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America Misplaced: An Examination of Place and Non-Place in Images of Contemporary America

Part 2 Dissertation 2020
Maya Chandler
Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL) | UK
Driven by a personal quest to understand an ambiguous sense of connection to the anonymous and repetitive nature of urban sprawl in the United States, this essay explores the definitions of place and non-place in relation to images of American urban landscapes. Towards this, the essay constructs a comparative reading of urbanism-focused studies from theorists such as E. Relph, A.F. Wood, K. Lynch, to broader anthropological and philosophical positioning from Augé, Baudrillard and Picon. The point of the study is not to propose direct solutions within the realm of urban planning, but to attempt to understand the psychological and emotive connections to, and disconnections from, problematic urban spaces, tracing society’s dichotomous relation to the spaces of ‘hypermodernity’, both functioning and in ruins. Core to this task is the study of the representation of US urban space in photography, from practitioners such as Jesse Rieser, Gregory Crewdson and William Eggleston. The survey covers four main conflicts, that of homogeneity, history, meaning and identity, examining the complexity and incongruity therein, and echoing the broader societal ambiguity about the meaning and value of such spaces.
Maya Chandler

Robin Wilson
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