In January 2016, Seattle’s minimum wage increased to $10.50–$13 per hour—the second of several steps on the path to $15 per hour by 2021. The following analysis uses data from the Seattle Minimum Wage Study at the University of Washington and other sources to examine the current and potential future effects of the new wage regulations.
Displacement in New Orleans
The Hood Ain’t the Same: An Interview with Draze
How to Build Without a Land: 2011-Ongoing
Mapping the Makeshift Camps of Migration
The Evolving Boundaries of Manhattan’s Chinatown
How Making Chocolate Is like Building Software
Forgotten Histories in Pioneer Square: The Terminal Garage
Being alone in the bowels of Seattle’s oldest Catholic church past midnight isn’t as scary as you might think. My husband and I spent hours in the basement kitchen of Immaculate Conception, formulating batches of chocolate as we launched our first start-up endeavor: a craft chocolate company. It was there, in large part, that we discovered our backgrounds in software development and design were going to prove very useful in chocolate making.
In software development, there’s this thing called “MVP” or “minimum viable product.” A minimum viable product is the most pared down version of a product that can still be released (or “shipped”). It’s a concept derived from agile software development, a framework built around the premise of “sprints”—i.e., quick cycles of feedback, iteration, and design. As defined by Technopedia, an MVP has three key characteristics:
1. It has enough value that people are willing to use it or buy it initially.
2. It demonstrates enough future benefit to retain early adopters.
3. It provides a feedback loop to guide future development.
Last summer, after a year of testing recipes and sharing with our friends, we released our first MVP at the Queen Anne Farmers Market—our flagship product, bean-to-bottle botanical chocolate milk on tap. It turns out the MVP strategy works great not only for tech products but for chocolate, too. Food is often a product and, like software, benefits from repeated trial, error, and design iterations.
Applying our agile experience to chocolate milk, we knew that making it “minimal” and “viable” meant selling business-to-consumer at first, something we could do easily at a market. Selling business-to-business, or wholesale, would be far more complicated. To sell wholesale, we’d need to bottle the milk, which requires expensive, specialized pasteurization equipment, plus jumping through regulatory hoops at the state level (it’s much easier to buy an assault weapon than legally sell milk products, but I digress …). Selling growlers of chocolate milk on tap at a market required simpler permitting. It was the least we could do to get our products into the hands of our “users” to test with a broader customer base for more feedback.
Making our MVP also involved figuring out our scale and production capacity. Initially, we made micro-batches of only dairy milk. The night before our first market, we pulled an all-nighter at our commercial kitchen, then in the Catholic church’s basement, making way too much milk: 30 gallons and six different botanical versions. We didn’t sell nearly as much as we thought we would, and we knew that making 30 gallons of chocolate milk every week was not sustainable. All-nighters in your 20s are one thing. In middle age? Umm … no. So we scaled back from 30 gallons to 6, six botanicals to three, and sold only at every other farmers market. Later, when we introduced another product, bean-to-bar chocolate, our packaging was financially minimal, made with paper from Paper Source, Scotch tape, and cheap labels from OfficeMax—the minimum needed to wrap things sufficiently.
We knew our product was viable because the stuff we were making was good—confirmed ecstatically by our friends. Once released, our bean-to-bottle chocolate milk garnered a lot of great feedback at the farmers market, resulting in quick design iterations: formulation changes to improve the emulsion of the chocolate with the milk (we don’t use fillers or emulsifiers) and the introduction of nondairy versions. We also learned that our “users” love that our chocolate milk is not too sweet, so we made no modifications to the sugar levels. Between each market, we went back to the kitchen and tweaked our product design based on user feedback.
Borrowing the MVP philosophy to “build” chocolate like we build software works well for us. This strategy works well for architects, too. As described in the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, when creating new wings at Seattle Children’s Hospital, ZGF and the design team built an MVP out of cardboard, testing the floor plan in a warehouse by having staff, patients and parents walk through it, simulating day-to-day tasks, then moving things around based on feedback. This was easy and fast because their MVP was built out of cheap, light materials (see “Hospital Design Started with Yarn, Cardboard, and Duct Tape” for more).
Whether designing food products, digital products, or buildings, using MVPs in the design process leads to an even more desired end state: the “MLP,” or minimum lovable product—something I strive for in my design practice every day, both digitally and gastronomically.
Claudia Castro Luna
As a young child I lived in a big adobe house with a red tiled roof on a hillock where streets were paved with cobblestones. 3ra Calle Oriente in the small town of Atiquizaya was where my father and grandmother were born and where my great-grandmother and almost all of my father’s relatives lived. Home, family, and community life were seamlessly intertwined.
When my family left El Salvador in 1981, at the beginning of the civil war that lasted 12 years, I lost a profound sense of place and belonging. Few things are more disorienting than the physical, psychological, and emotional rupture that individuals endure when they emigrate. Leaving behind the familiar, navigating a new place, trying to get by in an unknown language, and living in an area not yet inscribed with positive emotional experiences is to exist in a kind of geographic limbo. Without a physical location that reflects your language, your culture, without the food that gives you comfort, and in the absence of loved ones, the home left behind quickly becomes an intangible construct, a place found only in memory.
For an immigrant, even the most tenuous connection to one’s home country, a remote acquaintance, for instance, can provide a tendril of belonging. Immigrants create social webs that underscore mutual aid. What may begin as a loose network of family and friends may end up powering a neighborhood’s economic engine or providing color and architectural definition to a place. Established immigrant neighborhoods such as Korea Town in Palisades Park, New Jersey, and Little Saigon in Orange County, California, are examples of this phenomenon.
Pico-Union in Los Angeles and Adams Morgan in Washington, DC, are vibrant enclaves for Salvadorans and Central Americans. In these places, the agglomeration of services, language, food, and cultural opportunities conspires to ease the sense of dislocation and loss. Yet for Salvadoran immigrants living in the Puget Sound area, the weather and landscape alone offer a steep challenge: snowcapped mountains, ferns and cedar, cold rain, and an insistent gray palette stand in stark contrast to tropical vegetation and sun drenched days. More challenging still is that the Central American community around Puget Sound is small and scattered among many cities across a large urban area.
Luckily, there are a few places in Seattle and its environs where Salvadoran immigrants can recover a sense of the familiar: Salvadoran restaurants quietly claiming space in nondescript mini malls and the Mexican/Salvadoran taco trucks occupying vacant lots or parked next to gas stations. These landmarks of roadside immigrant architecture, with their humble and often undistinguished facades, combine the essential elements of home—language, memory, community—and a few of its sensual pleasures. For newly arrived immigrants, restaurants like these offer nourishment and hope versus the way in which the larger city can engender limitations and fears. They are organic architectural configurations that restore and sustain a sense of self in a sea of dislocating experiences. They are much more than eateries; they are sui generis cultural centers.
