How to Operate on a City: Corrective Surgeries for Neglected Urban Areas


What does the reconstructive Tommy John surgery that has given many injured baseball pitchers a second life and my urban renewal design strategies have in common? More than most are aware of.

On Monday, February 10th I will be giving a public lecture at the Wentworth Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture, Design, and Construction Management titled “How to Operate on a City: Corrective Surgeries for Neglected Urban Areas”. It is a lecture I’ve waited a long time to give – partly because it’s a chance to dig into the themes and processes behind some key projects, but mostly because it gives me a chance to step outside the usual paradigm of work overview lectures and explain my strategies and approaches in the context of rehabilitative and reconstruction surgery on the city. As the promotional copy for my lecture says…

Most mark the illness or injury that requires surgery by moments of being in an ill state, and then of being in recovery. We rarely have access to or understanding of the process and procedures between these two points and what is required to ensure the surgical process is successful. Scott Burnham has been invited by numerous cities around the world to devise treatments for areas of their public realm through design and architectural interventions. From rapid prototyped bus stops in Portugal to vast public designs created collectively by the public in The Netherlands, where his work was credited by author Aaron Betsky as being “some of the most promising experiments, not in urban design, but in designing the urban, I have seen so far.”

In this lecture, Burnham shares the processes and procedures behind his many projects that operate on the urban body. It will be the first time he has offered a detailed look at the method behind his work, offering wide-ranging insight into site selection, strategy and team assembly, working with unusual materials and skill sets, bringing municipal authorities along on adventurous urban projects, and what to do when a work consisting of 250,000 pennies runs afoul of the Amsterdam police.

If you are in the Boston area, I hope you’ll come along to share in an evening I’m looking forward to very much. Here are the details:

5pm, Monday, February 10, 2014
Wentworth Institute of Technology
Blount Auditorium, Annex Central
550 Parker Street, Boston, MA