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VIsiting Lecture | Celeste Olalquiaga, El Helicoide: From Mall to Prison

Thursday, April 12, 2018, 2 - 3pm

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Inspired by the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and capped with a Buckminster Fuller dome designed by Donald Richter (the first such dome installed outside the U.S.), Venezuela's concrete spiral seemed destined to consolidate Caracas as a modern Latin American capital in the late 1950s. A futuristic shopping mall with 2.5 miles of vehicular ramps, El Helicoide would have featured 320 stores, exhibition halls, inclined elevators and close-circuit television. The project faltered months from completion and the building was relegated to the backdrop of the city's southern slum-covered hills. Despite myriad attempts at recovery, the site has only known two uses: as a temporary refuge for 10,000 people in the late 1970s, and as a police headquarters and penal institution since 1985 on.

Celeste Olalquiaga is a cultural historian dedicated to the contradictions and leftovers of modernity. She is the author of Megalopolis: Contemporary Cultural Sensibilities and The Artificial Kingdom: A Treasury of the Kitsch Experience.  Most recently she co-edited Downward Spiral: El Helicoide's Descent from Mall to Prison.

The Lecture is followed by a book-signing of: 

Downward Spiral: El Helicoide’s Descent from Mall to Prison
co-edited by Celeste Olalquiaga and Lisa Blackmore (Urban Research, 2018)

This event is open to current Cooper Union students, faculty, and staff. The public may RSVP to specifying the event title. Room 315F. 

Located at 7 East 7th Street, between Third and Fourth Avenues

  • 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.