Image courtesy Ran Luo
College of Environmental Design alumnus Sben Korsh (M.S. Arch '16) was awarded the Emerging Curator Fellowship by the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montréal, Quebec. Korsh, who is currently pursuing his Master of Philosophy at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), will jointly hold the fellowship with his colleague at the University of Hong Kong, Maxime Decaudin, who is also a doctoral candidate at the Sorbonne University in Paris. Their appointment marks the first time the fellowship has been given to two people collaboratively.
Their project, titled “Natural Markets: Financial Architecture in the Capitalocene,” will “examine contemporary landscaping of financial districts as a means to better understand the intersection between climate change and global finance.” Over the course of the 2018-2019 year, Korsh and Decaudin plan to hold several residencies at the Canadian institution, and host a series of walking tours in both London's Canary Wharf and Hong Kong's Central District. “Entangled by histories of empire stretching from the early stages of industrial capitalism up to the present day, this project explores how seemingly mundane design features—like parks, plantings, and land works—reveal new frameworks to understand the inner workings of global financial markets and their wider planetary impact,” Korsh and Decaudin write.
“The idea is to host a kind of 'live exhibition,'” Korsh explains, “with us as co-curators seeking to organise a conversation outside of the gallery and out in the streets. We'll feature objects about these financial districts that come from CCA's collection, and invite contributions from experts across architecture, finance, and environmental science.”
“I became interested in financial spaces especially through writing my M.S. thesis at UC Berkeley, which looked at the corporate and urban history of the Transamerica Pyramid,” Korsh says. “While popular architecture discourse tends to view skyscrapers as almost caricatures of capitalism, I found that there’s actually a lot happening within these points in the skyline: They're essentially massive sites of elite corporate workspace, and looking at them historically can tell us a lot about how the city's economy functions and changes. I was staying in London during the summer I typed up that thesis, and found myself exploring Canary Wharf a lot, often just to people watch the huge number of financial workers.”
“My collaborator Max, while a trained architect, has been working and teaching in HKU's landscape program for the past five years,” Korsh says. “Since coming to HKU, [we] have been frequent interlocutors, and the project has come out of our overlapping interests of finance and landscape.”
Korsh first visited Hong Kong with Berkeley's Global Urban Humanities' Art + Village + City research studio. He explains “I went a few days earlier to explore the city, especially the financial district, which I wrote a seminar paper on as an undergrad.” Fast forward three years, and Korsh is now an M.Phil candidate at the University of Hong Kong, writing a thesis on the architectural history of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, under the supervision of CED alumna Cecilia L. Chu (Ph.D. Architecture '12).