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Room One Thousand

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Room One Thousand is a student-run, multi- and inter-disciplinary architecture journal at the University of California, Berkeley. The journal seeks to highlight new and innovative research pertaining to the study of the built environment by fostering conversation between members of the buildings sciences, social sciences, arts, architecture and humanities. Room One Thousand publishes written essays, photographs, architectural drawings, videos, and any other media format amenable to the web and printed page.

Urban Pilgrimage

a global urban humanities special issue


Urban Pilgrimage

A list of city names is enough to evoke the wonder of travel. “Trieste, Zurich, Paris.”—the closing line of James Joyce’s classic Ulysses—provides, as Alain de Botton writes, a record of the book’s production and the cosmopolitanism it grew out of. “Cairo, Bombay, Shanghai” traces other passages, trade routes perhaps or the wandering imagination of oriental fantasies similar to those that run through “Rome, Jerusalem, Mecca.” Thus listed, cities act like nodes along longer lines of travel. While some networks forge the outlines of territory, others trace less grounded modes of connection. The itineraries of travel, scribbled on parchment, etched in stone, or uploaded online, simply serve to recall journeys between places and the connections made and then subsumed within them...

Losing My Religion in Oaxaca

You never step into the same market twice, never more so than when you wade into the Mercado Abastos, the largest market in Oaxaca City, and one of the largest in Mexico...

Water's Pilgrimage in Rome

Rome is one of the world’s most hallowed pilgrimage destinations. Each year, the Eternal City’s numinous qualities draw millions of devout Christians to undertake a pilgrimage there just as they have for nearly two millennia. Visiting the most venerable sites, culminating with St. Peter’s, the Mother Church of Catholicism, the processional journey often reinvigorates faith among believers. It is a cleansing experience for them, a reflective pause in their daily lives and yearly routines. Millions more arrive in Rome with more secular agendas. With equal zeal they set out on touristic, educational, gastronomic, and retail pilgrimages. Indeed, when in Rome, I dedicate at least a full and fervent day to “La Sacra Giornata di Acquistare le Scarpe,” the holy day of shoe shopping, when I visit each of my favorite stores like so many shrines along a sacred way. Although shoes are crucial to our narrative and to the completion of any pilgrimage conducted on foot, our interest in this essay lies elsewhere, in rededicating Rome’s vital role as a city of reflective pilgrimage by divining water’s hidden course beneath our feet (in shoes, old or new) as it flows out to public fountains in an otherwise parched city. Just as streams of religious pilgrims flow through the Eternal City, sustaining and reinvigorating it with every step, so too the flow of water through Rome nourishes and rejuvenates the city with every drop...

De Vieux-Montréal à Kahnawa:ké

The story of an urban pilgrimage between settler and aboriginal cultures

Terra Incognita: No way from here to there?

The official at City Hall was polite, if disinterested, up until the moment we told her where we wanted to go. Suddenly, her face took on a pinched look, the look of a bureaucrat who is hearing news that might cause a lot of extra work. “Ah non, you can’t walk from here to Kahnawake,” she said...

From the Fields to the City Gates

Experiencing Spatial Transition in Medieval Pilgrimage

‘He is by grace a pilgrim here below, by grace a citizen of there above.’

Romans 9:21

Evocative of cloak swaddled figures crossing windswept moorlands, mountain passes and barren deserts to fall prostrate before some bejewelled splendour in a foreign land, pilgrimage remains one of the most documented and well known phenomena of human history, particularly in Medieval Europe. It also offers an as yet poorly tapped well for research into Medieval sensory history. As an experience both accessible to all, although hyper-personal, and as a window into one of the deepest human yearnings (to access a touchstone with the divine), pilgrimage is a well from whose waters scholars are beginning to drink more deeply...


GeoGuessr's Digital Pilgrimages

In 2012, the BBC posted an article about a thirty-year-old man who found his childhood home using Google Maps. As a child, Saroo Brierley was separated from his brother and could not find his way back to their village. He was taken into an orphanage and eventually adopted by a couple with whom he moved to Tasmania. Twenty-five years later, he was able to locate his original home by looking at street views of roads and settlements around Calcutta. This rediscovery seemed little short of miraculous, given both the size of the country and the haziness of his memory. What led him back to his village was Google Earth’s photographic precision: it captured a familiar landscape in a way that came close to his lost experience of it...

