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by Mitch McEwen

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    The White Flight from American Democracy

    Mitch McEwen
    Dec 27, '16 4:26 PM EST

    "The city in L'Enfant's Washington is really new nature. The models derived from the Europe of absolutism and despotism are now expropriated by the capital of democratic institutions, and translated into a social dimension certainly unknown at the Versailles of Louis XIV."

    -Manfredo Tafuri, Architecture and Utopia: Design and Capitalist Development, Reason's Adventures, p32

     

    When I grew up in Washington DC in the 1980s it was the Blackest the nation's Capitol has ever been.  White flight had been an ongoing process for so long that the traces of a white majority city were hard to find or, for me, even imagine.  Elders had to explain to me the ways in which the city used to be majority white, beyond the confines of Capitol Hill and Georgetown, and heavily segregated.  For me the District was a wide open place where my mother took taxis to meet with clients all over the city, sometimes taking me along.  Her legal office was up a few flights in a commercial building in Chinatown.  In the summers I shuttled between martial arts day-camp in SE and my mom's work in Chinatown and the courthouse. During the school year I went to private school on Capitol Hill with white kids who mostly lived in renovated townhouses on or near Pennsylvania Ave. (The vibe of the DC that reared me might be captured a bit in this Washington Post photo below of a Bad Brains concert the year after I was born).

    It wasn't until I went to an elite private high school in NW DC that I understood that there was a sprawling monied world out in the suburbs.  The vast majority of the students at my high school had never been to my neighborhood or even the sliver of the District's quadrant that I lived in (Southwest).  A couple of my classmates even debated me as to whether the SW quadrant of the District existed. This was the first time in my life I was face to face with white flight.

    White flight is not a disappearance.  Those of us who remain in the neighborhoods, cities, and institutions from which white flight flees do not shrink.  We do not bemoan the absence of white people.  We do not shutter the storefronts and cultural institutions and schools and nightlife establishments -- not all of them, anyway.  If we are in the Nation's Capitol, we do not shut down the Federal government or the Smithsonian museums.  We continue evolving and existing, and those stable jobs and grand institutions and typical pieces of urbanism become the territory of our lives.    

    We, as a democracy, are now facing an extreme form of White Flight (so extreme that I'm capitalizing it from here on out to distinguish from the urban scale phenomenon).  Those of us who work in the built environment or in activism or watch Portlandia are beyond familiar with the 21st century terminology of gentrification.  Twentieth century white flight is unwinding and, often, simply reversing.  In some circles this demographic phenomenon is termed white infill.  I find the overlay of the term gentry implied in gentrification to be a bit unproductive.  It is difficult to bemoan the capital flight from American cities post-World War II and assume, at the same time, that capital influx automatically means displacement.  I would prefer to work on the ways that development in cities can mean development for the diverse people who have been already living and working in cities, developing social worlds and institutions and economies for decades, often despite the absence of organized capital.

    But the White Flight that we are experiencing in this country now is at the level of American democracy, itself.  Not at the level of any one city.  There is a flight from the symbolism of Washington DC - its dignity and its monumentality -- as well as the mechanics of the institutions that have made democracy in America real and globally important since the 18th century.  This round of White Flight is fleeing the most basic democratic institutions, such as the accessible polling place, public education, and the free press. This is the core of the post-truth era.  It is not an erasure of truth categorically, but a flight from the political ramification of fact, as well as the civic institutions that make democracy tick.     

    The selection of a real estate mogul as the charismatic figure heralding this White Flight from American democracy might be over-determined, ie less than an insignificant accident.  In the figure of a real estate developer, this White Flight seeks a continuation of Jefferson as architect-president.  The hope implied is that, instead of designing the physical forms of a symbolic social dimension, this figure will somehow *build* symbols that escape the known social dimension. The translation that Tafuri chartered in the Jefferson collaboration with L'Enfant can now run in reverse -- from the capital of our institutions toward absolutism, in the form of nostalgia for a European wealth and greatness associated with the figure of the monarch and globality of empire.

