In Conversation | Will Shapiro and Farzin Lotfi-Jam: Extracting Urban Intelligence

Thursday, October 29, 2020, 11am - 1pm

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Control Syntax Rio, project by Farzin Lotfi-Jam and Mark Wasiuta. Photo Courtesy of Pim Top.
Control Syntax Rio, project by Farzin Lotfi-Jam and Mark Wasiuta. Photo Courtesy of Pim Top.

This event will be conducted through Zoom. Please register in advance here. Zoom account registration is required.

In a free, public event as part of the In Conversation lecture series, Will Shapiro, Adjunct Faculty at The Cooper Union and Co-Founder and CEO of Topos, will be in conversation with Farzin Lotfi-Jam, Assistant Professor Adjunct at The Cooper Union and director of multidisciplinary design studio Farzin Farzin. They will examine both the utility and aesthetics of big data in urban design, from the lenses of their professional and research practices.

Will Shapiro is the Co-Founder and CEO of Topos, a company dedicated to changing the way we understand location through the interconnected lenses of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence. He received his B. Arch from Cooper Union in 2013. Prior to studying architecture, he studied Mathematics, with a focus on Algebraic Topology, at Brown University, Cambridge University and The University of Chicago. At Brown, he discovered a relationship between the Fibonacci numbers and a set of continued fractions; the resulting paper was awarded the David Howell Premium for Excellence in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy by Brown University. While working with Cecil Balmond in London, Shapiro developed a suite of software tools for visualizing and producing novel geometries based on higher dimensional mathematics. For his thesis at Cooper, he created modeling software that allows architects to understand how the structures they design react to forces in real time. More recently, he has been developing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding big data through innovations in machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing, geometry, topology and statistics. Prior to founding Topos, Shapiro was Head of Research at Seed Scientific (2013-2015) and Head of Research, Analytics at Spotify (2015-2017). Shapiro holds nine patents in Artificial IntelligenceI/Machine Learning.

Farzin Lotfi-Jam is director of Farzin Farzin, a multidisciplinary design studio working across architecture, urbanism, computation and media. He is faculty in The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at the Cooper Union and at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and is currently an M+/Design Trust Research Fellow. His practice investigates the history of computational paradigms and experiments in their contemporary application. From modeling the control matrices of smart cities to spatializing the cultural logics of social media, his individual and collaborative projects are research-based and multimediatic. His work has been collected by the Centre Pompidou and the Sharjah Art Foundation, and his research has been supported by the Graham Foundation, Akademie Schloss Solitude, and The Shed where he was an inaugural Open Call Artist. He has been exhibited at Storefront for Art and Architecture, MAXXI, the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Oslo Architecture Triennale, the Istanbul Design Biennial, the Seoul Architecture Biennial, the Sharjah Architecture Triennial, and elsewhere. His co-authored book Modern Management Methods: Architecture, Historical Value, and the Electromagnetic Image was recently published by Columbia University Press.

This lecture and discussion is free and accessible to the public.

View the full Fall 2020 Lectures and Events List.


  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.