When art critic Lucy Lippard talks about cities, she doesn't critique buildings and sidewalks. Instead she investigates place, which she defines as space plus memory. Lippard, the author of 20 books, including The Lure of the Local: Sense of Place in a Multicentered Society, spoke with WW from her home in New Mexico.

What can people expect from your lecture?

The first part is about gravel pits, because that's where cities come from. Cities and roads and skyscrapers all start with gravel. The second part is about a piece of performance art: The artists wear shoes that are huge yellow chunks of chalk, and they outline a six-block area in Manhattan where there used to be a pond. As they walk along, they make marks on the ground and show the outline of a previous geographical place that's completely invisible now. The third part is a homily on how people experience cities. I think people make cities much more than architects do.

For a writer and a critic, what's important about talking with readers?

When I give a lecture I never read from my books, because once I've published them, they don't interest me anymore. The discussion period is my favorite part of lecturing. I don't feel like I have the answers. I'm much more interested in questions.

Have you been to Portland before?

I spent some time there in the '70s. And I read a lot about Portland because of Measure 37, so I know that you think about cities more than most do. You've been a model for cities all around the country. Now it's sad to see some of those ideals crumbling.

Lucy Lippard will discuss "Three Ways to Enter a City," at First Congregational Church, 1126 SW Park Ave., 7:30 pm Wednesday, March 9. $15.