    The Washington DC plan of L'Enfant that Tafuri explicates -- as one of a symbolic figure-ground in plan serving to rationalize symbols adopted from European cities-- can now be read through a lens of late twentieth century symbolism.  The next President's family will not be residing in the White House because the White House has been marked by Blackness, demoted from abstract symbol to urban real estate.  The axes of legislative authority and executive power must be extended dramatically -- to connect through Trump Tower in Manhattan and the Trump Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue.  The resulting plan is not read through a figure of landscape that it demarcates, but through the procession of motorcades and private jets.  It starts to reconfigure a private real estate empire into a nodal map of American political power.      

     

    If you were surprised and unprepared for this election result, it is not because you live in a bubble.  It is because you have been fled.  Those of us who have been fled -- those of us who believe in the imperfect institutions that make up American democracy-- It is our job to chart the lines of this flight, as intensely as researchers of urbanism and the built environment have mapped red-lining and slum clearance and the racialized planning of highways of the 20th century.  Where are the homogenous ex-urban zones feeding this flight?  What economies support it?  What are the existing interfaces between these racially homogenous ex-urban areas and democratic institutions?  What is the landscape that spreads between these sprawling zones and racially integrated urbanism, and what are the lines of infrastructure and investment that connect them?

     

    This work will likely be wonky, disciplinary and local.  We need software programmers, GIS whizzes, economists, planners, anthropologists, architects, graphic designers and more working up a storm to understand, expose, and resist this threat to democracy as we know it.



     
    • 32 Comments

    • "A couple of my classmates even debated me as to whether the SW quadrant of the District existed."

      For some new residents it's the realization that the city extends across the Anancostia river...

      Dec 27, 16 11:27 pm
      Olaf Design Ninja_

      in summer of '96 (I think) we did the every 4 year high school band trip to DC (I also played football and at my high school if you weren't in the band you were pretty much out of the loop, dare I say a loser - 20 years in a row 1's in state concert band (at the time))....... Anyway we stayed in a hotel in Maryland or Virginia and the day we drove in the girl that sat next to me in the saxophone section cried. Every block had a liqour store, a laudromat, a nail salon or hairstylist, and Chinese food. She explained she was really sad to see people having to live like that, the buildings were in some disarray but nothing I had not seen having lived 8 of my first 13 years in Berlin, DE (reference Kreuzberg, which last I checked is /was a Williamsburg Brooklyn equivalent). I tried to explain to the girl we were probably just as poor in the rural midwest and if you looked at the density we probably had same amount of crime (drive by shooting across from my house around '95 - white on black). .....what interested me as a soon to be architect student was how an imaginary line could divide two parts of clearly the same Urban area. Which brings me to your last paragraph. Add, or I want to see - policies mapped and then a history of those policies. just like zoning code but with local taxes all the way up to federal. and then if possible add what I think you are asking, the paths and infrastructure of those governed by those policies. if you live here, do you drive there and is that a result of policy...

      Dec 28, 16 7:54 am
      Thayer-D

      As someone who grew up in the DC area in the 70's and 80's, the city has become a much better place.  If you where white back then you would run the risk of getting the shit knocked out of you going to the old 9:30, insect club or wherever east of 16th street.  Now you see while women walking around with yoga matts everywhere.  As for the suburbs, they are just as mixed.  Not that racism has disappeared, I don't think it ever will as long as people feel fear, but its much less tense than it used to be. 

      I agree that Trump's rise was feuled by a reaction to America having a black quarterback though.  This is the two steps forward, one step back, and right now it looks like a giant step back.  But the changes are already backed in, we just have to ride this storm out.  In Silver Spring where I live my wife and kids, we sometimes marvel that every other couple is mixed (as are we to some people).  I look forward to the bounce we'll get when this disaster is over.  Personally, I'm shooting for Elizabeth Warren.  We need to bring women into the top position quickly.  But for now, the asshole Alpha males are having their moment.  Study and wait.

      Dec 28, 16 9:51 am
      v.mitchmcewen

      Thayer-D, key word in your comment is "area." Sorry you missed out on the richness of DC before big box retail and sports stadia. Btw, I knew 13 year white and Asian kids who managed to sneak into 930 club and made it out OK. Let's all have a bit more courage. We're going to need it.