City of One Thousand Temples

A Network of Hearsay in South India

Although the South Indian city of Kanchipuram is popularly known as the City of One Thousand Temples, there is no existing prescribed circuit, and no comprehensive temple listing or map to guide visitors.* Rather, the thousands of pilgrims who flood the city daily usually only know about the five most famous temples. Scattered street signs throughout the busy city point the way to these sprawling monuments, which are always crowded and especially thronged at festival times (Figure 1). However, other pilgrims arrive seeking particular temples, such as those extolled in hymns found in premodern texts, or temples that enshrine a deity to which a pilgrim’s family has a particular allegiance. For these and hundreds of other temples—some of which are vast, multi-building complexes and others single shrines—there is no sign to guide the way. Upon arrival, as they pass from Kanchi’s rural surrounds into the densely compacted urban core, visitors must ask directions from street vendors, auto-rickshaw drivers, local guides, and priests, in order to determine a logical order for their visit. Pilgrims choose which temples to visit based on the particular fame of each, a fame that reached them through a long history of hearsay. For this reason, many of Kanchi’s temples today remain unknown even to locals. While a particular temple might be the site of one person’s daily morning prayer, another resident may never have even heard of it...

Diary of a Failed Pilgrim June 2014

The roots of giant oak trees rose up to grab me, and the rocks seemed determined to block my path as I scrambled down the slippery, muddy trail to a little creek. Mosquitos bit the back of my neck. What was I doing here in the middle of the French wilderness, “walking” the Camino de Santiago from Le Puy to Conques? Why do they call it a walk? It is a strenuous hike…not just one, but day after day after day after day. On my own pilgrimage along the route, I was exhausted. My toes were crushing each other and every step was torture. Every tiny village was either at the bottom of a steep, craggy mountain or at the top of a hill. Either way, it was a daily scramble up or down. All the books, blogs, films, and friends who came before me didn’t prepare me for this. They call it “walking the Camino” but it is walking, hiking, climbing, scrambling, limping…

Temporary Flows & Ephemeral Cities

In recent years, the physical structure of cities has evolved, morphing, mutating and becoming more malleable, fluid, and more open to change than the technology and social institutions that generate them. Today, urban settlements globally face increasing flows of human movement, acceleration in the amount and periodicity of natural disasters, and iterative economic crises that modify streams of capital and their allocation to physical components of cities. As a consequence, urban settings are required to be more flexible in order to better organize and resist outside and inside pressures. In this context, there is a lot we can learn from “ephemeral cities,” the outcomes of massive contemporary pilgrimages, when rethinking the forms future cities should take and the strategies to intervene in them. With this idea in mind, three years ago, we began to gather evidence on cities that are, by nature, ephemeral. “The Research Project on The Ephemeral City” at the Harvard Graduate School of Design is an effort to systematically analyze cities and settlements built with an explicit expiry date...

A Fistful of Barley

Forming Tibetan Taipei

On a humid afternoon about five years ago, just off a narrow alleyway bordered by homogenous rows of five-storey apartment structures that line much of the crowded1, subtropical metropole of Taipei City, inside a Tibetan restaurant that occupied the ground floor of one of those narrow buildings, I sat, ostensibly doing ethnography, but really playing with the food I had just ordered. Of course, these two specific events of doing ethnography and playing with food are not necessarily contradictory...

