This week we meet Christoph Lindner, Dean and Professor in Urban Studies at The Bartlett, who talks to us about his faculty’s efforts to mobilise expertise to address climate change and his role in leading the initiative to create the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Analysis.
What is your role and what does it involve?
I am Dean and Professor in Urban Studies at The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment. The Bartlett is a wonderfully inventive and superbly talented community of scholars, practitioners, and students dedicated to radical thinking about human spaces and society. It is an exhilarating place to work, always buzzing with energy and new ideas. My job as a dean is to support all of this work and create the conditions needed for continued innovation. When I’m not doing that, I research and write on the interrelations between cities, globalization, and social-spatial inequalities (topics like gentrification, garbage, post-industrial ruins, and slow urbanism).
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I have been at UCL for just over a month, which means that I am still getting to know the university and its community. I really enjoy walking around Bloomsbury, meeting new colleagues, and exploring UCL’s buildings. Before moving to London, I was Dean of the College of Design at the University of Oregon and, before that, I spent a decade at the University of Amsterdam, where I was Professor of Media and Culture and Director of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
When I worked at the University of Amsterdam, I led an initiative to create the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Analysis, for which I served as the founding director. NICA is the Dutch national research school dedicated to the academic study of contemporary culture from an interdisciplinary, theoretical, and critical perspective. The Institute works as an academic partnership between 8 research universities in The Netherlands and, in addition to providing a platform for scholarly exchange, offers an accredited Masters and Doctoral training programme. I am proud of this initiative because it is the result of many people working together across disciplinary and institutional boundaries to build a collaborative intellectual community. Working on this project taught me a great deal about the value of collaboration.
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list
The Bartlett has many exciting initiatives, but one that I think is particularly important right now is a growing faculty-wide effort to mobilise our expertise to address climate change and its unequal effects around the world.
What is your favourite album, film or novel?
One of my all-time favourite films is Fallen Angels by Wong Kar-Wai. The film is a brilliant yet disturbing mood study of urban emptiness and disconnection set in pre-handover Hong Kong. If you want to know more, I’ve published an article on the film titled Postmetropolis and Mental Life, which you can access via the UCL network.
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
First of all, I am a morning person, so I would want to invite breakfast guests. As for who they would be, I would love to have coffee and croissants with the urbanist/activist Jane Jacobs, the modernist writer Jean Rhys, and the Ashcan painter John Sloan - all people who have deeply influenced my thinking about cities.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Listen to my parents more. It turns out they actually did know what they were talking about when they were giving me life advice as a teenager.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
Before becoming an academic, I had a previous career as an Alpine ski-racing coach.
What is your favourite place?
The outdoor terrace at the top of the cable car in Flaine (a 1970s-era, Brutalist ski resort in the Haute-Savoie region of France where I grew up). There is nothing quite like sitting on this terrace and looking out over the Mont Blanc mountain range while eating frites.