      Dec 28, 16 12:51 pm
      Thayer-D

      Mitch, It's funny you highlight "area".  That's what I remember white kids who went to private school would always say.  I went to a public school right outside of DC with kids of all races, yet kids like you still like to imagine DC's diamond boundary was a magical line.  I went to Bad Brains and Fugazi concerts where white kids got to bash each other pretending to be London punks even though their parents where lawyers.  My friends and I went to the 9:30 etc and my band played in holes in the wall along Pennsylvania Avenue in Capitol Hill in the early 80's when you where in diapers, so please spare me the bs.  Did you ever see Trouble funk and Rare Essence, or Chuck Brown or was that too funky for you?

      Dec 28, 16 1:18 pm
      Thayer-D

      Hi Mitch,

      I just googled you and if your the Mitch McEwen of this web sight...

      http://mcewenstudio.com/web/about/

      I can see why you got on your DC private school high horse.  As for your time in Bed-Stuy, I used to live there when I went to Pratt in the late 80's among other hoods.  Maybe I missed out on Brooklyn's cultural riches before private school kids like you moved there in the 2000's and declared it the coolest place on planet earth.  Back in my day, when Spike Lee made She's Gotta Have it, we where still called bridge and tunnel folks by the lower east side crew.  I guess you could have called it the Manhattan "Area". 

      You should know better than to play those games, then again, this is the game your in, so best of luck with all that.  Looks like you're off to a good start. 

      Dec 28, 16 2:09 pm

      There never were any kids like me, Thayer D. Keep googling.

      Dec 28, 16 3:46 pm
      Thayer-D

      I wish you all the best and congratulations on your recent wedding. 

      Dec 28, 16 3:52 pm
      Olaf Design Ninja_

      whoa, I guess no more personal anecdotes...

      I'm guessing here, but I think the DC reference was also used as a literary tool here to further indicate and distinguish the separation of "democratic institutions" and "white flight". which I think is easily clarified by what is covered in the sentences that read - " In the figure of a real estate developer, this White Flight seeks a continuation of Jefferson as architect-president.  The hope implied is that, instead of designing the physical forms of a symbolic social dimension, this figure will somehow *build* symbols that escape the known social dimension."

      I would suggest, White Flight(ers) have a very different understanding of "democratic institutions", one based on freedom from government and land ownership.

      can we link the studies of ideas affecting urban scenarios, I think that's a good place to figure out how to start analyzing the "democratic institutions". (or authors, researchers names would be nice)

      Dec 28, 16 10:16 pm
      quondam...

      Summer 1981, lived on 13th Street between Logan Circle and Q Street. Apparently that was about as 'edgy' as whites could get back then. I didn't feel unsafe, but I do remember the high-heels of hookers walking up and down 13th Street as I was trying to fall asleep in the heat of the night.

      I just remembered I kind of already wrote about this:

      2004.08.19 13:51
      Re: architects from D.C.?

      I worked in the DC area the Summer of 1981. I know that doesn't count now. Lived in a house-share on 13th St. just south of Q. Still remember hearing the clicking of hookers' highheels pacing up and down the sidewalk while trying to sleep at night. Each day drove down to Gunston Hall, Virginia, colonial home of George Mason who wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights which in turn became the US Constitution Bill of Rights. The house was being surveyed and measured top to bottom for HABS--drawings now at the Library of Congress. Hardly an exciting place, but valuable Paul Revere silver pieces were stolen from the Dining Room (--completely documenting that room was one of my assignments) one weekend (luckily I was then at the Jersey shore). Plus it was surmised by the end of the summer that all the tour guides were practicing witches--Colonial Dames through and through, you know.

      I drove home (to my just inherited house) back in Philadelphia every weekend, so the only time I got to know DC was during the week in the evenings. All the museums on the Mall were open till nine pm then, so I many times visited all of them. I used to know the National Gallery by heart, but not anymore. Masolino's ANNUNCIATION inspired chronosomatics, however. Toward the end of the summer I discovered the Library of Congress remained open till 10 pm, so I went there a lot too. All the public manifestations of our federal government nicely impressed me back then.

      One night while R. was visiting I drove him around to the east parking lot of the Capitol. The building looks magnificent at night from there, and you could literally drive right up to the steps. R. wanted a better view so he stuck his whole torso out the car window. Then a guard angrily yelled, "Get back in the car!"

