John Fitzgerald and Matthew Niederhauser

Peripheral high-rises in the far north of metropolitan Mumbai, India, 2015. Photo: Matthew Niederhauser, John Fitzgerald, and the MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism
Informal development in the northern peripheries of Mumbai, India, 2015. Photo: Matthew Niederhauser, John Fitzgerald, and the MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism
Suburban residential development in Johannesburg, South Africa, 2015. Photo: Matthew Niederhauser, John Fitzgerald, and the MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism.
Exclusive suburban gated community in Johannesburg, South Africa, 2015. Photo: Matthew Niederhauser, John Fitzgerald, and the MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism
Future of Suburbia. Photo: John Fitzgerald and Matthew Niederhauser.

Capturing the pace and process of global suburbanization

About the Residency

In collaboration with the MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism (CAU), artists John Fitzgerald and Matthew Niederhauser documented suburbia across the world. In the United States—particularly the West Coast and the South—they focus on regions where suburbanization is happening at a huge scale and affecting millions of people. Fitzgerald and Niederhauser’s work tracks suburbia’s physical, social and environmental manifestations and, as suburbia manifests itself differently in each city, their work represents the unique forces at work in each locale.

As part of their residency with CAST and the CAU, Matthew Niederhauser and John Fitzgerald led a workshop for CAU staff and students on their artistic and technical processes for shooting aerial photography. The first part of the workshop was a review of photos and video from their recent trips to India, Africa and Brazil and a discussion on theory and important considerations for capturing urban issues. The second part of the workshop included a field trip to a park to explore the technical side of aerial photography.

At the “Future of Suburbia,” conference and exhibition held at MIT in 2016, Fitzgerald and Niederhauser presented aerial footage, interviews and local conditions in key locations in the world’s most rapidly urbanizing countries, including India, South Africa, Mozambique, Brazil, China and Indonesia.

Presented by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST).

Public Events

Past Events

Future of Suburbia Exhibition
Monday, January 25 through Saturday, April 2, 2016
Okawa Lobby
MIT Media Lab, E14
75 Amherst Street, Cambridge, MA

The Future of Suburbia exhibition will be a multimedia synthesis of multiple years of research that has involved students, faculty, and practitioners. The exhibition will center on a dynamic physical model of a future polynomial suburb developed with support from CAST. The model will be complemented by contextual research displayed in text and graphics, and aerial videos of existing global suburbs by Matthew Niederhauser and John Fitzgerald. The exhibition will be installed at MIT in Spring 2016 after which it will travel to several additional locations around the country.
For additional information, visit the exhibition website.

Future of Suburbia Conference
March 31–April 1, 2016
MIT Media Lab, E14
75 Amherst Street, Cambridge, MA
For additional information, visit the conference website.

The Future of Suburbia conference will outline four design frameworks that project a future that is heterogeneous, experimental, autonomous and productive. Each of these themes will be explored by panelists from a broad array of fields including: design, architecture, urban planning, history and demographics, policy, energy, mobility, health, environment, economics, and applied and future technologies.

Center for Advanced Urbanism Lunchtime Lecture
“The Megacity Initiative: Exploring Urbanism through New Media”
Monday, November 2, 2015/ 12:30–1:30pm
Center for Advanced Urbanism, E14-140
MIT Media Lab, E14
75 Amherst Street, Cambridge, MA

In many ways this century already belongs to the city. An additional 2.7 billion people are anticipated to live in metropolitan regions around the world by 2050 and the ecological fate of the planet is bound to their fate. The Megacity Initiative is a new media venture that seeks to illuminate this process through films, exhibitions, journalism series, and eventually an integrated digital platform that will allow people to more immediately respond to and potentially participate in city planning. These coordinated efforts will be used to promote ongoing urbanist and activist efforts that champion sustainable development, social equity, and accountable municipal governance.
Cofounders Matthew Niederhauser and John Fitzgerald, both visiting scholars at the MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism (CAU) and visiting artists at the MIT Center for Art, Science, Technology (CAST), will discuss and share highlights from recent investigations in China, India, South Africa, Brazil, and the United States. These trips were also conducted in coordination with CAU in preparation for the upcoming “Future of Suburbia” conference and exhibition to be held at the MIT Media Lab in 2016. The prudent planning of urban and suburban development is absolutely imperative given the unprecedented scale of growth in metropolitan regions around the world.

Residency Schedule

Research Visits
June 2015 through February 2016

Arts Scholars Presentation
Friday, October 30, 2015 / 3:00–5:00 pm 

Future of Suburbia Workshop
Wednesday, August 19, 2015 / 10:00am–4:00pm

Collaborators at MIT

Alan Berger, Professor of Urban Design and Landscape Architecture, Co-Director of the Center for Advanced Urbanism

Celina Balderas Guzmán, Research Associate, Center for Advanced Urbanism

Fadi Masoud, Lecturer, Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Matthew Spremulli, Research Associate, Center for Advanced Urbanism

About the Artists

John Fitzgerald and Matthew Niederhauser are highly acclaimed professionals in the field of documentary photography and film.

Niederhauser’s photographs of youth culture and urban development in China have appeared in The New Yorker, National Geographic, Wired, Stern, The Guardian, The New York Times Magazine, Le Monde, Foreign Policy and Time Magazine, among many other publications. In two ongoing projects, Kapital Creation and Counterfeit Paradises, Niederhauser explores China’s rapid socioeconomic changes, its “harmonious” cities and emerging consumer trends.

Fitzgerald, a director, cinematographer and animator, creates films, music videos and video art installations. His directorial and production work includes projects for The World Wildlife Fund, The Discovery Channel, Tribeca Films, NOVA/PBS, FIFA Street and Sony Records. His videos and installations have appeared in group and solo exhibitions at galleries and museums in the United States, Brazil, Italy, Bolivia, Panama and Argentina. Short films he has directed have screened at the Rio de Janeiro Film Festival and La Paz Film Festival. Other short films, for which he was cinematographer, have screened at the Berlinale Talents, Torino Film Festival and Rotterdam International Film Festival.

More at the artist’s website: John Fitzgerald.

More at the artist’s website: Matthew Niederhauser.

In the Media