Archinect

Another Architecture

by Mitch McEwen

  • Interviewing a sociologist about equality, neighborhoods, and everyday people

    Assistant Professor of Sociology at University of Southern California, Veronica Terriquez received her Ph.D. in sociology from UCLA. Her research focuses on educational inequality, immigrant integration, and organized labor. Her work is linked to education justice and immigrant rights organizing efforts in California. Dr. Terriquez has also worked as a community organizer on school reform and other grassroots campaigns.

    [This is the 2nd in a series of interviews with non-architects about subjects discussed in architecture. The 1st was with French scholar Mahalia Gayle on style, sexiness, and power.]

    Mitch McEwen: How do you do your research?

    Veronica Terriquez: Much of my research seeks to understand issues of social inequality and inform initiatives that aim to promote equity.  In answering relevant empirical questions, I often partner with community groups that address some kind of social injustice.  My actual empirical research tends to use original or published survey data to identify general patterns of social behavior, and in-depth interviews to obtain a deeper understanding of patterns I find in survey data.  Occasionally I use GIS maps or participant observations in my work.


    Here’s a concrete example.  Several years ago, through the UCLA Institute for Democracy, Education and Access, I developed a research project in collaboration with SEIU (Service Employees International Union) local representing janitors and other low-wage workers.  Many SEIU janitors were concerned that their children were not going to college, and they wanted to figure out a plan to improve educational opportunities for their children.  

    Photo courtesy of Veronica Terriquez

    My colleagues and I set out to collect survey, interview, and other data in order to understand some of the educational challenges SEIU families were facing and the possibilities for supporting children’s academic achievement.  We soon learned that union members were residentially concentrated in segregated Latino and African-American neighborhoods with under-resourced, low-performing schools.   

    Maps courtesy Veronica Terriquez

    The research also demonstrated that many of the workers were applying what they learned through their workplace organizing experience to tackle the substandard learning opportunities found in their children’s schools.   In an article I published in the American Sociological Review (2011), I drew on the data gathered from SEIU members to argue that labor mobilization can equip working-class individuals, including immigrants, with the capacity to become critically engaged in civic settings outside of work.  

    MM: What kind of relationships do you trace between locations and people?

    VT: This is a complicated question without an easy answer.  I think it’s important to consider how local history, immigration/emigration patterns, and urban design, interact with the relationships among civic organizations, government, and private enterprise.  Local history of race and class relations, and current demographics to a great degree shape the dynamics among people in any location.  As you and your audience know, the built environment, population density, and public transportation also matter. At the same time, civil society (including grassroots groups, artist collectives, professional associations, labor unions, religious organizations), local government, and local enterprise, and the nature of the relationship among these three spheres of social influence, play a significant role in how people live and interact within any given location.  

    So the local history, migration patterns, and the physical layout of LA and Detroit are very different—as are the relationships among different elements of civil society, the local government, and private enterprise. We therefore see very different relationships between people and place in these two U.S. cities.  

    MM: How do you see neighborhoods and neighborhood-level organizing now compared to the historic periods you reference (Civil Rights movement, 1990s labor)?

    VT: I see a great deal of continuity.  We are still learning from and adapting the grassroots organizing strategies that were used in the Civil Rights movement to address neighborhood and other issues in the contemporary period.   At the most basic level, grassroots organizing entails the leadership development of individuals most affected by community problems.  Ella Baker understood this and made it her focus to develop the leadership of students, women, and others involved in the struggle for Civil Rights. The activists of this earlier movement then mentored younger activists in the 1990s, including those involved in the immigrant rights movement, the revitalized segments of the labor movement, and other movements for social justice.  The activists of the 1990s, to varying degrees, have also provided guidance to today’s younger generations.  

    One important break from the past, however, is the use of social media.  Social media can be used to very quickly educate and mobilize a significant number of people to support a cause.  A protest can be organized overnight.  However, to really develop effective and sustained grassroots organizing, we still need basic leadership training and relationship building among stakeholders that often occurs through old-fashioned, in-person interaction, and popular education.   Most grassroots campaigns to change institutions or policies cannot be won in a week or a month, but take years of hard work and require some level of continuity in leadership.