But what really anchors immigrants is their native language. It is through language that we define our identities and access personal memories of home. Actually, for immigrants, language becomes a place in and of itself: a dwelling and a refuge. When my family arrived in the US we went from Florida to New Jersey to California. Then as a young adult I lived in Germany, France, and Costa Rica. By the time I was 30 years old I could no longer point to a map and say, “There, that’s home.” My original home was by then irretrievable, thousands of miles away, decades in the past. Yet after more than three decades living in the US, whenever I hear others speaking Caliche, a Salvadoran slang, I plunge down a tunnel, like Alice down the rabbit hole, that zooms me to the cobblestone streets of my childhood and to uncontested belonging.
International and East 14th Tacos Mi Rancho.
International and 22nd Tacos Sinaloa. International
and 24th Tacos Mi Gloria. International Boulevard
asphalt corrido of carnitas and pupusas de chicharrón.
I.C.E. cuotas and remittance receipts. International
and 54th Tacos Los Amigos. Boa de carne asada.
Boca de lengua frita. Census projections. Future vote
tally. And heart, corazón de rábano, red and crunchy
and pulsing with the energy of all of Guadalupe’s
children who are many, muchos, son muchos, muchos
somos. International and 80th Flor de Jalisco. On each
corner, a four wheeled sentinel guarding the memory
of home. Stand in line, home comes wrapped up,
calientito, inside a tortilla. International and 90th Tacos
Union. And though warm, the bitter seeps in.
C. Davida Ingram
I came to Seattle with $1,800. And no job. My mentor lent me $1,200. I was 29.
My first apartment in Seattle was with my boyfriend on Pine and Belmont. With the end of that relationship came the end of the $300 rent I split with him for that apartment. The place had black mold, a loud next-door neighbor who loved coke and karaoke, and a mildewed shared bathroom.
When that blue frame building was torn down, it felt like getting a rotten tooth pulled.
How could I know?
They built condos where my old apartment stood. Where the old Cha Cha and Bimbo’s stood. Where my friend Rahul Gairola would drop by after Manray had last call. Where my mother anxiously asked my sister why I decided to live in a Seattle slum if she raised me as a middle-class black girl.
Do you know someone this has happened to, too? Did their lost building feel like a rotten tooth? Or a beating heart? A home?
In 2006, former governor Christine Gregoire signed a law that supposedly made it easier to remove Seattle’s racist housing covenants from some deeds. However, this change did not stop upper-class white folks from waltzing into the communities where black and brown people were once forced to live, thereby gentrifying these spaces. The racial shift makes me feel strangely nostalgic about racism since people of color need a place to call home—spiritually, economically, geographically—and that has in large part stopped being Seattle.
In the United States black Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be shot by police. In King County, Native Americans are 7 times more likely to be homeless. Black people, 5 times more likely. I want to forget these facts. Recently, I buried my nose in a sweet smelling purple bush while walking in the gentrified Central District. I text my friend Barbara to ask her what it is. She tells me it is called a butterfly bush, an invasive species. I laugh and text back: I bet a white person decided that; they can identify any invasive species but themselves.
White supremacy is not paying the same dividends it once did. To make community possible again we need rent control, housing vouchers, and programs to reseed communities that have been stripped of working-class homeowners, especially people of color. Native Americans should be first on the list of rectifications.
The American West has long been a place where people go to reinvent themselves. What we see happening in Seattle is so startlingly unimaginative. The bubble should burst. Let’s reinvent being human again.
For a Chinese student abroad in the US, Chinatown feels like a home away from home. Tourists may find these neighborhoods exotic, but Chinatowns are sacred to me—they’re extensions of my home country in a foreign land. I vividly remember the first time I visited New York’s Chinatown. Surrounded by Chinese-looking people, familiar Chinese characters, and smells of foods from my childhood, I thought to myself, “Wow, I am back in China now!”
Standing at the intersection of Mott and Bayard, I was overwhelmed with questions about the neighborhood—in particular, when and why did my ancestors carve out their own space in the middle of Manhattan and how has Chinatown changed over time? Through mapping the area and tracing its history, I’ve seen that the evolving boundaries of Manhattan’s Chinatown reveal a story of Chinese immigration on the East Coast and urban change in the US.
Chinatown emerged as a shelter for Chinese immigrants faced with racial discrimination and marginalization in the 19th century. The neighborhood started in the Lower East Side around Pell, Doyers, and Mott Streets. The anti-Chinese campaign on the West Coast drove large waves of Chinese immigrants toward the eastern US. Despite the decline of the Chinese population in the nation due to the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Chinese population in New York City was on the rise. The boundaries of Chinatown consequently expanded.
In 1958, scholar Cheng-Tsu Wu set out to quantitatively delimit Chinatown. For Wu, the meaning of Chinatown is more cultural than residential; as he wrote in his dissertation, Chinese People and Chinatown in New York City, “Chinatown, in essence, is a region of exclusively Chinese cultural phenomenon in New York City.” Through measuring the cultural landscape, in part by determining what percentage of stores and institutions are Chinese on each street, Wu defined Chinatown’s core area as 10 blocks. Bounded by Canal, Bowery, Baxter, and Worth Streets, the area was almost twice as large as in the early 1900s.
The dramatic expansion of Chinatown did not occur until the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act brought both human and capital resources to the community, leading to an economic boom and real estate development. The influx of Chinese immigrants coincided with the increasing mobility among immigrants from Europe. As early European immigrants mobilized and assimilated into mainstream society, they began to leave their ethnic enclaves, contributing to Chinatown's expansion into neighborhoods that were once predominately Italian and Jewish.
In 2010, as part of my academic research, I redelineated Chinatown’s boundaries using the same measurements as Wu did over 50 years ago (see above). The new boundaries demonstrate the drastic expansion of Chinatown to the north and southeast. In the north, the neighborhood has expanded along Mulberry and Elizabeth Streets to Delancey; Little Italy, which used to take up much of that area, has been largely enveloped, left with only two blocks of tourist-oriented restaurants and gift shops. In the southeast, Chinatown’s expansion along East Broadway and Division Street was driven by an influx of Fujianese, who are culturally distinct from Chinatown’s original settlers from Guangzhou and Hong Kong. The southeast expansion engulfed the Jewish neighborhood there, and a former synagogue is now surrounded by Chinese stores and restaurants.
In the late 1990s, skyrocketing land values began pushing residents and garment industries out from Chinatown. The neighborhood’s location has made it a top target for gentrification, similar to other Chinatowns in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, and Philadelphia. Chinatown’s decline is also driven by the decentralization of later generations of Chinese Americans and new Chinese immigrants. The September 11 attacks and Hurricane Sandy both traumatized businesses and decreased job opportunities in the area. The boundaries of Chinatown are beginning to retreat, as the Chinese stores that used to provide ethnic goods and services for local residents are displaced by upscale bars, clubs, and restaurants, and tenements are renovated into luxury condos and hotels.
