SSASA » Overview

A Long History of American Studies Programs at Salzburg Global Seminar

Since Salzburg Global's founding in 1947, with the first American Studies program at Schloss Leopoldskron, the study of America has played a vital role in the history of this organization. For decades, scores of prominent intellectuals - academic and non-academic - have gathered in Salzburg to examine and debate American politics, foreign policy, economics, literature, history and culture, and America's role in the world. More than 30 American themed seminars have been organized, all are self-funded.

Session in 2016:

Images of America: Reality and Stereotypes
September 23 to 27, 2016


Interviews and coverage from our SSASA programs

Jimmy Leung: “It exerts a lot of pressure”
Jimmy Leung: “It exerts a lot of pressure”
Oscar Tollast 
In 2012, the United States welcomed 67 million visitors with a surface area of 9,826,675 square kilometers to be explored. During the same period, Hong Kong, with a surface area of 1,104 square kilometers, welcomed 48 million visitors. It was a perfect example to question the concept of sustainability and was illustrated in Peter Cookson-Smith’s opening lecture on ‘Planning and Sustainable Dimensions of Asian City Development’, during this year’s Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association symposium. Sitting amongst the audience was Jimmy Leung, the former director of planning for the Hong Kong Government. Now an honorary professor in the Department of Urban Planning and Design at the University of Hong Kong, Mr Leung was at Salzburg Global for a symposium on ‘Sustainability and the City: America and the Urban World’. Following that day’s morning presentations, Mr Leung spoke to Salzburg Global to explain how Hong Kong has tried to cope with this level of tourism.“It exerts a lot of pressure on the local community,” he said, sitting in the library of the Schloss Leopoldskron. “Some of the shopping spaces have been turned into catering for tourists. Local shops cannot afford rent and there’s congestion. But we’re trying to cope with the supply side by providing more hotels, more public spaces, and expanding the transport infrastructure to cater for this growth.” It’s not the first time Mr Leung has visited Salzburg Global. As a fellow of the session on ‘The Global Entrepreneurial City’ in 2002, Mr Leung recognized how the location helped stimulate discussion and new ideas. “It’s awesome. It’s so beautiful: the palace, the lake. More importantly, it’s the people. There’s always people coming from a number of countries and can exchange ideas. “They can catch up with each other on what’s the latest in their cities and what they’re doing. “You learn a lot through this kind of exchange, either formally within a session or just informally during our chats in our coffee breaks.” One of the main discussion points stemming from Mr Cookson-Smith’s lecture was how to plan for the unplanned. It became the subject of debate but Mr Leung appeared quite confident in his opinion. “The most successful cases in Hong Kong are not planned by the government.” He points to the use of mid-level escalators on Hong Kong Island as an example. According to Mr Leung, governments can facilitate this type of development by providing better public spaces and making surrounding areas look more attractive. “It regenerated the entire stretch of the area. It became a very vibrant area where people like to go any time of the day. “It’s this type of unplanned situation that needs to be looked at and government itself has a role to play, too.” In a career spanning 36 years, Mr Leung’s work has always somewhat been related to the city, building and urban planning. The subject of sustainability is “very attractive” to him. “It is very important in the sense that sustainability involves social, economic and environmental aspects. In building a city, usually we build these major infrastructures, making the city work. It’s more economic-oriented. “There comes a time that we need to look at other aspects like cultural activities, how to preserve biodiversity, not to mention minimize environmental pollution. All this has to come into play and make the city work, and make the people in the city happy.” Mr Leung suggested Hong Kong has reclaimed over 6,800 hectares of land from the sea in the past 150 years. This process has contributed to the construction of an airport, ports, container terminals and many parts of the newer towns. But a “very tricky situation” has since developed, after a series of judicial reviews has prevented reclamation within the Victoria Harbour. It presents a challenge for developers, but reaffirms the significance of sustainability in Hong Kong. Mr Leung said, “We have to look outside the harbour for reclamation. We are to look at greenfield sites and brownfield sites for development. But this is very difficult because the land is mostly owned by the private sector. “Somehow the community as a whole has to decide which way to go forward.”
READ MORE...
Tazalika M. te Reh: "Dialogue really is a key word here"
Tazalika M. te Reh: "Dialogue really is a key word here"
Oscar Tollast 