      During August, our HABS team captain and his girlfriend were house-sitting Wolf von Eckart’s place just off Dupont Circle. Both Wolf and his girlfriend, (the) Miss Manners, lived there, so it was fun getting an up-close and personal tour of that.

      I have fun and youthful memories of DC, but I've returned there only trice in 23 years.

      ps
      Imagine this, one architecture student and one recent architecture grad belting out tunes from the ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW behind the closed doors of George Mason's study, exactly where the eventual US Bill of Rights were first written. "There's a light! Over at the Frankenstein place..." etc.

      Dec 29, 16 10:53 am

      Yes, Chris Teeter - that's more what I'm hoping to point to.  Thanks.

      Dec 29, 16 3:34 pm

      I might be off, but I'm going to work off of Chris' mention of property.

      I think property is a common territory for those who those who flee, those who occupy, and those who are retreating. At what is possibly the most basic level property has been tied to voting rights. While this has changed to be far more comprehensive, that specter remains.

      But the more subtle issues deal with wealth for those who presently occupy urban centers. It's been established that wealth, as an intergenerational instrument, creates opportunities for generations, and has commonly been embedded in property ownership. So imagine now with all the displacement occurring in urban centers-

      - how will residents stay

      - where will they move if they can't 

      - what opportunities exist to create wealth for themselves in either scenario

      - what will happen to them if they can't?

       

      And if you consider D.C., and all the cranes you see in the center of the city, you see change. If you look at the demographics data over the past 20 years, you see a great deal of residents being forced to move elsewhere. Elsewhere often being SE, a part of the district being made invisible to hide all displaced. Drive or walk through these newly (re)occupied neighborhoods and you see services like target and Harris Tweeter popping up. Or you see new infrastructure being put in place to give new residents access to public amenities that were never a high priority until now.

      Look across the river and you see, properties that are being matured for sale when the time is right. 

      List of possible references when I'm using a real keyboard.

      Dec 29, 16 8:44 pm
      Thayer-D

      The lower income residents of DC are also moving to the suburbs.  This is what's misleading about DC's boundaries as in other cities.  Areas outside of the NW quadrant are as close to downtown as parts of the SE quadrant and much more accessible.  Plus, their centers are more urban than many of DC's old neighborhoods.

      Prince Georges and Montgomery County's with which DC shares its land border are now heavily minority.  Inner white working class suburbs are now heavily black, Hispanic and Asian but are just as invisible as the SW quadrant, yet don't get included in the conversation because of the boundaries.  The 200 year old boarder was made irrelevant long ago beyond the school systems which is why middle income people leave DC when they can't afford private schools.  It's not as simple as black and white.

      Dec 30, 16 6:28 am
      Olaf Design Ninja_

      Marc, I will run with it....been a few years since in DC so will go with what I know. Take Manhattan for example with all the "investment" properties which become essentially empty spaces utilized a few weeks a year unless coverted to AirBnB spaces often against building policies (illegal by occupancy class as per code anyway in most cases). These empty deposit boxes, or as James P. puts it on his new blog here on archinect - are essentially tombstones in a growing cemetery......... Funniest pitch I ever heard by a realtor - thats Bryant Park where the community come to hang out. What community - tourists and junkies?.......... Based on a recent cab ride from Greenpoint to Dumbo in Brooklyn via the cab driver and what was very visible outside the cab window - new condos everywhere - the displaced Manhattan people were relocating to Brooklyn which begged the question - where are all the people in Brooklyn going?....... Nearly all my my neighbors in my very NYC commutable city in Monmouth county, NJ are from Staten Island and many of them grew up or parents and grandparents grew up in Brooklyn and before that the old country. Many move on to places like suburban Virginia, the Carolinas, and Tennesse - and some still Florida while trying to avoid often overly immigrated areas by New Yorkers (and/or BENNYs-invaders of the Jersey shore from north NJ and NY) As you can see, or at least I am illustrating this, the generation migration is from rent to own to more land and less taxes. NJ being one of the highest property taxed states....Based on various personal stories and it makes sense legally, rent stabalization can NOT be passed down generation unlike property ownership. If you rent in a slum you probably cannot purchase the slum you live in. Although, one kid I met whose family immigrated from latin America told me his father was the building super for 30 years and managed to purchase the building in the 90's from owner practically all cash and now in this part of Brooklyn its worth millions. I have met a few building supers in NYC who get free rent to be on call 24/7 for residents and use their money to buy vacation and eventual retirement homes well outside NYC. So unless you are thrifty with money saved from great rent opportunities you are not becoming a land owner. We did not even discuss subsidized housing.......In Japan you can get what amount to generational loans for property purchase. In the US your best options if poor are the military or school loans to help you get out of the poor "area" and a better job to then get an FHA loan and be in debt for 30 years to essentially change the lack of land ownership in your family with your generation.......You can buy property in places like North Philadelphia and Detroit for practically nothing, but can you live and work there? and as early as the 70's buying $1 properties seemed like a steal in Philadelphia, just to find out 30 years later you can still buy property at very low amounts as nothing has changed with regard to economic growth......as a data person, I would love to see links of non zoning policies effectimg the changes of growth or loss in these areas and frankly a map following a poor families migration and then a rating of opportunity for growth. The poor condition appears to be one where growth financially is only possible by either being uprooted or transplanted - aka military service, college and starting over, and in most if not all cases the neighborhood is never saved, the community never stays and even the mentality of those in the community is - get out while you can. For example, I sat in a meeting once where the mayor to the developers said - can my people buy, what about my people, how can they get in on this deal. Yes that meant his constituents, but he was also saying his people - a predominatly all black community. answer was yes to a degree but has to make sense on a spreadsheet-seems a bit twisted but rational as per society..... Marc look forward to the info. sorry line spacing does not work from my phone.