Assimilation theory, which dominated studies of US immigration for decades, predicted that ethnic communities such as Chinatown will eventually diminish or decline into cultural symbols as immigrants assimilate into mainstream society. Indeed, many cities in the US have witnessed the decline, disappearance, or Disneyfication of their Chinatowns. Nevertheless, Manhattan’s Chinatown still continues to function today as the major gateway for new Chinese immigrants, as well as the economic, social, and political center for those already in the region. For tourists, it is a place to visit, but for Chinatownians, it is a place to memorialize, dwell in, and call home.
I have lived abroad in Europe for 10 years. Coming from Romania, a country that’s often negatively perceived, I faced bureaucratic hurdles and discrimination, labels, stereotypes, and misconceptions. It was a complex process to work through my frustrations and anger, as well as the construct of myself versus them.
However, this journey was also transformative. I became more tolerant and close with people of different cultures. I attempted to understand our reactions and fears when facing “foreigners” or “strangers”—people like myself. I was interested in how we form perceptions about, communicate with, and relate to each other.
I realized I was missing a space where migrants, refugees, and locals could get to know each other and share their life experiences—their realities unfiltered by the media and political discourse. In 2014, I began a blog featuring my own stories as a starting point for an exploration of migration issues such as identity, home, belonging, and acceptance. As others joined the conversation, I realized the need for physical spaces where people could meet, interact, and inspire—this became Migrationlab, an organization that provides just that.
Welcome to the Living Room! is Migrationlab’s social design and culture project. Together with migrants, refugees, and locals, we transform urban spaces into public living rooms in cities throughout Europe. In these cocreated places, the three communities share stories of their journeys and reflect on migration issues through art and performance. So far, we’ve transformed art galleries and artistic spaces, a room in a former bread factory in Vienna’s most segregated neighborhood, and an Egyptian fisherman’s boat in Amsterdam, which transported 282 refugees to Italy in 2013. People now have the possibility of codesigning their next Migrationlab Living Room through participatory workshops.
Having the opportunity to get to know each other by sharing who we are and where we come from makes us fearless. Migrationlab’s Living Rooms provide inclusive spaces in which such conversations can take place.
Flows and movements of travelers, migrants, and labour across the world have had major social and economic effects and produced new forms of cultural exchange. They have not only freed cultural identities from physical places but also entwined us all in a symbolic web.
Shown at the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Offsite space in 2015, my outdoor public project Woven Chronicle uses electric wires to trace migration patterns. I originally created this work for the Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art in 2011. The biennial, curated by Sarat Maharaj, was titled Pandemonium: Art in a Time of “Creativity Fever,” a reference to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, which reflects on the chaos and disorder surrounding creativity, transformation, and the emergence of new worlds.
Treating electric wires like yarn, I traced migrant routes of indentured labourers, settlers, contract workers, professionals, asylum seekers, and refugees. The project’s audio component resonates with high-voltage electric-current sounds drowned within deep sea ambient noise, slow electric pulses, humming busy tones from telecommunications, a mechanical drone, factory sirens, ship horns, and migratory bird calls. At Offsite, the reflections of this map over water evoked fiber optic connections, and people walked over a pathway of stones to interact with the piece.
At the heart of this work are issues of discrimination and inequality felt among immigrant and resident populations where there are impediments to cross and prejudices to overcome. Even as cultures blend and technology and commerce blur geographic boundaries, with a greater movement of people and information, borders are increasingly controlled and monitored. The electric wires in the piece act as both conduits and barriers, serving as channels of transmission and barbed wire or fencing.
Since 2006, over 100,000 people have been jailed in Canada, without charge or trial, with no end in sight. This is the reality of immigration detention in Canada—a reality that is violently made invisible. My graphic novel Undocumented: The Architecture of Migrant Detention, which emerged out of collective organizing through the End Immigration Detention Network, records the banality and violence of detention centre architecture in contrast to the stories of daily resistance among immigration detainees.
Charles Tonderai Mudede
I must begin by pointing out the function of beauty in bike and pedestrian infrastructure. It is not just a matter of aesthetics, nor is it about moral improvement, as in the City Beautiful understanding of things. Rather, beauty presents one of the most effective social engineering tools a planner can use to transform our mental conceptions about transportation. The human is a social animal—one that constantly reads his or her surroundings (the human world) to see what is and is not valued, what is and is not honored, what does and does not make us look good to others. And so it is with sidewalks, bikeways, and infrastructure of that nature. If we see these things as neglected or designed in a half-baked manner, we assume that our society has a very low opinion of them and their users. An ugly sidewalk makes you an ugly pedestrian.
To quote the popular former mayor of Bogotá Enrique Peñalosa: “A [beautiful] bikeway is a symbol that shows that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important as a citizen in a $30,000 car.” We cannot underestimate the importance of this understanding—what does design show or tell citizens? People want to do what they perceive is respectable.
And so it is with the admirable new pedestrian bridge that links the superb new University of Washington light-rail station with the southwest corner of the school’s campus. It is a work of beauty—it embodies simplicity, grace, and an aristocratic indifference to the horrible traffic that often clogs this section of Montlake Boulevard. When you leave the station and look south, you see cars going nowhere soon, and in the distance, below a tangle of traffic lights that seems to be making matters worse, the UW Medical Center. Turning to the north, you see the pedestrian bridge rise and smoothly span above it all. It’s a bridge you want to be on because you like yourself, and you like to be liked, and you like what you see, and like likes like.
Three teams made this bridge and its site a success. The work on the campus side of Montlake Boulevard was a collaboration between GGN (landscape architects) and KPFF (engineers). The bridge itself was designed by LMN Architects, who also designed the station, which, in my opinion, is the best on the line. Swift Company designed the UW station site.
The station’s site design is integral to the project’s beauty, as it leads your eye north to the bridge the moment after you look south in despair at a congested mess of cars. Bringing your gaze around you see features such as the concrete seat wall, site furnishings, and an elegantly austere arrangement of plants and lighting, all guiding you toward a better way (a ramp or the steps).
“We were very mindful not to fight the [bridge’s] desire line,” explains Gareth Loveridge, the project manager for Swift Company’s contribution to the bridge. “We wanted to work with the desire line, enhance it ... It’s what captures the eyes and tells the person this is the way they want to go. They feel they want to go there. You do not want to waste your time doing this. You want to do that.” Later he says: “[The bridge and the way we saw the project] is about knowing where you are and where you want to go. It’s very clear and direct. The gentle arch that leads this way to [the other side], the sweep, the views you expect to find.”
The site is also set to become forest-y. Swift Company is very excited about this leafy future. They planted 10 oaks and, indeed, the project they set into motion will not really be finished until they are fully grown. And these trees take their own sweet time—oaks can live for 300 years—“but in 20 they will have an impact,” promises Loveridge.
