S.M. Borne Lecture on Environmental Planning and Stewardship: Matthew Vitz

On Tuesday, November 12th, the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture, in conjunction with University Lectures, the Wisconsin Student Planning Association, and UniverCity Alliance had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Matthew Vitz as a part of the S.M. Borne Lecture on Environmental Planning and Stewardship. Dr. Vitz is a UW-Madison alum and Associate Professor of History at UC San Diego. Dr. Vitz is the author of A City on the Lake which details the urban political ecology and growth of Mexico City. His research interests includes the urban and environmental history of Mexico and Latin America. Dr. Vitz has published his research in the Hispanic American Historical Review, Estudios de Historia Moderna y Contemporánea de México and Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos.

Dr. Vitz’s lecture, and his work, pose a new historical take on the production and application of urban expertise through a political-ecological lens. Vitz focused on Mexico City where rapid environmental deterioration in the first half of the twentieth century accompanied decades of social and political upheaval sparked by the Revolution of 1910. Rather than view the knowledge of urban design as sealed within high political circles or international expert networks, Vitz has widened the realms of knowledge production and design applications by exploring the ways different peoples, seeking to eke a living in changing environments in and around Mexico City, challenged and shaped urban planning.

Vitz discussed how these factors have played out on the gargantuan Mexico City of the late 20th and early 21st century where new urban ecological (environmentalist) critiques sometimes dovetailed, and sometimes clashed, with bottom-up claims that are now labeled “right to the city” movements. In conclusion, Vitz offered some theoretical and conceptual reflections on how this history of one of the Global South’s first megacities might inform the theory, practice, and politics of urban design in our contemporary conjuncture.

This lecture was made possible through a generous gift from Dr. Mark Ratner to the DPLA Born Environmental Stewardship Fund. Additional funding was provided by the University Lectures General Fund.