Search results for "philadelphia"
Stalled California housing bill could give architects chance to redesign the state’s cities
An American Experiment
Amanda Kolson Hurley dives into radical histories of U.S. suburbs
When a book about suburbia contains a chapter called “The Anarchists Who Took the Commuter Train,” you know it is going to be an interesting read. That book is Amanda Kolson Hurley’s Radical Suburbs: Experimental Living on the Fringes of the American City, and it does not disappoint. In six well-researched and informative—yet fast-paced—chapters, Hurley introduces us to a tapestry of suburban social experimentation, from communal living in celibacy to a community of working couples inspired by the Bauhaus. It is a rich collection of projects, most of which have been overlooked by standard urban surveys.
And yes, there were anarchists in Piscataway, New Jersey, commuting to day jobs in Manhattan. Stelton was a development by anarchists decamping from New York’s East Village in 1915. It was centered around an experimental school, the Modern School, which had both year-round and summer residents united by ultraleft political beliefs and, apparently, a love of argumentation. As throughout the book, Hurley takes her research of Piscataway and the Stelton development on the road, visiting the remnants of the town and interviewing former Stelton residents who remember idyllic school days where—as you can imagine in an anarchist paradise—they were pretty much allowed to do anything they liked. Hurley tells Stelton’s story in rich detail, examining everything from how property rights were handled to the ways in which the houses were decorated.
The chapter on Concord Park, which is just outside of Philadelphia, is equally illuminating. Subtitled “Integrating the Suburbs at ‘Checkerboard Square,’” this section details the efforts of a white developer, Morris Milgram, to create a completely integrated suburb in the 1950s. Hurley effectively conveys the many hurdles Milgram faced and the agonizing choices he had to make, most notably his decision to mandate a quota of 55 percent sales to whites and 45 percent to blacks. As one of only a handful of suburban communities to offer high-quality homes to black residents, the quota was deemed necessary in order to keep it from becoming majority black, with the 10 percent disparity added to entice whites to buy. The project was an initial success (it later did revert to an upper-middle-class majority black neighborhood). Hurley again found authentic voices of former residents, combined with tireless research, to record its story.
All of the stories in this book are masterfully told, adding depth to the examination of suburbs within the disciplines of urbanism and architecture—while at the same time providing enough color and commentary to appeal to a reader with little experience or prior interest in the subject. Hurley’s focus on social experimentation and the ways developments affected residents’ day-to-day lives is part of this success.
What gets perhaps less attention, however, is the wonkier architectural-urban analyses of urban design and architecture in contributing to the radicality of these projects. Of the two more “architectural” projects detailed in the book, The Architects' Collaborative’s collection of Modernist homes outside of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the planned city of Reston, Virginia—the dreamchild of developer Robert E. Simo designed by William Conklin and Thomas Rossant—which only Reston could be considered a truly radical challenge to the standard subdivision in terms of its urban design, embracing both density and mixing of uses. Even at Reston, Simon was forced out and the project reverted to typical suburban norms. (The knife in the gut is that the companies that took over the project were Gulf Oil and Mobil—as if we needed any further proof of what oil companies are looking for in terms of how people live and commute.)
As a result, the book is rather short on critical analysis of the role of design and, perhaps more important, whether design can play a role in remedying any of the problems—restrictive covenants, lack of density and connections, the effects of climate change—that Hurley details in her conclusion as everyday realities. As many—if not most—of the projects in the book ended up failing in themselves or at least failing to inspire any larger movements, the role of design in the relative success of an example like Greenbelt, Maryland—where the proto-modernist forms of Art Deco were used to create a successful mingling of a main street with true suburban freedoms—would make for an interesting next volume.
Hurley’s organization of the book reflects this dichotomy between what is considered success and what is considered failure. She begins in the introduction with a full-throated defense of the suburbs, detailing their increased diversity, quality of life, and sense of community, arguing that the examples in the book are a refutation of suburban clichés of conformity, mediocrity, and blandness. Yet she ends with the aforementioned critique and offers a list of ways in which suburbs could improve. Even the most ordinary of suburbs can of course be considered a uniquely American experiment that has had extraordinary success in redefining how people live. As with any experiment, it is the failures that often provide the pathway to new solutions, and Hurley shows how a number of outliers previously lost to history offer clear alternatives. With 50 percent of Americans still living in the suburbs, even the most hardcore urbanist cannot refute the need to reexamine and redesign them. Hurley has provided us with much-needed fuel for the imagination.
Dan Wood, FAIA, is a cofounder of WORKac and author of We’ll Get There When We Cross That Bridge and 49 Cities.