Again, all of this is just adding beauty to a work of pedestrian and bike infrastructure. This is what matters most. The concern, the thoughtful work by all involved to make the site as desirable as possible. People will not miss it. They will want to be part of it. We all want to be beautiful.
Here in this site lie vital forces left dormant by society.
—Christophe Girot, “Four Trace Concepts in Landscape Architecture”
One day in June 2014, the single-story structure located at 1121 NE 45th Street in Seattle was demolished and hauled away. The old building, built in 1937, had been modified many times over the years; its last incarnation was a restaurant called Araya’s. With the structure gone, the site was graded flat and the concrete rubble was piled inside the remaining foundation. A chain-link fence was installed, enclosing the eroding walls of the building amid a field of bare ground where mosses, grasses, and wildflowers began to take hold.
In most cases new construction quickly replaces the old, covering the earth back up and superseding in our minds what was there before. This site, however, sat for months on end in a prolonged moment of rest. My commute through the University District often took me past this fallow site, and I came to see the place itself as an artifact, a physical transcript of the changing urban environment. I reached out to the owners of the property, WSECU, to see if they might be interested in a temporary, experimental landscape installation that could open up the site for exploration, permitting a look into the terrain beneath the city.
I modeled the resulting exhibit, Site 1121, after an archaeological dig, focusing on the landscape as a process rather than a built outcome. During the week of 21 March 2016, I coordinated an urban field study to mark and reveal the ecological and cultural richness in this overlooked vacant lot. The study had no goal but to encourage a slow interaction with the site. Boardwalks and worktables facilitated access and invited participation.
With the help of University of Washington faculty, a group of landscape architecture students began the installation by identifying and sketching more than 30 species of urban plants. This interaction inverted visitors’ perceptions of weeds and revealed a spontaneous garden. The idea of invisible seeds in the soil springing forth when the lid is removed became a metaphor for Site 1121 as a vernacular landscape.
Then, throughout the week, volunteers joined students in the careful work of excavating objects from the layers of terrain. Participants were encouraged to follow their intuition in exploring the site and revealing its character. Among the items discovered were pipe sections, a mason’s plumb bob, a railroad spike and bits of glass block from the building’s Art Deco facade. An instinctive, shared process of sorting, organizing, and curating produced an array of artifacts displayed on worktables.
The group’s presence attracted visitors from the neighborhood, and the site became a meeting place. Volunteers from WSECU served as docents who greeted curious passersby, answering questions and inviting them to share in conversations about what used to be there and what might be in the future, about shared impressions and conflicting views of how the neighborhood is changing, about memories and belonging, community design, ownership, and access to places not built upon. Revealed along with the physical artifacts was a deeper human narrative of continuity and coherence in the urban landscape.
When you take things like weeds, found materials, or an abandoned site and organize them, arrange them, and demonstrate visible caring, a transformation occurs. A few people who came to Site 1121 asked, “Did you find anything valuable?” But we weren’t thinking that way. Everything we found had at some point in time been valued then cast aside.
Wabi-sabi is a Japanese term for the sense of beauty we find in objects or places that permits a glimpse into the impermanence of things. It comes with a sense of recognition, of familiarity. One can experience a disclosure of truth in perceiving the wabi-sabi of the ordinary, and this was the essence of Site 1121.
While the sensitive field study of plants, terrain, and artifacts at Site 1121 did reveal the site’s ecological complexities and cultural character, it was perhaps the contemplation of the space just as it was that had the most profound effect on the groups of people gathering there.
As a result of the Syrian Civil War, Jordan currently hosts over 330,000 child refugees in camps and other communities. In 2014 and 2015, my cofacilitator Tasneem Toghoj and I provided media workshops for Syrian girls (ages 14–18) in Za’atari Refugee Camp and Irbid to help them gain artistic and technical photography and video skills. The girls set out to document their everyday lives—how it looks, feels, and sounds from the ground, at the heart of their world. By narrating their spaces through photography, film, and writing, participants transformed the foreign landscape into new terrain for exploration, self-discovery, and expression. With the girls from these workshops, I started Another Kind of Girl Collective, an organization that creates opportunities for teenage girls living in displaced communities to reflect on and express their stories in their own voices.
“Before I started filming, I didn’t really know the camp. I used to be shy, but when I started learning how to film, and also when I realized that the image of the camp is really distorted outside [of it], I knew that I needed to overcome this shyness, not only to speak with the society around me, but also to the people out in the world. I feel I want to show the world that [even though] we live in a refugee camp, and have different lives than others, we girls still have dreams and ambitions.” —Khaldiya
“I liked to take photographs in the market because I felt like I wanted to show how people are living in the camp. We get dressed up, we eat, we drink, and we use perfume, not as they might imagine. They think that we are living here like we were living in Syria: waiting for death. It’s true, when we first came it was really hard for us, and we were missing our country very much. But thankfully, just like we are remembering moments back in Syria right now, tomorrow when we go back to Syria, we will remember a lot of moments from here.” —Bayan
Find more photos, writings, and films from Another Kind of Girl Collective at www.anotherkindofgirl.com, which portions of this article are drawn from.
Northern France has been a hub of migration for more than two decades. This stretch of the continental coast is only 20 miles from the United Kingdom, the desired destination of many migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers who wish to resettle there due to language familiarity, job prospects, and family ties. For those who have travelled to northern France from places like Eritrea, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Syria, the UK seems just one step away. In fact, an ever-growing security apparatus makes the crossing challenging and dangerous, leaving an estimated 10,000 people waiting for their chance to continue moving.
Migrants have developed makeshift camps in the area, notably Calais’s “Jungle” and Dunkirk’s “La Linière.” These temporary stopovers have transformed into long-term, informal settlements, combinations of self-organized shelters and humanitarian interventions. They exemplify the squats found throughout migration routes.
MapFugees, a group of humanitarian mappers of which I’m a part, works in the Jungle and La Linière to visualize experiences along these routes and facilitates participatory mapping of the two camps. We help refugees present their spatial perspectives of continuously changing settings in order to improve wayfinding, services, and aid delivery.
STOPOVERS AND DEAD ENDS
Migrations, like those experienced by the inhabitants of the Jungle and La Linière, are involuntary and unforeseeable. Migrants are often uncertain where they will finally resettle, and each journey is marked by stops and makeshift dwellings as borders, war zones, authorities, exhaustion, and disease force travelers to take refuge. Short-term stopovers can turn into hopeless dead ends; those on the move may find themselves stuck in unknown and sometimes hostile environments they cannot relate to, incapable and unwilling to adjust to the living conditions. They feel robbed of the chance to reach their desired destinations, and in a confined refugee camp, this feeling becomes a grim reality. If detained, holding centers provide neither shelter nor protection—they are refugee prisons.
