What could make this building beautiful?
A History of the Zwischenstadt

a lecture by Matthew Stadler
with photographs by Shawn Records

Wednesday, May 23, 20:00

Taking Beaverton Oregon as a point of departure, this lecture investigates the changing nature of the contemporary city. The home of Nike and Linux, Beaverton is a nebulous sprawl — larger, more diverse, and more densely populated than Portland, the city of which it is at least nominally a suburb. Whereas most urban theorists identify the centerless cities of the American West as a recent phenomenon, this lecture finds parallels between the "Zwischenstadt" or "in-between city" of today and the spatial organization in an earlier iteration of American settlement: namely, the extensive trade and transportation routes established by Native Americans prior to the urbanization of the West.

The lecture asks whether the history of North American settlement can help us find the logic and the beauty of the Zwischenstadt. It suggests that beauty is an essential resource to compel our full and wise use of an environment. The lecture argues that the widespread dismissals of "sprawl" as ugly or irrational rest in nostalgia for the concentric city and that we can no longer locate urbanity in the center, nor declare its absence from the periphery. Instead, urbanity permeates the whole.

The photographs of Shawn Records investigate the features of this transitory, nearly invisible landscape. Not made to be looked at, the Zwischenstadt is nonetheless the site of moments of incongruous and quiet beauty. The subtle atmospherics of Records' photographs suggest that the "in-between city" is itself composed of in-between spaces — roads leading to nowhere, abbreviated forests, paved expanses.

Matthew Stadler (Portland) received an MFA from Columbia University in 1987. His four novels— Landscape: Memory, The Dissolution of Nicholas Dee, The Sex Offender, and Allan Stein—explore the moral ambiguities of contemporary life. Stadler is the cofounder of Clear Cut Press, an independent publisher of original books, and served as the literary editor of the design magazine Nest. He teaches the "using global media workshop" in his kitchen, and has written for many periodicals, including the New York Times, Bookforum, Artforum, and Dwell. Stadler has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Foundation Writers Award, Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Novel (for Allan Stein), the Howard Foundation Mid-Career Fellowship for Fiction (from Brown University), and the 2006 USA Ford Fellowship for Literature.

* organized by Hadley+Maxwell



Matthew Stadler

Shawn Records