    MM: One of the things that interests me about your work, as a Professor of Architecture and practitioner, is the radical potential of everyday places and what you call "everyday people."  In the fields of architecture and urban design, the way we discuss radical potential can seem limited to luxury and its forms.  The folks that you are interviewing and collaborating with do not seem nostalgic to me.  Is this right?  What kind of future world is being imagined or enacted?

    VT: A lot of people that I work with imagine a world where all people, regardless of their social origins, can enjoy basic necessities, including access to healthy food and clean water, health care, a decent education, a living wage, and a safe and unpolluted place to live.  People also imagine a world where they are not at risk of being deported, harassed by the police, or treated unfairly because they belong to a minority identity group.

    What would these people have to say to those who are in the field of architecture?  Many would probably want architects to engage in projects that broaden access to nice-looking public spaces, educational institutions, and affordable homes that use green design.    


  • I Can't Breathe = You Can't Dance

    Thank you Archinect Sessions podcast for featuring me on the first podcast of 2015.  It looks like with everything happening in December I missed a chance to post here on Another Architecture.  Let's catch up.    Mimi Zeiger wrote a great opinion piece for Dezeen last month asking why...


  • 90's Throwback: Rem + Mies

    Posting this much about Mies makes me feel like this blog is circling back to where it started two years ago, when I posted about Modernity and Ideology from my studio in Germany.  Somehow this recent time in the MidWest, transitioning from Brooklyn to Detroit, does remind me of settling into...


  • Affording Mies

    One of the principles that guides my approach to architecture and urban design is the sense that architecture has much more to offer than luxury.  Whether you consider our field professionally in comparison to doctors and lawyers, or as a discipline comparable to art, we have a lot of room to be...


  • Interview with Keller Easterling about Subtraction

    Keller Easterling is an internationally-recognized architect and theorist working on issues of urbanism, architecture, and organization in relation to the phenomena commonly defined as globalization. Her latest book, Subtraction, is published by Sternberg Press.  Easterling is a Professor of...


  • When an emerging design firm gets an office in downtown Manhattan for $1

    My collaborators and I have recently secured an office space in downtown Manhattan to lease for $1.  That's one dollar.  It's a pristine storefront, ideal location between the Lower East Side and Chinatown (easy biking from Brooklyn and 1 block from the Grand St subway).  Wifi and utilities...


  • DS+R Scanning Beyond Fashion #NOTinVenice

    Perhaps we are so accustomed to hearing architect's present their designs as inspired by clothing -- whether the drape of a veil in Abu Dhabi or the flair of a skirt in Prague -- that we do not consider the intersection of architectural output and costuming to be newsworthy. The two modes of...


  • Interviewing a French Literature Scholar about Style, Sexiness, Politeness, and Power

    Mahalia C. Gayle is from Seattle, WA. She completed her undergraduate studies at Princeton University and her graduate work at Harvard University, both in Romance Languages and Literatures with a specialization in French. She has taught at Harvard University, Boston University, Emmanuel College...


  • Her analogous city

    In honor of Her winning best original screenplay in the Oscars last weekend, I am going to finally post this.Spike Jonze's Her is a masterpiece of a movie that lends itself to comparison to Brazil.  At least, architecturally and urbanistically, it does. One could also develop a comparison in...


  • How do architects fail?

    What is it about failure that is so seductive in art and such anathema in architecture?  Perhaps there is something about the relationship between client and architect that makes failure so…. taboo, so unthinkable, and un-seductive.For the past few months I have been part of an...


  • Detroit House Opera

    Inspired by the flexibility of uses for houses in Detroit, in proximity to the major cultural institutions for opera and diverse forms of performance, this project stages an opera as a house, the house and its dramas of occupancy and vacancy, demolition, and re-purposing, as an...


  • Mumbai Anthropocene

    This "Another Architecture" blog started as an intermittent chronicle of my architecture fellowship at Akademie Schloss Solitude.  I was back in New York for the summer, preparing for the next phase of my fellowship in Zagreb Croatia, when I got a call from U. of Michigan to teach the Fall...


