about the city such as, 'where does the water come from?' or 'where does the garbage go to?' Through these seemingly naïve questions CUP engage young people in the everyday politics of the city, for example their investigation into New York's waste disposal was a highly politicised exercise since the main landfill site of Fresh Kills had just been closed down after years of controversy. CUP also publish a series of fold-out posters that tackle various public policy issues and try to make legible highly complex and inter-related phenomena through graphic design. Recent issues include 'Social Security Risk Machine' and 'The Cargo Chain', which reveals how the local long-shore workers fit inside a highly complex and globalised shipping network.
CUP's role in these projects varies from enabling to actual intervention. As facilitators, they bring people who are interested in and knowledgeable about certain issues together with graphic designers or artists, who then visualise these questions, concerns or problems.. As agents, CUP actively intervene in their environment, working in a bottom-up manner in collaboration with others to effect transformation of existing conditions.
CUP, A How-To Guidebook for Urban Objects.
CUP, Michael Cataldi, and Academy for Urban Planning Brroklyn students, Alternative Urban Perspectives. (Self-published zine, 2007).
Rich, Damon, 'Architectures of Finance from the Great Depression to the Subprime Meltdown' (MIT Center For Advanced Visual Studies, 2008); http://cavs.mit.edu/artists.html?id=201,323 [accessed 7 December 2009].
Hammett, Kingsley, "Designing for Urban Education and Activism."
Designer/Builder (December 2006).
Menking, W., "The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP)." Architectural Design, 79(1)(2009): 76-77.
'CUP makes educational projects about places and how they change.
Our projects bring together art and design professionals - artists, graphic designers, architects, urban planners - with community-based advocates and researchers - organizers, government officials, academics, service-providers and policymakers. These partners work with CUP staff to create projects ranging from high school curricula to educational exhibitions.'
Our work grows from a belief that the power of imagination is central to the practice of democracy, and that the work of governing must engage the dreams and visions of citizens. CUP believes in the legibility of the world around us. What can we learn by investigation? By learning how to investigate, we train ourselves to change what we see.
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