Tazalika M. te Reh was one of 57 participants at this year’s Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association symposium on ‘Sustainability and the City: America and the Urban World’. Speaking to Salzburg Global, Ms M. te Reh described people as “the whole purpose” of architecture.“Very often what I observe is that in the architectural education, we are not trained to listen, to try to understand what people are really interested in and what they need. It’s also difficult to accept maybe that the aesthetics that we’re taught might not resemble the needs that people really have.”With an influx of people expected to further populate cities in the next few decades, she called for a greater understanding of what people want. What we’re going to face is a challenge of managing this humungous influx of people of various diverse backgrounds. “I think the architects need to be trained in terms of being capable of being able to cope with exactly these different backgrounds, creating architecture that’s capable of providing enough niche for all these different people to enable them to develop well-being through self-determination [and] self-identification.” Ms M. te Reh is currently working on her Ph.D. thesis on architecture, space and the racial. “It deals with topics that I tackle in my research on New York City, which has to do with the future of metropolises. “I’m concentrating on the black subject in the architectural field, especially how it is represented in cities. I do that by challenging the material and immaterial aspects of architecture. “To break it down, that means that I work on build architecture by looking at specific case studies, but I also look at the body of knowledge that we gain while studying architecture, while consuming architecture and while thinking about cities.” The scholarship recipient at the Urban Transformation Ph.D. Program sees education as a “key element”. The topic of her M.A. thesis was 'Architecture from A to Z. Concept for an architectural TV show for kids'. “That actually was a first attempt in going into this mediating element of trying to find a way to educate people - who are exposed to architecture on an everyday basis – to have an opinion about their built environment but trying to give it a format. “The nice thing about education is that you will find a level of communication and it’s a good tool to get into dialogue with those who want to learn and thereby you learn from them.” At the beginning of the symposium, program director of the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association, Marty Gecek, said the key word for the conference would be “dialogue”, with participants coming from a variety of backgrounds with different perspectives. Ms M. te Reh agreed. “Dialogue really is a key word here. I never imagined the variety of backgrounds I would encounter here, the interesting issues people work on, embrace and present. That’s one of the greatest benefits to have experienced here.”
READ MORE...
Saskia Sassen: “Policy is not enough”
Saskia Sassen: “Policy is not enough”
Oscar Tollast 
Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd professor of sociology at Columbia University, has revealed some of the biggest challenges currently facing cities and their potential consequences. Professor Sassen spoke to Salzburg Global during the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association 2013 symposium on ‘Sustainability and the City: America and the Urban World’.She visited the symposium to provide a lecture on 'Bringing Cities into the Global Environmental Debate'. In the first of a series of podcasts stemming from the session, Professor Sassen outlines how cities are capable of finding solutions within the destruction of the environment.She describes how cities make matters far more urgent, and how mayors are far more engaged in facing environmental struggles than national governments. Nevertheless, Professor Sassen advocates for change to happen at a local and national level and for people’s efforts to be collectivized.This leads into the final part of the discussion as we ask Professor Sassen what we can expect cities to look like in the future, where she provides us with two contrasting scenarios.
READ MORE...
Richard Sennett: "More local, less glamorous"
Richard Sennett: "More local, less glamorous"
Oscar Tollast 
Richard Sennett has suggested to Salzburg Global that fewer local architects are getting jobs within their local communities and cities. The professor of sociology at New York University recently attended Salzburg Global as part of the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association 2013 symposium on ‘Sustainability and the City: America and the Urban World’. In our latest podcast, Professor Sennett reviews the difference between an open and closed system used in cities and what effect this has on architectural styles. It was the main topic of discussion during his lecture on ‘The Open City’ at this month’s symposium. Professor Sennett argues open systems can allow new ways of thinking, with a focus on how forms can grow and adapt over time within their communities. He describes the limitations of constructing buildings for very specific purposes, which lack resilience and are often destroyed to make way for something new. With this in mind, we discuss whether there are ways to incentivise architects to refrain from this style and to focus instead on innovation. This episode is second in a series of podcasts stemming from the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association 2013 symposium on ‘Sustainability and the City: America and the Urban World’. In our first episode, Professor Saskia Sassen discusses the environmental challenges cities face.
READ MORE...
“It can only be the beginning: the beginning of exploratory dialogue”
“It can only be the beginning: the beginning of exploratory dialogue”
Oscar Tollast 