To help refugees process and share their experiences, MapFugees takes camp residents through story-mapping exercises. Through hand-drawing maps of their migrations, refugees describe their stories. The activity is an outlet through which they may express the drastic emotions and inextinguishable memories of the journey; it is a means to present their perspectives when others won’t listen. A Pakistani teenager’s route included a “very, very, very bad” eight months of jail in Turkey, as well as tough conditions in the Balkans. A Sudanese doctor explained his preference for traveling through Libya rather than Egypt—the second option requires GPS tools and 14 days on the Mediterranean—and attributed his safe journey to traffickers and a “brave heart.” A man from Afghanistan felt that there was humanity and freedom along the UNHCR safety corridor from Greece to Germany but that the Jungle is “dangerous.”
CAMP NAVIGATION AND FINDING DIRECTIONS
In addition to story mapping, MapFugees facilitates participatory mapping through which migrants in the Jungle and La Linière determine, define, and analyze their present surroundings. Mappers record their perspectives and observations, which do not necessarily align with those of humanitarian organizations and official authorities. As active residents of these camps, they create detailed maps of infrastructure, services, and public spaces; their multilingual cartographies enable more effective aid work and provide visual tools for new arrivals. Further, collaborating with the community, setting goals, determining deadlines, and seeing their products in use can help migrants reactivate unused skills and resources. In this way, participants may regain a sense of self-reliance and autonomy.
Their maps of the Jungle and La Linière are particularly revealing in regard to the camps’ architectures. Constructed settlements appear more stable, protected, and calculable, but they are limited in space and offer few opportunities for residents to engage. Makeshift camps organically develop according to residents’ needs; they involve self-realization and grassroots structures, but they lack security, stability, and access to services. Accordingly, we’ve observed that constructed settlements appeal to families, women, seniors, and those with health problems, while the makeshift camps appeal to young and middle-aged single men.
MapFugees will next explore places of resettlement in host countries. In many ways, leaving a camp after a prolonged residence is yet another displacement, and in new host countries, migrants find themselves in strange environments without any orientation, access to navigation tools, or social affiliation. Newcomers struggle to find directions to basic services like health facilities, legal advice centers, or communal spaces. In collaboration with settled and newly arrived refugees, we intend to put these places on the map, giving migrants the skills and tools to understand and navigate their new environments.
Great Man Theory: A Review of Pierluigi Serraino's "The Creative Architect: Inside the Great Midcentury Personality Study"
The Creative Architect:
Inside the Great Midcentury Personality Study
By Pierluigi Serraino
The Monacelli Press, 2016
Most persons live a sort of half-life, giving expression to only a very limited part of themselves and realizing only a few of their many potentialities.
Unlocking one’s creativity is a perennial quest. In his new book, the indefatigable Pierluigi Serraino has unearthed an epic attempt—a 1960 study of architects by Donald MacKinnon and his collaborators at Berkeley’s Institute of Personality Assessment and Research (IPAR). By studying successful professionals, MacKinnon hoped to find ways to unlock people’s creative potential in a broader sense. Many large organizations today share that interest, and Serraino’s look at IPAR’s study is timely.
MacKinnon was to creativity as Kinsey was to sex. And like sex, creativity is a topic with inexact norms and a preoccupation with individual performance. The IPAR team wore suits, not lab coats, but this was serious business. Turning to the architecture field’s academics, editors, and writers, IPAR put together a long list of luminaries to consider. Of the top 10 architects IPAR identified in its final ranking, only Saarinen, Kahn, and Neutra are still in the pantheon.
Once chosen, the architects descended on Berkeley for three days of tests. Among other tasks, IPAR asked them to discuss abstract problems with their peers; undergo personality assessments; note what they saw as the attributes of creative architects; and make mosaics of colored blocks and small, captioned drawings in two grids of blank squares.
A POSTWAR VIEW
IPAR drew on Ernest Jones’s 1957 account of Freud’s nine characteristics of genius to develop its own view of the key attributes of the creative personality. While some of Jones’s nuances are preserved, phrases like “the subject’s life history as recorded in the Personal Data Bank” reflect an era captivated by the computer and, more broadly, interested in giving the social sciences the perceived rigor of the hard sciences.
In architecture, this was the heyday of design methods, an outgrowth of the application of mathematics-based systems thinking to manufacturing and logistics during World War II. The hope was to extend this approach to fields like architecture, with creativity figuring in the mix of performance outcomes. By the end of the 1960s, this unalloyed faith that the methods of science and engineering could be so applied was in question. Architecture—famously nonlinear and rife with politics and emotions—was ripe for apostasy.
MacKinnon faced skepticism even from his would-be subjects that his research qualified as science, but his focus was on first identifying the traits of highly creative people and then understanding what would or would not contribute to their creative potential. This is why the IPAR study’s conclusions are still relevant and worth understanding.
BACK TO THE GREAT MEN
IPAR noted that the greatest of their Great Men scored INFP on the Meyers-Briggs spectrum. (INFJ placed second.) An INFP profile suggests a greater tolerance for keeping one’s options open. The F in INFP is for “feeling,” but MacKinnon equated it with “feminine”—a trait he saw as an attribute of the creative personality. While few of the Great Men cited themselves as “feminine,” MacKinnon felt that most were. This and the study’s complete lack of women as creative architects place it in its era. Though IPAR was interested in femininity as a characteristic, the role and influence of women went unexplored, despite the involvement of women researchers at IPAR—and despite the fact that Kahn and Saarinen, for example, had strong, creative women as partners and collaborators.
ALONE WITH OTHERS
Another limitation of the IPAR study is its insistence that creativity is best done alone. “Because creativity is so intertwined with unconventional associative processes in the minds of individuals, it will come as no surprise that for the creative individual the gap between conformance to group behavior and compulsion for self-expression is wide,” Serraino writes. For good measure, he quotes MacKinnon: “One of the best methods for nurturing creativity is to de-emphasize group participation.”
Today, teams are the focus and creativity is mainly considered in the context of distributed teams that work across time and space. The individual creator still matters, of course, and much effort goes into supporting her. It’s really both/and, not either/or.
So a question that arises is how the attributes of individual creators apply to teams. Larry Leifer of Stanford’s d.school points to autonomous teams as the creative force behind neo-industrial ventures like Tesla Motors. That there are visionaries behind these teams doesn’t negate their importance. Half a century later, some new MacKinnon may have creative teams in her sights.
In 2007, the Lebanese Army demolished Nahr el Bared, a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon, after an armed conflict with the Islamist fundamentalist group Fath al Islam. 30,000 refugees were displaced to the adjacent camp and cities.