Sites of Representation

Since its conception, the United Nations (UN) has often convened in spaces that possess extraordinarily rich performance histories. Examples range from the signing of the UN Charter in the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House to the appropriation of former sites of World Fairs for meetings of the General Assembly and more recent ad hoc conventions held within performing arts centers. These theatres do more than solve the logistics of how to assemble a large number of bodies; these spaces perform and they create the conditions for performative action to occur. This photo essay collects a series of images from the UN Online News and Media Photo Archive which document the history of the organization and its work. The images I have selected recall the other performance histories that haunt the theatrical spaces so as to draw attention to the symbolic playing field that the UN acts upon. These images beckon us to contemplate the complex relationship between the physical and material reality of the theatrical spaces of the UN and the symbolic actions created by the use of theatrical structures—for it is no coincidence that the General Assembly would makes its home the site of the 1939 World Fair, “Building the World of Tomorrow,” which included a model of “Democracity.” Democracy has always been located in the theatre. The Greeks used theatres as democratic institutions and their dramatic texts were designed to promote democratic debate in public space. Unlike UN meetings which have taken place in corporate spaces, such as hotels and convention centers, and private spaces, such as resorts and chalets, the meetings in theatres retain the Greek connection to public space and connect the content of the meeting to the world outside. The theatre is thus a key site in which to investigate the cultural practices that go about building the world in a city...

Urban Place Making/ Performing Rural Memories

The Folk Memory Project at Caochangdi Workstation

In the summer of 2014, at Tsinghua University in Beijing, I gave a paper to my Chinese language classmates and instructors introducing Caochangdi Workstation and its Folk Memory Project. It was an act of translation, both from one language into another and of experience into discourse. Figure 1 is the lecture in Chinese and Figure 2 its translation into English...

Kingship, Buddhism and the Forging of a Region

Medieval Pilgrimage in West Nepal

West Nepal provides a unique space to think about pilgrimage in the past. For many centuries, this central Himalayan region lay at the fringes of neighboring states. During the 13th century CE, the Khasa Malla dynasty established a kingdom here with seasonal capitals at Sinja and Dullu, which soon grew to encompass the entire region as well as parts of India and Tibet (Adhikary 1997; Pandey 1997) (Figure 1). With these developments, the region became a key zone of interaction. Capitalizing on pre-existing routes and connections, it connected India to the Silk Road, and provided a conduit for the spread and survival of Indian Buddhism...

Blacksmith Caravans on the Move

[cart blacksmiths]

The gaduliya lohar are the traditional travelling blacksmiths of southeastern Rajasthan, who identify their ancestry as the weapon makers of the Rajput rulers of Mewad at Chittorgarh. When Mogul king Akbar invaded the fort, they escaped, and, ashamed at the failure of their weapons, vowed never to return to Chittorgarh until Mewad was restored. This identity has carried forward to the present, and still defines them as a community. Throughout their history, they have travelled from village to village, repairing and selling farm and household tools. As cities have expanded, and industrialized implements have taken the market, the competition has stiffened and work has dwindled. But the draw of the city remains, and many lohar have set up camp in the city for longer periods, and with fewer caravan accoutrements because ox carts are bulky and urban oxen are expensive to maintain. Still, the gaduliya lohar remain squatters, permanently camping and treated as outsiders wherever they are located...

Concrete's Many Fair-Faces

The Local Conditions of a Global Material

Concrete is ubiquitous. Its plasticity allows for nearly limitless forms. Its mutability results in numerous different appearances.Readily available and accessible, it can be found across the globe. It is, perhaps, nowhere quite as ubiquitous as in cities. In the late post-war years, after the dissolution of CIAM and the rejection of International Style Modernism, with its fey white stucco forms, Brutalism offered a new paradigm for urban reconstruction. Its forms were monumental and heroic, its materials straightforward and robust. Though the provenance of the term “Brutalism” seems forever unsettled––Brut as a nod to Le Corbusier’s Beton Brut (raw concrete), or as a play on Peter Smithson’s rumored AA nickname “Brutus,” or, even further, derived from Hans Asplund’s use of “Nybrutalism” in referring to the small cabin of his contemporaries Bengt Edman and Lennart Holm––concrete would prove to be a favored material of Brutalism for its dynamism of form, its versatility of function (structure/enclosure/partition) and its unapologetic appearance.1 Nearly 50 and 60 years old today (and thus entering what might be considered architectural old age), many of the built works of this post-war movement are struggling to meet contemporary standards of performance and aesthetics. Increasingly caught between the conflicting imperatives of preservation and urban renewal, a number of these structures have already been demolished and still more await the wrecking ball...

