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Therese Tierney

We eDreamers were delighted to meet so many interesting and talented colleagues at the recent Illinois Informatics Institute’s Open House. Among them was Therese Tierney, a professor who has just joined the School of Architecture and whose work and interests readily evoke the brave new arts-technology space in which we work. As an example of her interests, Therese cited Murmur, an archival audio / documentary oral history project that has so far taken place in a number of cities / locations in Canada, the US, and Europe.

What captures Murmur’s orientation for me is this portion of its project statement: “It’s history from the ground up, told by the voices that are often overlooked when the stories of cities are told. We know about the skyscrapers, sports stadiums and landmarks, but [murmur] looks for the intimate, neighbourhood-level voices that tell the day-to-day stories that make up a city. The smallest, greyest or most nondescript building can be transformed by the stories that live in it. Once heard, these stories can change the way people think about that place and the city at large.”  Evoked here is a sense of space caught up in time–shot through with impressions of life undergoing swift transition, yet also meaningful change (i.e. story)–somehow preserved in the “heard moment,” even as some digital techs hope to capture the ephemera of a web community or an urban painter a day at the park or marketplace.  To make a still more figurative leap of analogy, I am led to think the effort of psychics to gather “sense impressions” of place–a whispered word or snatch of song, even as Murmur seeks to name and fix our urban ghosts through the sounds of their passing.

Therese’s own interests are even more strongly expressed through her publications.  She’s the author of Abstract Space: Beneath the Media Surface (Routledge, 2007), which, according to editorial copy, “engages discourses from architecture, visual and cultural studies to computer science and communications technology to present an in-depth multi-media case study. Tracing a provisional history of the topic, the book also lends a provocative and multivalent understanding to the complex relations affecting the architectural image today.”  Along with Anthony Burke, Therese also edited Network Practices (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007), in which the essays, again according to editorial copy, “capture this unique moment in the evolution of design, where crossing disciplines, spatial interactions, and design practices are all poised to be reimagined. With contributions by architects, artists, computer programmers, and theorists and texts by Reinhold Martin, Dagmar Richter, Michael Speaks, and others, Network Practices offers an interdisciplinary analysis of how art, science, and architecture are responding to rapidly changing mobile, wireless, and information-embedded environments.”  Therese has also published articles in Architectural Design and our affiliate Leonardo.

Needless to say, we’re thrilled to find Therese has joined us on campus, and are looking forward to learning from one another and working together!

— Kelly Searsmith