The idea of reconstructing the destroyed camp held revolutionary potential—the possibility of empowering the refugees and rethinking both this camp and others like it. However, the Lebanese state and army gradually became involved in the process, imposing their vision of security through planning. For me, an architect working on the reconstruction, the question transformed from how to rebuild a camp into how to dwell, live, and even die in a state of suspension, in waiting.
Whether Palestinians have Jordanian passports, bringing an illusion of stability, live without rights as refugees in Lebanon, or are part of a diaspora of millions spanning generations, the persistence of their displacement and the Palestinian question remains attached to the right of return—to Palestine before the establishment of Israel in 1948. Until then, any form of dwelling is temporary.
My ongoing series of artworks How to Build Without a Land considers the relationship of construction and land to time—to temporariness that gradually transforms or deforms into durability. This project presents a spatial narrative of what it means to dwell in a time of increased deterritorialization and alienation or, more specifically, in the absence of the land of Palestine. How do we build temporariness when it is mutating constantly into a permanent state? How do we dwell and build without a land?
Every year, millions of people are displaced from their countries of origin due to wars, conflicts, persecution, and natural disasters. According to the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), there are approximately 65.3 million people currently displaced worldwide, the highest number ever recorded and expected to grow. With this increase comes the emergence of “temporary” settlements to host the displaced. These settlements are neither the product of local culture nor their environment. They typically form following major disasters and disruptive events, as thousands move to remote locations assigned by international organizations and other countries. Though these camps are designed to be temporary, past examples show that most will become permanent features in the landscape. These are the between places, sites in limbo with citizens of nowhere.
As a child, I was one of these displaced people from Thailand. My family was lucky not only to live through three camps but also to have the opportunity for resettlement in northwest Ohio. We never discussed our experience in refugee camps in depth, but I had random faded memories of them as I grew up—the red dirt, the heavy rain, touching an elephant, going through the feeding center, the taste of powdered milk. I remember lifeless bodies floating along the river and holding my mother’s hand watching fireworks, later to understand we were watching bombs and artillery.
Once we resettled, my experience in our new country was good, and the process of adapting and assimilating to our new environment and culture was organic. However, I had a constant, underlying feeling of restlessness—of wanting to know the who, what, why, and how of displaced populations and reconnect with them in order to better understand my own history and identity.
I now use art, architecture, and information mapping/visualization as tools to explore and dissect these between sites and other places that change constantly through the migration of people and/or environment conditions. My process of researching and making is both personal and reflects a larger global context. My work visually examines the vast, complex landscape of political, social, cultural, and personal stories of human displacement. The cartographic drawings combine data and information visualizations with human stories, creating pieces that are both literal and abstract. The work allows viewers to access and appreciate factual complexities while connecting with the people behind the data, forming a visual bridge between people, places, and context.
Last spring BUILD visited the University of Cambridge where they spoke with Wendy Pullan, director of the Centre for Urban Conflicts Research in the Department of Architecture. Most conflicts today take place in cities, and the Centre aims to provide a better understanding of urban conflict (particularly extreme or specific cases) through interdisciplinary investigation and examination. The discussion focused on the nature of urban conflict, the importance of mapping urban areas to understand social dynamics, and how architecture and infrastructure affect cities in conflict.
BUILD: How did the Centre for Urban Conflicts Research get its start?
Wendy Pullan: It started in 2003 with a small pilot study in Jerusalem based on a loose hypothesis that conflict was increasingly located in cities. The study turned into a large program, Conflict in Cities and the Contested State (CinC), of which I was the director. The 10-year study was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) of the UK. The funding allowed us to work with two other universities and bring in people from politics, geography, sociology, anthropology, and law. Interestingly, it was the first major project funded by the ESRC for architecture and led by architects. The project brought cities into the realm of social sciences, and we first looked intensively at Belfast and Jerusalem, the classic divided cities in Europe and the Middle East. Later, we brought in other cities, from historic Berlin to Nicosia, Beirut, Bagdad, and several in Palestine and the Balkans. The funding came to an end in 2013 and the program was transformed into the Centre for Urban Conflicts.
BUILD: You received your Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto, your Bachelor of Architecture from the University of British Columbia, and your PhD from the University of Cambridge, all schools in relatively peaceful cities. What led you to study urban conflict?
WP: While in architecture school at UBC, I participated in a program that sent groups of students and teachers abroad for an entire term. When I went, the city in which we studied just happened to be Jerusalem. We lived in a Palestinian hotel in East Jerusalem, and we affiliated with an Israeli architecture school in West Jerusalem. Every day we’d walk across no-man’s-land (and this was the mid-’70s, so it was still really no-man’s-land). We were very aware of experiencing these two cultures physically, and I think that was extremely formative; the professor who took us there wanted us to experience both sides as equally as possible. I ended up living there for 13 years, during which time I taught architecture. In various ways, I’ve been very involved with Jerusalem for a long time. If you’re going to examine the conflict of cities, Jerusalem is an obvious place to study.
BUILD: How has mapping and diagramming been important to studying the conflict in cities?
WP: The original CinC project was set up with the idea that visual research was very important. Through studying these divided cities, we found that they’d never been properly mapped at relatable scales or drawn by the same hand. Once mapped properly, it was enlightening to compare the various cities and actually see how different they were.
Nicosia is the classic divided city with just two halves. Belfast, on the other hand, contains many small-scale separation walls within neighborhoods. And Jerusalem has a long irregular wall. The walls in these three cities alone are completely different from each other. In another study we looked at Vukovar, a town in the former Yugoslavia, and we mapped the city’s coffee houses because they were significant to the locations of the Croat and the Serb populations.
Through studies like these, we were able to develop the idea that drawings are, of course, wonderful for communicating information but also very useful analytically. Architects use drawings to test designs, and although we weren’t designing anything, we still needed to analyse our sites. They were a valuable counterpoint to the work of the social scientists, who were primarily interested in verbal interviews.
BUILD: Have you found that urban conflict mutates and evolves, or do your case studies still apply accurately to current conditions?
WP: Conflicts have changed. They aren’t like traditional wars, such as World War II, in which war is declared, fought, and ended with a postconflict period. Now conflicts tend to be smaller and more numerous. Often they come from within cities, involving civilians rather than the military or foreign powers. So the question of sovereignty has changed a tremendous amount.
We noticed that areas experiencing conflict also suffer it over long periods of time. When there are high levels of conflict and violence, people tend to shrink back into their communities. When things are more peaceful, they move into public places. It is in public places that they might encounter each other and the “other,” which is very important. While tensions tend to remain high, life goes back to a reasonable level of normality. We’ve seen these patterns, and it’s almost an ebb and flow.
BUILD: You’ve written that “cities have been built on the fault lines of culture.” Can you elaborate?