In Demonstration

In Ghostly Matters, the sociologist Avery F. Gordon suggests that we “ponder the paradox of providing a hospitable memory for ghosts out of a concern for justice.”1 The phrase she italicizes is from Jacques Derrida’s Specters of Marx, as is the concept, though, in Derrida’s original, the paradox is so elaborately convoluted as to seem unable to extricate itself from the idea at hand. In the event, he opts to glimpse no more than a glimpse.2 Fair enough. Very early on, Derrida says his text will proceed “like an essay in the night.”3 Mine, however, like its subject, will proceed in bright daylight. This essay is about a protest march that took place on a beautiful spring day, from noon to five, though it was part of something that had already taken place, and would take place again, and, perhaps, was never not taking place, namely protestation...

The Rhetoric of Return

Diasporic Homecoming and the New Indian City

“We set out, [my father] and my mother and I, for Karol Bagh. ‘15/64 Western Extension Area, Ajmal Khan Road,’ he chanted momentously in the back of the car. We drove through the wide, fluid streets of the bureaucratic area…the entire area was bursting at the seams: shops and warehouses extended out onto the streets, apartments had grown upwards and outwards into every possible gap, and parked cars filled in the rest. We missed our turn and had to do a U-turn, a mistake that cost us half an hour…My father became increasingly upset as we penetrated deeper and deeper into the end-of-day clamour. ‘Karol Bagh used to be a bagh,’ he said, ‘a garden. I used to ride my bike on these streets. What happened?’”—Rana Dasgupta1

Journey to Juazeiro

Approaches to an Urban Pilgrimage in Northeast Brazil

One of the Brazilian interior’s fastest growing consumer meccas, Juazeiro do Norte also remains the center of a seemingly traditional religious pilgrimage that draws several million visitors to the city each year. The pilgrims—who have become a national media icon for an older Brazil—pay homage to the priest Father Cicero Romão Batista (1844-1934) in a journey initially triggered by his role in a reputed miracle in 1889.1 Much of the Roman Catholic hierarchy opposed anything that had to do with Juazeiro for well over a century and supported the attack by government soldiers, in 1914, upon the city, whose defenders repelled them.2 Today, new challenges from Evangelical Protestantism in a region once considered a bastion of Catholicism have led Rome to consider the restoration of Father Cicero’s long-suspended priestly orders.3 At the same time, the Araripe Basin, in which Juazeiro is located, has become the first United Nations geopark in the Americas—a prestigious recognition of the region’s identity as a home to ancient geological formations and remarkably-preserved fossils of interest to eco-tourists.4

Art, Cinema, and Life Outside the Imperial Ring

A Little History of the Austria Filmmakers’ Cooperative

The screen comes to life with a blindingly bright white field illuminating the words: materialaktion mühl; 6/64; mama und papa; copyright kren. It’s dark again. A pair of lips appears in the center of frame. Floating. Suspended for a few seconds. The screen goes dark again. When the image re-appears it shows a naked woman (Annie Brus) with her legs splayed open, head thrown forward in an ecstatic pose, and red paint running down her torso. Once her iconically-centered body disappears from the frame, things are set off into a frenzy of movement, not to come to a resting point, like the one offered by Brus’ body, for the remainder of the four minutes. The moving image that confronts a viewer in Kurt Kren and Otto Mühl’s Mama und Papa (1964) is a raucous flurry of flickering parts—mostly body parts—that, more often than not, are almost unrecognizable outside of their gritty yet seductively glistening surface textures. The bodies that appear in the film, including both Mühl’s and Brus’s, are captured from multiple and continually shifting angles as the two engage in various erotic(ized) gestures, from a dry session of coitus more ferarum, to nipple suckling, to indiscernible scenes of fleshiness. These gestures, though, are never shown in their entirety. Instead, they reemerge over and over again, as fragmented, interrupted, and obsessively repetitive image sequences...

