The Berlage

Session
—12:45

Calculation and Speculation

Patrice Derrington

Speculative private development is now responsible for delivering the larger proportion of the global urban built environment, even within state-ruled countries. But, unchecked, it is also held to be responsible for the tragic displacement of communities, unaffordability of housing, controversial additions to city typography and the increasing inequality of society. Private developers are typecast as brutal and greedy. How does such a criticized and disparaged activity persist as the most compelling force in the formation of our increasingly popular urban environments? But importantly, seeking the answer to this question must go beyond the common superficial description of property development’s methods and the continued litany of what is done badly. Rather it must elicit and expose its codified protocols by which the essential decisions and actions are formalized through a set of general terms and concepts that are otherwise hidden in the play of customary context practice.

This exploration locates the earliest instances of this activity that has been distributed and assiduously adopted within a variety of politico-economic conditions and geographies. This was seventeenth century London. Born of a primordial soup of unique constructs, actions and events, throughout its evolution, private development practice was so insidiously aligned with the dominant political, economic and social interests that its fundamental structure became deeply embedded within the urbanization of the Anglo-American world and rising capitalism. It was exported as the prevailing method of delivering the built environment throughout the colonized world of the eighteenth century and continues as germane to globalized capital today.

This lecture is part of The Berlage Sessions, a thematic Friday afternoon seminar series entitled “Architectures of Speculation,” which considers architecture’s historical and contemporary relationship to real estate speculation, from urban developments associated with nineteenth-century London, fin-de-siècle Paris, and postwar Rome; to land ownership, the spatial ordering of property, and buildings as financial instruments. Lecturers will include Gabriel Cuéllar, Patrice Derrington, Florian Hertweck, Forbes Massie, Andrew Saint, Davide Spina, and Alexia Yates.

Patrice Derrington is the Marc Holliday Professor and Director of the Real Estate Development program at Columbia University. Her academic credentials include a Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley, Harvard MBA and B. Arch from the University of Queensland. In her industry experience on Wall Street, Patrice worked as an investment banker, advisor, and fund manager to major individual and institutional clients such as David Rockefeller, Keybank, and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. She is also a registered architect and has led numerous urban development projects in the USA and Australia.

Image: excerpt from "Calculation and Speculation" by Patrice Derrington, in: Baumeister, 2019.