Jail Simulator 2019
AECOM chosen to oversee design-build of Rikers replacement towers
Exhibition ContributorsAdrian Blackwell (born in Toronto, Canada; lives in Toronto, Canada) Akinbode Akinbiyi (born in Oxford, England-UK; lives in Berlin, Germany) Alejandra Celedon (born in Edmonton, Canada; lives in Santiago, Chile) & Nicolas Stutzin (born in Santiago, Chile; lives in Santiago, Chile) Alexandra Pirici (born in Bucharest, Romania; lives in Bucharest, Romania) Avijit Mukul Kishore (born in Lucknow, India; lives in Mumbai, India) & Rohan Shivkumar (born in Hyderabad, India; lives in Mumbai, India) Black Quantum Futurism (founded in Philadelphia, USA) Borderless Studio (founded in Chicago, USA) CAMP (founded in Mumbai, India) Carolina Caycedo (born in London, England–UK; lives in Los Angeles, USA) Center for Spatial Research (founded in New York, USA) Chicago Architectural Preservation Archive (founded in Chicago, USA) Clemens von Wedemeyer (born in Göttingen, Germany; lives in Berlin, Germany) Cohabitation Strategies (founded in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and New York, USA) & Urban Front (founded in New York, USA) ConstructLab (founded in Berlin, Germany) DAAR (Sandi Hilal & Alessandro Petti) (founded in Beit Sahour, Palestine) Detroit Planning Department (founded in Detroit, USA) Do Ho Suh (born in Seoul, South Korea; lives in London, England–UK) FICA–Fundo Imobiliário Comunitário para Aluguel (founded in São Paulo, Brazil) Forensic Architecture (founded in London, England–UK) & Invisible Institute (founded in Chicago, USA) Herkes İçin Mimarlık (Architecture For All) (founded in Istanbul, Turkey) Jimmy Robert (born in Guadeloupe–France; lives in Berlin, Germany) Joar Nango (born in Áltá/AltaÁltá, Sápmi/Northern Norway; lives in Romssa /Tromsø, Norway) Jorge González (born in San Juan, Puerto Rico; lives in Puerto Rico) Keleketla! Library (founded in Johannesburg, South Africa), in collaboration with Stockyard Institute (founded in Chicago, USA) Maria Gaspar (born in Chicago, USA; lives in Chicago, USA) MASS Design Group (founded in Boston and Poughkeepsie, USA, and Kigali, Rwanda) MSTC (founded in São Paulo, Brazil), in collaboration with Escola da Cidade (founded in São Paulo, Brazil) and O Grupo Inteiro (founded in São Paulo, Brazil) Ola Hassanain (born in Khartoum, Sudan; lives in Khartoum, Sudan and Utrecht, Netherlands) Oscar Tuazon (born in Seattle, USA; lives in Los Angeles, USA) Palestine Heirloom Seed Library Project (founded in the northern West Bank, Palestine) Raumlabor (founded in Berlin, Germany) RIWAQ - Center for Architectural Conservation (founded in Ramallah, Palestine) RMA Architects (founded in Mumbai, India and Boston, USA) Sammy Baloji (born in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo; lives in Brussels, Belgium and Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo) & Filip de Boeck (born in Antwerp, Belgium; lives in Brussels, Belgium and Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo) Santiago X (lives in Chicago, USA) Settler Colonial City Project (founded in Ann Arbor USA and Guayaquil, Ecuador) in collaboration with American Indian Center (founded in Chicago, USA) Somatic Collaborative (Felipe Correa & Devin Dobrowolski) (founded in New York, USA) studioBASAR (founded in Bucharest, Romania) Sweet Water Foundation (founded in Chicago, USA) Tania Bruguera (born in Havana, Cuba; lives in New York, USA) & Association of Arte Útil (founded in Havana, Cuba) Tanya Lukin Linklater (born in Alaska, USA; lives in Ontario, Canada) & Tiffany Shaw-Collinge (born in Alberta, Canada; lives in Alberta, Canada) Territorial Agency—John Palmesino & Ann-Sofi Rönnskog (founded in London, England–UK) The Funambulist (founded in Paris, France) Theaster Gates (born in Chicago, USA; lives in Chicago, USA) Usina - CTAH (founded in São Paulo, USA) Vincent Meessen (born in Baltimore, USA; lives in Brussels, Belgium) Walter J. Hood (born in Charlotte, USA; lives in Oakland, USA) Wendelien van Oldenborgh (born in Rotterdam, Netherlands; lives in Berlin, Germany) Wolff Architects (founded in Cape Town, South Africa) Zorka Wollny (born in Kraków, Poland; lives in Berlin, Germany)
Catalog ContributorsAmerican Indian Center (founded in Chicago, USA) Aviwe Mandyanda (BlackStudio) (born in Mdantsane, a township in East London, South Africa; lives in Johannesburg, South Africa) Carmen Silva (born in Santo Estêvão, Brazil; lives in São Paulo, Brazil) cheyanne turions (born in High Prairie, Canada; lives in Vancouver) Dr. Denise Ferreira da Silva (born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; lives in Vancouver, Canada) ELLA (founded in Los Angeles, USA) Emmanuel Pratt (born in Virginia, USA; lives in Chicago, USA) Eduardo O. Kohn (lives in Montreal, Canada) Inam Kula (born in Gugulethu, a township in Cape Town, South Africa; lives in Cape Town, South Africa) Lesley Lokko (born in Dundee, Scotland – UK; lives in Johannesburg, South Africa) Mario Gooden (lives in New York City, USA) Pelin Tan (born in Hilden, Germany; lives in Mardin, Turkey) Stephen Willats (born in London, England–UK; lives in London, England–UK) Vincent Tao (born in Scarborough, Canada; lives in Toronto, Canada) Virginia de Medeiros (born in Feira de Santana, Brazil; lives in São Paulo, Brazil) Vivien Sansour (born in Beit Jala, Palestine; lives in Bethlehem, Palestine and Los Angeles, USA) Columbia Books on Architecture and the City (founded in New York City, USA)