Nearing Nanjing, 1938

The Beautiful, the Empty, and the Dead

Travel begins, despite any designs of the traveler to the contrary, with self-serving anticipation. The very act of crossing borders, of encountering linguistic foreignness, sets the individual traveler in a position of vulnerability—at the very least, within the realm of the word. One’s semiotic world becomes looser, more slippery, evasive. In this vulnerability, perhaps, it is a matter of course that the traveler resorts to whatever discourse is available to understand the new world in which travel takes place. Paradoxically, the experience of freedom from meaning often pushes the traveler—who may become the travel writer—back toward well-trod routes, time-honored conventions and cliché. Human and non-human objects observed in the land of travel, captured by the old-new words of this reactionary writer, are then entered into their particular textual economy, static prey to traveler’s representation. For the travel writer, there is no such thing as discursive naïvete...


Reaching for Istanbul’s Urban Pilgrimage Sites

Stories about historic architectural sites of religious function, and the contemporary communities of practicing Muslims who use them, flow through the city of Istanbul. The oral histories I have collected reveal aspects of the use of architecture in the expression of belief and identity amongst “mainstream” Sunnis, minority Islamic traditions of various Sufi orders, and the spiritual lineages of Aleviism. These narratives work together with the sites themselves to build a picture of religious life. There are many ways of being Muslim which the city simultaneously forbids, masks, selects, and encourages, depending upon the acceptability of certain affiliations in particular periods of time. This acceptability was and continues to be dependant upon neighborhood demographics, political leadership, legal designations, and power and control over the use of architecture and space. To capture the kinetic animation and the malleability of comportment at different places of pilgrimage, when their very essence and appeal is often in their perceived permanence and historicity, is an exercise in tapping into the experiential element of life in a city built, quite literally, around its shrines. This essay is composed in three parts: a series of written vignettes, a photo log, and a short essay. The parts work together, but they also function individually. I see them, in a way, as another comment upon the topic of urban pilgrimage, given that it is something that is all at once experiential, sensory, and narrative, and yet unarguably related to socio-political and economic realities...

Review of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

by Haruki Murakami

Translated by Philip Gabriel.

New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014

The fictional works of Haruki Murakami have always been structured according to a quest narrative, but Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage explicitly prioritizes this trajectory. The novel deviates from the author’s publications since Norwegian Wood in its confinement to the mundane, chronological sphere, rather than alternating between mimetic reality and “the other world,” or the supernatural, temporally suspended state where the Murakami protagonist negotiates his or her ontological split within a reified terrain of the subconscious. The author’s predilection for metatextual cartography can be traced to the literalization of the psyche into a mind-map, the most facile identification being the subterranean well—ido in Japanese—with the Freudian id. With the exception of a few comparatively realistic prose works, Boku, the omnipresent and interchangeable Murakami (male) hero, is unfailingly propelled on a quest that culminates in a katabasis (surpassing traditional confines to the horizontal plane) to the other world, following a predetermined ascetic, meditative period in which the protagonist (and reader) must await properly timed revelations through an established ritual of spiritual purging and fortification in a geographically exiled, historically charged space. This ascetic practice— as seen in A Wild Sheep Chase, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and Kafka on the Shore—necessitates isolation and corporeal and spatial purity (physical exercise, housecleaning, abstinence from alcohol and sexual relations, meditation) in a temporally and spatially ‘sacred space’ (the mountain retreat, the well, and the cabin, respectively) in preparation for legitimate crossing...

Dense Ecologies/City and Bay Student Projects

From the effects of hydraulic mining in the 19th century, through the combined effects of bay fill in the 20th, to the de-industrialized (and often demilitarized) brownfields of the early 21st, the San Francisco Bay is an exemplary crucible of the often-fraught relationship between cities and the larger ecology that support them. And as the margin’s of today’s bay begin to be returned to a “natural” state through extensive man-made remediation, we seek to question whether the bay can also be a new vessel, of a new kind of relationship between cities and ecologies; one that emphasizes the reciprocal nature of the relationship between urban civilization and natural wild, and avoids oversimplification and image-making in favor of the real complexities of cities and landscapes developing together. As noted by William Cronon, a skeptical attitude about “Nature” is not at all a rejection of the ideals of sustainability and ecological survival; rather, it might be vital to them...