WP: This is actually a quote from Scott Bollens. A city is a place where different people come together—for transportation, trade, or religious reasons. The nature of a city is that it brings different people together. By definition, cities are diverse. Without diversity they are not cities; they may be villages or tribes or some other structure. Because of this diversity, it means every city will have conflict. The question is how much conflict do they have and to what extent can we channel conflicts in constructive ways? That’s where it gets complicated because we don’t understand why some people of different ethnic groups, who have lived together for generations, will suddenly start fighting with each other.
Institutions of governance, like parliament and judicial systems, are adversarial. People don’t often agree with each other, but these institutions provide constructive ways of dealing with conflict so that those involved can reach a point at which they can move on. It’s a dialectical process. We need to rely on this approach much more than we do. We need to find new and creative ways of dealing with conflicts, rather than trying to achieve the impossible task of removing or solving them.
BUILD: Are there examples of architecture playing a role in mitigating urban conflict?
WP: There aren’t many. At the same time, architecture is important because it forms the setting for conflict. We’ve found that it’s really difficult to design for conflict, partly because the architect’s job is mostly about resolving things. Conflict often has no resolution, which is difficult to design for. We’ve found that many places that are more successful in bringing people together are often simple and underdesigned.
Nonetheless, there are some interesting architectural attempts. I recently reviewed a new park in Copenhagen called Superkilen. It’s located in a diverse neighborhood with a large population of Muslim immigrants. The area has a history of unrest, and there have been some riots. It’s a big park, and much of it is taken up by routes for cycling and skateboarding. They’ve invited all of the ethnic and national groups to place something that represents their nations in the park to give them a stake in it. Everyone is excited about it, but whether this will work or not, I don’t know.
BUILD: You’ve used the phrase “excessive levels of conflict” in your talks. What is the threshold between “conflict” and “excessive levels of conflict”?
WP: Tipping points vary and change, and it’s hard to simply say that there’s a certain point of no return. The conflict in Belfast looked terrible until we saw Sarajevo, which looked terrible until we saw Beirut, which looked terrible until we saw Kigali. I’ve come to the conclusion that conflict and violence are really quite different, though they do overlap. Conflict can be productive while violence rarely is. You can have a lot of conflict without violence. To a good extent, the tipping point is when conflict becomes violent, and we really need to pay attention to when the violence becomes uncontainable and self-perpetuating.
BUILD: How do walls and buffer zones affect a city?
WP: Infrastructures put into place over long periods of conflict or occupation change a city. Such imposed barriers hold in them the residue of violence. When you put a wall or a buffer zone into the middle of a city, like in Nicosia, for example, it divides the city and completely changes it. These walls or buffer zones are usually seen as temporary, but they often become permanent, and it is difficult to know how to get rid of them once they are fixtures in cities. Oftentimes these buffer zones become convenient locations for highways and other infrastructure that further divides the city.
BUILD: Given all of your studies and experiences with urban conflict, what are you investigating now?
WP: With such a good body of case studies on this material, I’m writing a book on the nature of urban conflict. I’m sad to say that the research has been vindicated, and there are many cities now experiencing high levels of conflict. So there is more work to do.
As Seattle’s Central District (CD) is replaced, its black community is displaced. I discussed this transformation with Draze, a hip-hop artist whose music captures the changes and their emotional toll.
Gregory T. Wooston: Can you compare the past and present Central District?
Draze: It felt down-home—loved, lived in, real, culturally sound. It felt like us. It felt very welcoming then, and now it feels like, “This isn’t for you.” The new styles of homes aren’t even the way we want to live. We don’t want to live on top of each other, we want to have our own homes. It felt like the black suburbs, and now it feels…stale.
GW: You describe this in two of your songs.
D: “The Hood Ain’t the Same” was like a eulogy for a dying community. The video and song highlight landmark spaces that once were and are no more. I archived them so that future generations can see what the CD used to look like. Writing it was easy. I simply asked myself, “Where did I used to go? Where do I want to go that I can’t anymore?”
“Irony on 23rd” [was] one of the most painful records I’ve had to pen in a long time. Visually, it was about the architecture. I wanted you to see this fucked up street, decimated and silent with no one walking on it. I wanted you to see Uncle Ike’s and this new, poppin’ building next to this old church, the heart of the black community. I wanted you to feel the irony of it all!
GW: How does the architecture make you feel?
D: That’s the crumbling of my community. You got rid of Helen’s, built a new structure, brought in 200 people, and when I walk down the street, someone looks at me like I don’t belong here. African-Americans were redlined into the Central Area, and now to be pushed out—that’s where the irony and pain and frustration is. The architecture becomes a sign of pain.
GW: How can we do better as architects and planners?
D: Start with care. Ask, “What’s the story of this building and how do we maintain a portion of that?” There’s nothing wrong with beautifying and modernizing the neighborhood, [but] how do you do it with thought that says, “I care about the community that was here, about the history of the people who lived and died to change a community that is now gone.”
Valencia Street in San Francisco is no longer served by the MTA’s 26-Valencia but by private shuttles headed toward Silicon Valley. This transformation in public transit and the presence of roving shuttles from Apple, Google, and others evidence a city remade for a certain kind of resident. As a result of a 2013 “handshake agreement” with the City (investigated by Tim Redmond in 48 Hills), operators of these tech-company shuttles can now load/unload their workers at public bus stops for a minimal fee, enabling a new form of the reverse commute and rendering San Francisco an employment package perk.
A large cluster of these public/private depots are found in what real estate agent Jennifer Rosdail calls the “Quad,” a new “meta-hood” in the Castro and Mission District. As Rosdail explains on her website, the area is desired by “quadsters” who “like to hang in the sun with their friends. They work very hard—mostly in high tech—and make a lot of money.” Quadsters are young, wealthy, and likely white and male based on the hiring statistics of tech corporations.
The presence of private shuttles impacts how areas are sold and who moves in. Without the shuttle service, 40 percent of commuting tech workers in San Francisco would move closer to their offices outside the city, according to the 2015 paper and presentation Riding First Class by Danielle Dai and David Weinzimmer. In addition to co-opting public bus stops, the placement of these shuttles contributes to both property speculation and eviction. From 2011 through 2013, 69 percent of no-fault evictions occurred within four block of tech bus stops. Since then, property values have continued to surge along with eviction rates, as units are advertised based on tech bus stop proximity. Based on the Eviction Defense Collaborative’s 2014 report, those evicted are disproportionately black and Latina/o. Through the re-architecting of public bus stops, San Francisco encourages the migratory/settling desires of tech workers and follows the logics of free-market capitalism. It neglects the resulting displacement and migration, both undesired and racialized.
The landscape can never be more beautiful than it is just. We vow to make the world both beautiful and just simultaneously.