In Jackson, Mississippi, architects are taking on a citywide hunger problem
By more than one measure, Jackson, Mississippi, is one of the nation’s unhealthiest cities. In 2017, it was named the fattest city in America based on 17 indicators, including obesity rates, levels of physically active adults, and access to fresh produce. In fact, nearly one-fifth of city residents are considered food insecure. The state of Mississippi does not fare much better—for the last eight years, it was reported as the most food insecure state in the country, even though agriculture is the state’s top industry.
It’s not just that Jackson has only 17 grocery stores for a population of nearly 170,000—that’s one per nearly 10,000 people. But the food that is available is disproportionately tipped toward fast food and gas station items. As one scholar of Jackson’s food culture told the Clarion Ledger, “Hunger happens in between bags of chips.”
All of this is compounded by the city’s lack of viable public transit options. Jackson is designed around the car, but many residents, whose wallets are already stretched thin on federal food assistance dollars, don’t own one. Even those with groceries or farmers’ markets in walking distance are discouraged by the lack of sidewalks or crosswalks. These conditions are undergirded by decades of generational poverty and disinvestment due to white flight, unfavorable tax policies, and the state’s aggressive efforts to cut resources for Medicaid and limit food stamps.
But Jackson also has a long history of civil rights activism, and its residents in 2013 and again in 2017 elected mayors who promised nothing less than wholesale social and economic transformation. For Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, addressing Jackson’s food access challenge is part of his promise to make it “the most radical city in the world.” But rather than enlisting conventional strategies, the city has mobilized its long-range planning division to lead a new design-based initiative. Bolstered by a $1 million public art grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, “Fertile Ground: Inspiring Dialogue about Food Access” brings together architects and artists alongside chefs, gardeners, food policy experts, and local institutions to facilitate a year of community-engaged interventions at three sites in the city. The project will culminate in a citywide exhibition in the spring of 2020, but ultimately it aims to establish a nonprofit research lab on food access that will operate on a permanent basis to sustain the momentum that is created.
The city invited an intriguing roster of architects and designers from around the country to participate in the multidisciplinary initiative: Kathy Velikov and Geoffrey Thün, directors of RVTR; Anya Sirota and Jean Louis Farges of Akoaki; Walter Hood of Hood Design Studio, and Jonathan Tate, who runs his namesake practice, Office of Jonathan Tate. Architects are central to the project, said Travis Crabtree, a senior urban planner with the city and one of the project’s coordinators. “When we first got the grant, people asked, Why are we spending $1 million dollars on an art project when we could feed people for a million?” he said.
Looking more closely at what these designers bring to the table may illustrate what can be gained from this approach. The question of access is at the heart of practices like the Toronto and Ann Arbor, Michigan–based RVTR, led by Velikov and Thün, who are both associate professors at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. In their ongoing project, Protean Prototypes, they conceive of public transit systems as platforms to address access to mobility, food, education, and health. They do this by mapping the social and spatial opportunities for access, connecting underserved areas with local actors who can bridge access gaps and by proposing lightweight spatial prototypes that overlay onto public transit infrastructure, such as bus stops and metro stations. The prototypes might include emerging tech like mobile produce vending systems and bike-cart shares alongside other programs with a small footprint like exercise equipment and book lending programs. Applying this method to Chicago, San Francisco, and Detroit, this complex systems approach brings together architectural and urban scale in new assemblages that amplify the resources already on the ground and take advantage of the larger urban context to channel them where they are needed most.