      Dec 30, 16 7:55 am

      Thayer,you being up a good point.  I lived in "affordable" Alexandria for 4 years and played hockey in Fairfax. It looked nothing like the sublimish images that you get when you imagine  suburbia. Nor was it supported that way, given the limited amount of transit services provided in those neighborhoods.

      But let's not forget that in Maryland in particular there has been a long history of African American suburbs. One of the earliest examples is a development proposal by Charles Cassell, one of the first African American architects to graduate from Cornell. Sadly, his proposal was not funded by banks, but did not deter others from attempting to the same. As a result these "new" communities of change have been sprinkled around the northern edge of the DC, and were (are) the ones lagging behind with economic recovery. 

      And let's acknowledge that first and second tier suburbs- second in particular- are in decline, making them the affordable places to live and the future set of property buyouts. Second tiers are particularly frustrating given the lack of urban legibility, and transportation support. A lot of this is because residents are tying to create internal themselves- isolating themselves from other neighboring land use types and demographic groups.  Again, I refer to the southern edge of Alexandria... Granted, there are efforts are being made to remake some of these places or at least people are ideating about that topic, but I'm doubtful that you will find a lifestyle center popping up in a declining market. 

      Chris, I'll pull out one of my "foundation readings" for you. Umbrellas don't make it Rain, by Sandy Darity and Darrick Hamilton. It's about accumulation of wealth and "hard work" for African Americans. You could argue that it is a narrow sample, it does demonstrate reveal the fallacy that education as a panacea.

      Why does all this matter? Consider Marc Fried's sociological research in Boston, Grieving for a Lost Home. It's old, it's really old, but it's still relevant and Matthew Desmond paints a more in-depth and contemporary picture. There are some other reports and books out there, but I can't find my lists (evidently screen shots do not suffice as bookmarks).

      Dec 30, 16 8:59 am

      More current stuff- I thought there were 31 Sanctuary Cities in the United States. This list has 40, but it's going to be a number in flux given potential fallout and impacts.

      Added to that there are approximately 450 sanctuary spaces- places of worship that are dedicating themselves to fighting deportation. Imagine the architecture, the urban environment, and landscapes that might evolve from the pressures placed on these spaces of  spaces of refuge. Personally I don't think it's that hard- look back to church arsons. And you don't have to look back that far either.

      Dec 30, 16 11:23 am
      quondam...

      While thinking about this thread last night, I thought of the notion of 'the privatization of the presidency.' Is that an original phrase, I wondered. Better google it tomorrow.

      The phrase/notion is new and already out there, but with surprisingly few search hits. It's in conjunction with the phrase 'privatizing the presidency'.

      Is the OP asking for a vigilance regarding the domestic/local effects of the forthcoming privatization of the presidency?

