• Reservoir: Nature, Culture, Infrastructure
    Nancy Levinson, Frances Richard, and Lucy Sante
    Tim Davis
    Places Journal, 2020
    Places Journal

Villages displaced by dam construction. Courtesy the personal collection of Luc Sante.

Reservoir: Nature, Culture, Infrastructure is the first installment of The Public Works, a new online project assessing the historic legacies and future possibilities—architectural, environmental, social—of major public infrastructures. In this inaugural project, Places will collaborate with cultural historian Luc Sante on an exploration of the reservoirs of Upstate New York, consisting of three substantial essays by Sante illustrated with original photography and archival images. Centered on the Ashokan, Pepacton, and Cannonsville reservoirs, created in the twentieth century to supply water to New York City, the essays will consider the controversial origins of these sites, including state seizures and forced relocations; the socioeconomic tensions between rural and urban; and the challenges of protecting public water supplies from vandalism and terrorism. Reservoir will explore the enduring power of the Hudson River Valley in the American imagination and reexamine the social compact as it is enacted through ambitious public infrastructures.

Lucy Sante, the lead author of the project, is a writer, curator, and educator. She has published widely in leading journals and written several books, including Low Life: The Lures and Snares of Old New York, Evidence, The Factory of Facts, Kill All Your Darlings, and The Other Paris. She has received Guggenheim and Cullman Fellowships, as well as a Whiting Writer’s Award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an Infinity Award in Writing from the International Center of Photography, and a Grammy, for album notes. Sante was born in Verviers, Belgium, in 1954, and emigrated with his family to the United States in the early 1960s. She was educated at Columbia University, but did not take a degree; since 1999 she has taught writing and the history of photography at Bard College.

Tim Davis is an artist, writer, and musician who lives in Tivoli, New York, and is associate professor of photography at Bard College. His latest project, I’m Looking Through You, will be published by Aperture in 2021. The Tang Museum at Skidmore College showed a large survey of recent work in photography, video, sound, sculpture, and performance entitled “When We Are Dancing, I Get Ideas,” in 2019. The catalogue was published in 2020 and includes an essay by Luc Sante.

Frances Richard, a coeditor of the project, is associate editor of Places. She has been an editor at Fence and Cabinet, and her writing on visual art and poetry has appeared in Artforum, BOMB, and The Nation. She has been a visiting scholar at the Canadian Centre for Architecture and recipient of a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant. She holds an master’s in creative writing from New York University and teaches at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Her latest book is Gordon Matta-Clark: Physical Poetics (University of California Press, 2019).

Nancy Levinson, a coeditor of the project, is editor and executive director of Places. Since arriving at the journal in 2009, she has led its transition from print to digital, advanced the editorial mission of public scholarship, and overseen the launch of Places Books. Previously she was founding director of the Phoenix Urban Research Lab at The Design School at Arizona State University, and before that a founding editor of Harvard Design Magazine at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She received a Master of Architecture from University of Pennsylvania.

Josh Wallaert, the editor overseeing the development of new visual-production capacities for the website, is editor-at-large of Places. He is also a writer working with landscape as a central theme. He codirected the documentary feature Arid Lands, hailed in the Chronicle of Higher Education as one of “today's best environmental films,” and his short stories have appeared in TriQuarterly, Southern Review, Gettysburg Review, American Letters & Commentary, and other journals. His criticism has appeared in Places. He has a master’s in creative writing from the University of Minnesota.

Deborah Lilley, the editor overseeing communications and promotions for the project, is managing editor of Places. Lilley holds a PhD in English from Royal Holloway, University of London, and writes and researches in the fields of contemporary literature and environmental humanities. Her work has been published in journals including Green Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism, Modern Fiction Studies, Philosophy Activism Nature, Symplokē, Ecozon@, and Alluvium. Her book, The New Pastoral in Contemporary British Writing, is forthcoming from Routledge. She has taught English at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the University of San Francisco.

Founded in 1983, Places Journal harnesses the power of public scholarship to promote equitable cities, innovative architecture, and resilient landscapes.