In Jackson, Velikov and Thün will focus their efforts at the Ecoshed, a 15,000-square-foot, open-air building on a 2-acre industrial site that borders two very different neighborhoods—the rapidly gentrifying Fondren and Virden Addition, one of the poorest in the city. For Fertile Ground, the Ecoshed will demonstrate a self-sustaining closed-loop food system and host the food lab, and eventually host the Fertile Ground nonprofit.Anya Sirota and Jean Louis Farges of Detroit-based Akoaki will also focus their efforts at the Ecoshed. Their practice has engaged with the problem of food access through four years of work with an urban farm in Detroit, the Oakland Avenue Urban Farm. Sirota is also an associate professor of architecture at Taubman. Detroit provides a uniquely fertile landscape for thinking about urban food access. According to Sirota, Detroit has 1,300 urban farms, but none of them are sustainable. At the 6-acre Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, sustainability for Sirota and Farges has meant strategizing beyond economics alone. To them, urban farms are hubs for urban regeneration, and they realized that multiple layers of activity and programming were needed to realize that potential. Like Velikov and Thün, they see architecture as a way of “amplifying the activity that’s already happening on the ground, to stitch together new and productive alliances.”
Detroit may be 1,000 miles from Jackson, but the connection between the two cities runs deep. Like Jackson, Detroit is a majority African American city, with many residents who have ties to Mississippi and other southern states. Thus, the Oakland Avenue farm grows many heritage products from Mississippi. Likewise, the association to agriculture is similarly fraught in both cities; as Sirota noted, “We are highly attuned to the idea that going back to the land isn’t necessarily representationally positive to everyone.” Rather than framing urban farming as a return to an idyllic past (and glossing over the history of slavery and policies that led to the dispossession or denial of land to freed slaves), Akoaki’s urban farm work is firmly sited in the urban. “We’ve become astutely aware that the neo-rural is not rural; it’s something that deserves an aesthetic that hybridizes all the aspirations of the city and combines them with the necessity to produce picturesque landscape and food.” Thus the practice’s design of pop-up performance spaces next to the farm’s kale fields for the Detroit African Funkestra is based on the colors and shapes of shuttered music venues across Detroit.
Another participating architect, Oakland-based landscape architect Walter Hood, has extensive experience designing cultural and urban landscapes. Hood, who is also a professor at University of California, Berkeley's will focus his efforts at Galloway Elementary in Jackson. The 4.3-acre, publicly owned lot is currently a playfield for a local elementary school. According to the city’s planning department, this site is located in a lower-income residential neighborhood with little public space and bordered by a major street dominated by fast food establishments. The theme here will be on food and community.
This is a good fit for Hood. His projects in Charleston, South Carolina; Macon, Georgia; Detroit, and Philadelphia, among other cities, demonstrate a steady thread of incorporating community feedback, local culture, and collective memory into landscape and urban design. In his Water Table installation at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, Hood tapped into the ecology and history of rice production by mounting thousands of Carolina Gold rice plants in circular planters on a platform in a school courtyard, essentially recreating a rice paddy in downtown Charleston. The project resurfaced the link between rice production and the history of the slave labor that made Carolina’s rice industry possible. Afterwards, the project was dissembled and distributed, planter by planter, across schools and institutions in the area, and lived on to continue the conversation. This archaeological approach also surfaces in many other projects by Hood Studio, including its master plan for Detroit’s Rosa Parks neighborhood. Hood's work has long engaged with the idea of “being a protagonist in design," and, in reflecting on the future work in Jackson, asked, “How do we make a landscape powerful, so that once you do it, it has a resonance?”
Finally, at Congress Street, the third Fertile Ground site, New Orleans–based architect Jonathan Tate will bring his experience with food culture and exhibition design to a downtown storefront space. The Congress Street site is close to the heart of government and is intended to amplify the project to public officials and policymakers who work nearby.
For Tate, who designed the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans, the task includes not only the adaptive reuse of an existing building but also the design of an outdoor parklet that invites the public in through greenscape and seating. The challenge will be to bring it all together—the art, the history, the contributions of numerous partners, and of course, engage critical feedback, in a downtown that goes quiet at 5 p.m. on weekdays. "Instead of a veneer you're walking through, it's about bringing the space of the building out into the street," he explained.
The architects, along with other Fertile Ground team members, began site visits in April, and will develop their proposals until the citywide expo in 2020.