      Dec 30, 16 11:43 am
      jla-x

      There are 3 main problems with poor and working class flight to the suburbs 

      1.  A lack of transportation infrastructure in the suburbs.  Its mainly the poor and working class that rely on public trasit.  Hipsters may choose to use public transit for convienience and environmental reasons, but the poor actually rely on it.  Thats a big difference.  

      2.  suburbs lack that community tightness/culture that benefits poor, immigrant, and working class people. Suburbs can be isolating, especially for elderly people and immigrants.  One of my favorite places is Flushing Queens.  Not just because I love eating good food, but because of how well it works as a seperate immigrant community and also a very welcoming and integral place for visitors and neighbors.  Its certainly its own thing, but not isolated in any way.  

      3.  Suburbs lack an infrastructure and density to support informal economies.  Sure, there are now online economies that fill some of that void (uber, craigslist, etc), but not really something that can propel the american dream of going from selling apples on the street corner, to opening a brick and mortar shop....

      Dec 30, 16 2:05 pm
      jla-x

      So not to minimize the analysis that you all clearly lay out, but what is the solution given the reality of these trends?  You need to understand the migration is both cultural and economic.  Its not driven by a white flight like seen in previous generations.  The increased percieved value placed on the idea and lifestyle of "urbanity" is fueling this migration.  Its a positive trend with negative consequence.  As Ive said before,  the "city" has become a commodity in and of itself.  Its the new beach front paradigm...people like beaches...beaches are privatized and sterlized for the few lucky owners and then the no trespassing signs start to go up...  Cities, now that their function is less tied to their physicality, (factories become art galleries...smoke stacks with no smoke...) and more about lifestyle have to capitalize on that I guess....in many ways, the new sterilized hipster city is a cartoon version of its own self...like suburbia is an idealized and sterile version of the little house on the prarie...a farm without vegitables growing or the smell of cow shit.   

      That said, since the trend is happening, we need to focus on suburbia and make it more sub-urban rather than suburban.  We need to find new ways to improve suburbia to better suit its new inhabitants or else the future will be nothing but suburban slums with very concentrated areas of urban wealth.   Maybe the solution isnt architectural...not sure.    

      Dec 30, 16 2:35 pm
      Thayer-D

      I think the solution is multi-faceted.  First, the old lines between suburb and city need to be re-visited so that the political structures conform to how people live in large metro areas.   Next, to your point jla-x , we need to have a marshal program on public transit, not buses in traffic clogged lanes but dedicated lanes.  In DC, it's like pulling teeth, and that's with a extra crunchy liberal base.  Out west, I hear they're going gang busters with it, Salt Lake, Denver, LA.  Lastly, architecture.  This seems the least important, but when you look at all the studies of the psychology of the street and how humans interact with buildings, it becomes more important.  Part of the problem with designing pedestrian friendly buildings is the anti-traditional bias of most schools in favor of a theory based program.  If you want to design buildings that people enjoy walking around, study the buildings that people enjoy walking around, and why.  If you're still hung up on the style thing, come up with your own, just make it interesting to look at walking 4 miles an hour rather than driving by at 40.

      But, now that low income people are being forced to move out of transit friendly areas, the most important thing is to build more transit.  It's something like 5K to maintain a vehicle, something most working class folks can ill afford.  Obesity, social isolation, and environmental degradation.  Right now, we're looking at the privatization of just about everything (as someone said).  It's going to take joining hands with those who you might have stylistic differences to stand up to what's coming down the pike these next 4 years.  The public realm is the soil of democracy.   

      Dec 30, 16 3:11 pm

      Let's pause for a moment. If this is really about flight, talking about bus and infrastructure is the wrong direction.

      " It is our job to chart the lines of this flight, as intensely as researchers of urbanism and the built environment have mapped red-lining and slum clearance and the racialized planning of highways of the 20th century." This isn't a call for the given solution, but an understanding of a problem.

      Not to mention, I'm not clear why there's a jump to solve the problem with conventional and convenient responses that places the burden on the inhabitants of disenfranchised neighborhoods.

      Another thing to consider- "migration" as were are generalizing (I think this is really the problem) has never been by choice, but has been a matter of opportunity and fear. The trope that community segregation was one of choice denies the impact of redlining, block busting, and the tipping point for neighborhood diversity that will lead to flight.  