Participants at this year’s Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association symposium have praised the session for its inclusion of a variety of voices. With the session on ‘Sustainability and the City: America and the Urban World’ coming to an end this evening, the group summed up what had been discussed and achieved. During the four-day workshop, participants discussed a number of well-known problems facing cities under the theme of sustainability and how they could be tackled. Whilst some came away with the belief that the material environment was the “least important thing in the city”, others identified the types of city systems in existence. A few participants felt that cities were, “by default”, open systems that were complex and diverse entities. But the future of cities was questioned, with one participant suggesting cities could be obsolete if unable to cope with the situations they are exposed to. But this led one participant to question: “Is there a way for us to do things differently from how we’ve done things in the past so that we don’t design cities that solve problems but try and design cities for the purpose of human beings living in them?" Other arguments considered stemmed from Saskia Sassen and Richard Sennett’s lectures on the third day of the session, including that cities ought to be more in control of what’s going on in the cities than the national governments should be. It was suggested that the idea of people who live in the cities and control their own spaces was an idea taken for granted. One of the conclusions drawn from the session was being able to rethink how solutions to sustainability and city living could be addressed. A participant said he was impressed by the notion of “opening things up, taking a step back and not rushing to conclusions”. He believed this could allow cognitive and discursive frameworks in order to understand solutions. The group’s feeling was best summed up by one participant who said: “Different people from different backgrounds react totally differently to different lectures.” However, this in itself presented its own challenge. Finding a common language and unifying all of the views collated proved to be difficult. But one participant felt this strengthened the session. He said: “If there’s disagreement, then that actually has many more benefits in terms of all the discussions that come forward. “It can only be the beginning: the beginning of exploratory dialogue.” Participants had spent the morning listening to a presentation by Fred Fisher on the topic of Art Meta-Cities. This was followed by a panel discussion on the cultural representations in and of the city, featuring contributions from: Petra Eckhard, Anna Krawczyk-Laskarzewska, Madeline Lyes Nicola Mann, Ana Manzanas, and Tazalika te Reh. Multidisciplinary approach Symposium co-chair, Ron Clifton, said the mixture of academics and professionals at the session provided a number of alternative perspectives. Reviewing the session, he said: “It raises questions about the city and our great message out of this is there are problems we need to address that we have yet to fully articulate. “How do you sustain a city and how does a city get sustainable in terms of planning or in terms of involving people?” He added: “If the idea you come out with from this session is: ‘What kind of action can I take in conjunction with helping to maintain the viability of cities and an improvement of life?’ then we’ve done our job.” Mr Clifton’s co-chair, Christopher Bigsby, suggested the session’s atmosphere helped discussions and ideas formulate. “There’s really no distinction between the people that stand up here and say something and the people down there that say something, because they’re all experts in their own area.” Whilst a number of sessions in the past have resulted in declarations and action statements, this particular session hasn't. But in response to this, Mr Bigsby said: “Everybody will take things away from this seminar which they didn’t bring to the seminar, but they discovered precisely through discussing things with other people.” Symposium director, Marty Gecek, shared these sentiments. She concluded: “As of today we’ve completed 11 symposia under the auspice of this professional American Studies Association, and we’ve touched on many of the issues involved with sustainability of the city. “We’ve discussed the social, cultural, economic and political roles that cities play in the lives of their inhabitants. “Sustainability is about balancing the needs of people with the needs of the environment, including the built environment.”
READ MORE...
SSASA Symposium - Day 3: The City and Globalization
SSASA Symposium - Day 3: The City and Globalization
Oscar Tollast 
Sociologists Saskia Sassen and Richard Sennett visited Salzburg Global today to lecture participants at this year's Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association symposium. The married couple gave separate lectures both before and after lunch, each focusing on a specific subject area. Prior to this, participants had split into topical discussion groups to discuss a number of issues. These included: culture and the city; race, ethnicity and the city; and linking technology to the city. Professor Sassen's lecture was entitled 'Bringing Cities into the Global Environmental Debate', whilst Professor Sennett's lecture focused on 'The Open City'. With her husband speaking after lunch, Professor Sassen took to the podium beforehand, describing it as "a great pleasure" to be at Salzburg Global. The professor of sociology at Columbia University started her presentation by suggesting implementing policy wasn't enough in tackling environmental issues that often veered off into "the wrong direction". She said: "You have to mobilize [city populations] in terms of the specifics of their neighborhood, their concerns - not by some sort of central command. "The truth of the matter is that science is not enough in the cities. There is a lot of other stuff happening in the cities, and so cities are a challenge.” Professor Sassen’s research and writing focuses on globalization, immigration, and global cities. She was chosen as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy. Cities were a “complex but incomplete system” with the capacity to keep reinventing themselves, according to Professor Sassen, but she didn’t advocate a return to