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Matthew Gandy

Matthew Gandy

Professor of Cultural and Historical Geography and Fellow of King's College

Biography

Matthew was born in Islington, North London. He is a cultural, urban, and environmental geographer with particular interests in landscape, infrastructure, and more recently bio-diversity. The historical scope of his work extends from the middle decades of the nineteenth century to the recent past. His research ranges from aspects of environmental history, including epidemiology, to contemporary intersections between nature and culture including the visual arts. His book Concrete and clay: reworking nature in New York City (MIT Press, 2002) was winner of the 2003 Spiro Kostof award for the book within the previous two years "that has made the greatest contribution to our understanding of urbanism and its relationship with architecture". His book The fabric of space: water, modernity, and the urban imagination (The MIT Press, 2014) was awarded the 2014 AAG Meridian Award for Outstanding Scholarly Work in Geography and the 2016 award for the most innovative book in planning history from the International Planning History Society. He is currently writing a research monograph on bio-diversity and urban nature and is Principal Investigator for the ERC Advanced Grant Rethinking urban nature.

Matthew has been a visiting scholar at Columbia University, New York; the University of California, Los Angeles; Newcastle University; the Technical University, Berlin; the Humboldt University, Berlin; and the University of the Arts, Berlin. He was Founder and Director of the UCL Urban Laboratory (2005-11) and is a co-founder of the Urban Salon. Matthew is also actively involved in local issues in Hackney, east London, and is a member of Hackney Biodiversity Partnership and Sustainable Hackney. From 2013 to 2018 he was co-editor of The International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. He was elected a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in 2015 and a fellow of the British Academy in 2016.

You can find more details about his projects and read his blog Cosmopolis at http://www.matthewgandy.org

Career

  • 1992-1997 School of European Studies, University of Sussex
  • 1997-2015 Department of Geography, University College London

Qualifications

  • 1988 BA in Geography, St. Catharine's College, Cambridge (first, with distinction)
  • 1992 PhD in Geography, London School of Economics

Research

My current work is focused on the following areas:

i) Redefining urban nature

Urban nature encompasses a disparate body of work and ideas ranging from scientific analysis of ecological assemblages to the cultural valorization of "cosmopolitan natures". I am interested in exploring changing meanings of urban nature through interdisciplinary and historical analysis of emerging cultures of nature under modernity.

See Gandy, M. Borrowed light: journeys through Weimar Berlin, in The fabric of space: water, modernity, and the urban imagination (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2014) pp. 55-79; and Gandy, M. The fly that tried to save the world: saproxylic geographies and other-than-human ecologies. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers (2019).

ii) Post-humanism and new conceptions of agency

By linking urban ecology with post-humanist insights there are clear points of interconnection with network-oriented ontologies of human subjectivity and extended conceptions of agency. I am building on my previous work on cyborg urbanization to examine corporeal dimensions to urban space including geographies of sound, light, and sexuality.

See Gandy, M. Queer ecology: nature, sexuality and urban heterotopic alliances. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 30 (2012) pp. 727-747; Gandy, M. Negative luminescence. Annals of the American Association of Geographers 107 (2017) pp. 1090–1107; and Gandy, M. Urban atmospheres. Cultural Geographies 24 (2017) pp. 353–374.

iii) Epidemiology, insect vectors and the political ecology of water

There is significant scope for a critically reworked political ecology, in combination with new insights into the independent agency of nature, to explore evolving relationships between human health and the urban environment. Although existing studies within environmental history and other fields have emphasized the role of infrastructure networks and other measures against the threat of water-borne disease these insights can be extended to other socio-ecological dimensions of urban space.

See Gandy, M. Mosquitoes, malaria, and post-colonial Lagos, in The fabric of space: water, modernity, and the urban imagination (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2014) pp. 81-108.

iv) Wastelands and urban bio-diversity

I have long been fascinated by "wastelands" since my early forays into London's so-called "bomb sites". A focus on spontaneous forms of urban nature transcends the merely speculative or utilitarian potentialities of ostensibly empty spaces. Within urban ecology significant attention has been devoted to wastelands as "ecological refugia" or "islands" of bio-diversity. These spontaneous ecologies serve as "accidental laboratories" for cultural and scientific curiosity.

See Gandy, M. Marginalia: aesthetics, ecology, and urban wastelands. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 103 (6) (2013) pp. 1301-1316.

v) Aesthetics, landscape and "non-design"

Ecological rhetoric is often widely deployed as a pretext for the elimination of pre-existing spaces of nature that already have high levels of cultural and scientific interest. But what kind of landscape aesthetics is invoked by the protection of spontaneous spaces of urban nature? How can cultural or scientific complexity become part of a vibrant public culture? My recent research on Gilles Clément, for example, suggests that a different kind of synthesis between ecological science and urban design might be possible.

See Gandy, M. Entropy by design: Gilles Clément, Parc Henri Matisse and the limits to avant-garde urbanism. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 37 (1) (2013) pp. 259-278 and Gandy, M. Unintentional landscapes. Landscape Research 41 (4) (2016) pp. 443-440.

vi) Marginal spaces and cultural practice

The ambiguity of urban nature and the limits to scientific knowledge have been a focus for a variety of cultural interventions since the early 1970s. In these instances close observation, or the "botanical eye", becomes a specific form of cultural-scientific practice that can reveal new insights into the production of space and the often arbitrary assignment of cultural and economic value. The multiplicity of cultural responses to urban nature, ranging from literature to cinema, is partly related to the diversity of such sites and their varied origins: whilst some spaces have developed spontaneously within ostensibly "empty" sites, others have emerged from neglect or abandonment.

See Gandy, M. Landscapes of deliquescence in Michelangelo Antonioni's. Red Desert. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 28 (2) (2003), pp. 218-238.

Publications

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Teaching

  • Part IA Cultural Geography (contributions)
  • Part IB Berlin
  • Part II Global Urbanism (contributions)
  • Part II Landscape and Power
  • M Phil Geographical Research (contributions)
  • M Phil Film Studies and Screen Studies (contributions)

External activities

  • AHRC Peer Review College
  • ESRC Peer Review College
  • Co-editor for The International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (2012–2018)
  • Editorial boards for Architecture and Culture (2013-); Cultural Geographies (1999-); Landscape Research (2000-); Local Environment (2008-12); International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (2007-); Sub/Urban (2013-).