      Dec 31, 16 5:54 pm

      Marc, I agree with you that the idea of property, of being a property owner rather than a renter, is somehow a huge specter in this whole discussion. This is a distinctly USian attitude, isn't it?  I for one have a very, very hard time thinking of myself as someone who owns no land. It would be an enormous shift in my mentality to change that.

      Dec 31, 16 9:15 pm
      Olaf Design Ninja_

      Marc, thank you for the links and all easy quick reads for my commutes, will respond in time.

      I also agree the problem isn't all that clear, at least to me.  The obvious problem which is being addressed above is within the framework of the very source of the problem (the base structure,  etc...) I don't think this is really the problem.  It's like solving an algebra problem, when in fact we're dealing with calculus.  Or asking the question in English when the question should be asked in Spanish...

      Jan 1, 17 12:35 pm
      Volunteer

      People leave DC for the same reasons they always have: lack of decent, affordable middle class housing, high crime, horrible schools in spite of massive spending per pupil, absurd taxation, and a thoroughly, everlastingly corrupt DC government. DC is a lot of fun for young single people in their early 20's. The thrill fades fast.

      Jan 1, 17 8:24 pm

      I think property and the opportunities it affords has been an implicit and early part of the United States. My point of reference is Philadelphia and William Penn's original plan- properties that were owned and maintained by gentlemen farmers for their sustenance- or so it was imagined. Quickly it became owned, maintained, and developed- especially along the Delaware. Also keep in mind that voting rights were linked tightly to property until the mid-19th century. 

      I wonder if the fundamental difference between "us" and other countries is that property and the capital it can afford you is the fundamental safety net- politically, socially and economically. As an example, if you have a child going to college, your contribution to their tuition is evaluated based on property value (among other things). Compare this to a nation like Canada, where property value and their benefits are still a matter (eg. Toronto), but secondary education is more accessible and in a sense universal. 

      Jan 1, 17 9:52 pm
      wurdan freo

      When gentrification occurs, why are residents displaced? What forces them to flee?

      Jan 2, 17 6:40 pm

      Here's an interesting crossover post by Orhan. It's an interview with Mike Davis who writes about LA.

      and here's Richard Florida and Brentin Mock on gentrification.

      Jan 3, 17 10:42 am
      jla-x

      Agree with volunteer.  Same goes for many nyc neighborhoods

      Jan 3, 17 2:46 pm
      Olaf Design Ninja_

      Marc I read the first link. If I understood it correctly, the main difference in why wealth is drastically so different in short has to do with how you started out or from whence you came. if you start off poor and own nothing, even if you have a high paying job, the wealth gained between you and someone who may come from money but earning same salary will only remain to grow over time. that though is in short the history of humanity. someone got ahead and therefore tries to stay ahead with laws they create - and that would be a systemic argument.

      Jan 11, 17 7:51 pm

      Yep. Wealth is intergenerational and thats a powerful thing. And that systemic practice includes blockbusting- or being fled.

      Jan 11, 17 9:18 pm

      Chris, did you read the Carme Pinós interview? Her position on the role of the architect is interesting, and has relevancy to this conversation. Specifically, I wondering about your last statement-

      that though is in short the history of humanity. someone got ahead and therefore tries to stay ahead with laws they create - and that would be a systemic argument

      and her postition -

      Architects have the possibility to offer to society a better life and we think maybe architects have become [instead] a service providing to the market.

      Being fled is a construction at the disadvantage of so many, but (again) what are the tools and/or content that architects need to address these issues? I'm not convinced that it's a matter of solutions (yet), but an update with respect to tools. 

      Jan 12, 17 5:56 pm
      quondam...

      If "Architects have the possibility to offer to society a better life," then you shouldn't have to ask, " what are the tools and/or content that architects need to address these issues?" If the "possibility" actually existed, then the "tools and/or content" would be fairly self-evident.

      Jan 12, 17 6:46 pm

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About this Blog

This blog started during my fellowship at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany. Posts are sporadic. Topics span architecture, urban design, planning, and tangents from these. I sometimes include excerpts of academic articles. There is an evolving series of interviews with non-architects about subjects often discussed by architects (neighborhoods, social justice, style, sexiness, etc).

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