nature. "There are laws that work against you. A lot of what is lawful today actually works against the environment. A lot of what feeds the dynamism of urban economies is against environment." Following lunch, Professor Sennett discussed how design matters to the vitality of the city. The professor of sociology at New York University and at the London School of Economics and Political Science discussed the difference between open and closed city systems. He described how a closed system, whilst lacking innovation and rupture, held context. Professor Sennett highlighted star shaped cities as an example. “Nothing is left to chance, in order that every block has equal access to resources in the city. “Nobody’s left out. That’s the brilliance that everybody has access to everything in the city but they have it by virtue of micro-planning.” Open systems, on the other hand, contain far more complexity in the formation of streets where multiple functions can be carried out, and allowing for innovation. But Professor Sennett explained the problem presented by the system. “We’re advocating something that requires cultural persuasion even though the notion of an open city is very attractive. “In principle we’re advocating something that is disrupted – particularly in a modern western context – when people want from where they dwell a sense of security.” Professor Sennett’s research has explored the ways in which individuals and groups make social and cultural sense of the cities in which they live. He added: “The emergence of a new form other than old is perhaps the most fundamental fact about an open system. It is a fact which sociologists have puzzled over as much as mathematicians.” Following Professor Sennett's lecture, participants received a break before attending a fireside chat in the Schloss Leopoldskron’s Great Hall, where Bernardus Djonoputro provided an interesting discussion on Jakarta, as a case study for sustainable planning and Asian cities. Mr Djonoputro, secretary-general of the Indonesian Association of Urban and Regional Planners, spoke about the area's risk to flooding but how steps could be made to fight this challenge. These included engaging the community and government, identifying the meaning of the flood, finding synchronizing tools, transmitting related information and converting it into a readable language to be shared by all.
READ MORE...
SSASA Symposium - Day 2: Sustaining the City
SSASA Symposium - Day 2: Sustaining the City
Oscar Tollast 
A series of discussions under the theme of sustaining the city took place today at the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association symposium. Participants spent the morning listening to architect, planner and urban designer Peter Cookson Smith, and Slavis Poczebutas, a project director at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). Mr Cookson Smith’s lecture was entitled, ‘Planning and Sustainable Dimensions of Asian City Development’. Covering the development of a continent, Mr Cookson Smith discussed colonial and post-colonial activity, talking about the disappearance and emergence of architecture, protection of cultural areas, and vertical living versus the street scene. Mr Cookson Smith said: “At the end of World War Two, only 17 per cent of Asians lived in cities. By 2013, this has grown to more than 50 per cent. “In certain situations cities have evolved into mega urban regions or expanded natural areas, as a result of concentrated economic development and investment.” Social, political, economic and aesthetic challenges represented by the growth of cities were also raised. The architect has written regularly on the subject of urban design and sits on Hong Kong Government’s Harbourfront Commission, the Land Advisory Policy Committee, and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council Infrastructure Committee. Following his lecture, he added: “From all this, can we dare to simplify some of these issues? Can we build on the strengths that are inherent in those Asian cities? “Asian cities are different in all sorts of ways but what strikes me is how many similarities there are.” Symposium co-chair, Christopher Bigsby, reminded participants that the topics so far were a reminder of how much they’ve taken on. Meanwhile, Mr Poczebutas, provided a lecture to the group, entitled ‘Out of Touch – The Corrosion of the Natural’. He spoke of key drivers for change in a society in transformation, noting the impact of technology. The architect suggested society was becoming increasingly estranged from nature. "By answering the basic questions we might be able to identify again the vision of future possibilities. As I've described before, there are a series of trends which are all closely interrelated and manifesting into a society that's strange and disconnected from their natural foundation." Mr Poczebutas has in depth experience in the design of buildings and the urban spaces between them. He led the design and management of various large scale projects such as the New Hamad International Airport City development and Media Masterplan in Qatar. Mr Poczebutas added: "Cities will not be able to exist without their rural hinterlands and where cities might fail in the future, the rural territory can even be their savior." Following lunch, the group broke off into smaller discussion groups to discuss: culture and the city; cities around the world – culturally, socially economically, and politically; and the role of civil society in urban life and development. This extended further after a coffee break, with new discussion groups forming on: the ideal city of the future; architecture and the urban crisis; the Asian experience in the sustainability and liveability of cities.
READ MORE...
Displaying results ###SPAN_BEGIN###%s to %s out of ###SPAN_BEGIN###%s

PODCASTS

VIDEOS