—Randy Hester in his summit declaration
Last June over 700 attendees gathered in Philadelphia for The New Landscape Declaration: A Summit on Landscape Architecture and the Future. Organized by the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF), the event marked the 50th anniversary of the penning of the organization’s “Declaration of Concern,” a document reflecting on the state of environmentalism and the practice of landscape architecture. Over two days, leaders in landscape architecture and allied disciplines gave their “declarations” on critical issues, as part of a collaborative process to create a new “Declaration of Concern” for the field. Participatory panels followed, with audience surveys, Q&A sessions, and feedback options to help drive conversations.
The discussions and declarations often focused on climate change, increased poverty, decreased humanism, and how design can lead in confronting these issues. Data emphasized the lack of women and minorities in the discipline and injustices in communities regarding access to design and open space, and environmental concerns were also voiced. As speaker Blaine Merker put it, we have a supply problem—not enough good and green urbanism to go around, and those who can’t afford it are pushed to the kind of resource-intensive development we need to rapidly abandon.
The biggest question asked was, “What can we truly do as landscape architects?” Many feared their expertise wasn’t broad enough or their voices loud enough to foster real, immediate change. Ultimately, the consensus was that we can make a lasting, positive impact.
Landscape architects, as stewards of both the land and the people who inhabit it, are trained in fostering dialogue. Our talents in facilitating productive discussions are ever more valuable as we look to share ideas and create places with different stakeholders. When every profession, neighbor, and country looks beyond borders in favor of the collective, our efforts as designers can promise real outcomes.
The “Declaration of Concern” writing process is still underway. Comments can and should be sent to the LAF (visit www.lafoundation.org). A declaration for the next 50 years and beyond will be presented and available to sign at this year’s ASLA conference in New Orleans in October.
Update 25 October 2016: The Landscape Architecture Foundation recently released The New Landscape Declaration.
A building is an invitation.
In my hometown of New Orleans, nearly 100,000 African-Americans were forced out of the city due to the government and insurance companies’ responses to Hurricane Katrina. Over 10 years later, those citizens haven’t returned. It’s difficult to come home when the policy you paid premiums on for decades won’t pay out. Or when the federal, state, and municipal programs designed to help you are so bound in red tape they’re unusable.
Yet billions of dollars in investments from both the government and private industry have flowed into the city, leading to the construction of new buildings like the iconic and cool 930 Poydras tower or the postmodern condos on the reinvigorated lanes of Freret Street.
It’s a big change from the city I’ve lived in my whole life. If one word could have summed up the New Orleans I knew, it was decay. It seemed that the vast majority of shotgun houses, camelbacks, and Creole cottages were in a perpetual state of disrepair: peeling paint, cracked foundations, missing siding. New Orleans, like many American cities, redlined black communities. Families went into banks for home improvement loans and were summarily turned away.
A building, despite appearances, is a handshake, a warm smile, a kind greeting. The new condos dotting the city may be geometric and austere, they may come in gunmetal gray or industrial silver with the rare brick facade or whimsical exterior staircase to liven up affairs, but these monoliths invite newcomers to put down roots and make this place their home; New Orleans was one of the fastest growing cities in the nation for a time after Katrina. These newcomers enter from all corners of America, but they’re mostly white, young, and urbane, attracted to the kinds of cultural programming one finds in Austin or Brooklyn or Paris. Pop-up restaurants. Yoga studios. Coworking spaces.
Freret Street is only one example of the steady transformation of New Orleans, which includes the welcoming of one group of Americans along with the displacement of another. Freret Street near Napoleon Avenue bisects a neighborhood that was primarily African-American before Katrina.
Back then, there was a venerable soul food restaurant that served local specialties for very low prices. There was an auto shop that repaired tires for less than 10 bucks. There was a bakery where you could buy a birthday cake for slightly more.
Today, no black-owned businesses remain except for a barbershop. But there’s a hip pizzeria that serves Neapolitan pies from an imported wood-burning oven. I’ve never seen any of the men from the barbershop in the pizzeria. The remaining auto shop doesn’t sell used tires, a necessity for low-income people. I’ve never seen any of the men from the barbershop in this garage. The new bakery charges $150 for a 12-inch cake. I’ve never seen any of the men from the barbershop in the new bakery.
This is not to say that there has been no investment in new architecture for native, black New Orleanians. Perhaps the most visible project of the past decade is the Orleans Parish Prison, which sits on the side of I-10 and is impossible to miss when entering town. In a city that is sometimes called “the incarceration capital of the world,” the prison is a marvel, even beautiful. With its imposing stone and glass exterior, it almost looks like an impressive research facility of some kind. In reality, it’s a hand reaching out to New Orleans’s undereducated, chronically underemployed population of African-American males.
New Orleans appears to be undergoing a transformation from a city of workaday deliverymen and jazz parades to something a bit tamer and more predictable. It’s unclear how far the metamorphosis will go. But watch the buildings.
In 2015, the UN estimated there were 244 million international migrants—people in search of greater opportunities, stability among economic and climatic changes, and safety from violence. Many more individuals move within their own countries, pulled from the rural to the urban or pushed from cities to their peripheral sprawls. These are indigenous communities, people of color, immigrants and migrant workers, the homeless, the stateless, and refugees. Their displacement entails leaving or losing home and creating something new, often amid policies that regulate their presence while promoting the mobility of others, such as a border wall or referendum to leave.
This issue’s feature explores, documents, and critiques some of the spaces found throughout the migration process. It asks what it means to be displaced from home, to persevere en route, and to arrive elsewhere. Contributors describe displacements as three American cities cater to influxes of young, wealthy white people. They conceptualize architectures of those who can no longer build in places of their own. They survey precarious journeys through squats, camps, and detention centers. And they identify welcoming and unwelcoming spaces for migrants upon arrival in Europe and North America. Their pieces express feelings of loss and being lost, and they present various responses from collaboration to resistance.
As artist Reena Saini Kallat captures in Woven Chronicle, migration can be transformative for both individuals and society. However, obstacles exist in the process, especially as borders harden, migrants are marginalized, and gentrifiers displace people of color. Architecture should involve and listen, welcome and remember. Built and social environments should consider different perspectives and respect established communities of color. Spaces must say black, indigenous, and migrant lives matter.
Issue 34.2 will release online throughout the fall. Look for these feature contributors and topics:
Displacement in New Orleans by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
San Francisco Tech Bus Stops, Displacement, and Architectures of Racial Capitalism by Erin McElroy
The Hood Ain't the Same: An Interview with Draze by Gregory T. Woolston
Between Places by Sai Sinbondit
How to Build Without a Land by Saba Innab
Mapping the Makeshift Camps of Migration by Katja Ulbert
Our Country by Laura Doggett
Programmatic Violence by Tings Chak
Migration Routes as Conduits of Transformation by Reena Saini Kallat
Welcome to the Living Room! by Laura M. Pana
The Evolving Boundaries of Manhattan’s Chinatown by Shaolu Yu
Flygirl in the Butterfly Bush by C. Davida Ingram
Looking for Home in the Right Places by Claudia Castro Luna