  • Columbia GSAPP Shocker

    I can't believe Wigley is stepping down from the Dean position at Columbia GSAPP.  The Studio X infrastructure seemed to be still ramping up and ready to take over another continent.  Like Antarctica, for example. This makes me feel like I must have reached mid-career already, since I...


  • James Turrell and Robert Irwin

    This summer in New York we are having a rare dose of major works from the West coast's "Light and Space" movement.  That phrase Light and Space always makes me think first of Light and Air, that penultimate duo of Depression-era tenement reform and the 1916 New York City zoning.  The...


  • Primate is doubly digital

    This is a brief summary of Primate, the plugin that I created to integrate Leap Motion with parametric design in Grasshopper.    For me there are 3) big break-throughs that Leap enables.  1) bringing to digital processes an intuitive access to 3 dimensions.  That is very...

    Primate demo



  • Mobile office

    My residency at Akademie Schloss Solitude has ended for the moment.  I am back in New York for the summer, will be in Europe again in the fall. Here in NY my office is mobile.  I am mostly at either the main library at Bryant Park in Manhattan or at one of the Goethe Institute...


  • Istanbul, the Bosphorous, Corbusier's sketches, Rex

    How much of the history of urban design as a discipline can be traced back to Corbusier's reading of foreground and background in Istanbul? He took his first research trip abroad to Istanbul in 1911 and wrote of the relationship between the massive forms of the mosques and the repeated typology...

    Crossing Bosphorous by taxi



  • Peter Zumthor's Kunsthaus Bregenz

    It's sort of 2 and a half buildings in one.  A functional envelope that might remind one of the Eames' house, if the Eame's house were 4 stories and all glazed.  Outside of that are the overlapped panels of glass that come all the way down to the sidewalk. Inside is concrete - interior...


  • Messe Basel - when big architecture knows its neighborhood

    There is not much I could add to Herzog + de Meuron's own description of their Messeplatz Basel project, which is quoted in length here on Dezeen, along with photos.  Often in our field a project description can sound a bit like an artist statement, heavy on intent and concept, but maybe...


  • [Not Luxury] concept furniture

    [Not Luxury] concept furniture line, on view with exhibition design for chessmaster Vera Nebolsina's performance next Saturday for Lange Nacht der Museen 2013 (Long Night of the Museums) at Römerstasse 2 gallery space, Stuttgart.  The furniture is based not only on affordable recyclable...


  • Chess master visits architecture workshop

    A month ago already in this blog I mentioned a collaboration I had started with a chessmaster.  Here's a video of her visit to the workshop I led at Stuttgart's Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste.  Presented in the context of a workshop that I directed at ABK Stuttgart...



  • Write your manifesto in 60 - 80 words

    A friend of mine, a colleague who also manages a practice in Brooklyn, asked me to contribute to his collection of manifestos and influences for a presentation.  Here are the instructions, followed by my own manifesto below.  What would yours be?     (1) Write a theory...


  • Parameters of chess

    Tagged chess, grasshopper

    Photo by Vera Nebolsina, Grandmaster As I've alluded to before (Brunelleschi = BIM), I tend not to see digital design methods - such as Building Information Modeling or parametric design - as paradigmatic ruptures within architecture and its history.  The capacity of parametric modeling as a...


  • Sweating Tanks at Tate

    The Tanks at Tate Modern opened this past summer.  They are spaces dedicated to performance that also launch the next phase of the Herzog & de Meuron expansion.  As Herzog & de Meuron explain one aspect of this connection to the expansion " A row of new and inclined...


  • Ceci n'est pas un BMW

    Am I the only person who mistakenly thought Coop Himmelb(l)au had designed both the BMW Museum and the Porsche Museum?  I saw Wolf Prix present the BMW Museum project 7 or 8 years ago.  Maybe it's because some of the structural feats are similar that I got them mixed up.  (UN...


  • Brunelleschi = BIM

    Last week I had the great fortune to go to Pisa, Italy, for the first time and Florence for the second time.  I am struck by many parallels between the era of the early 14th century and our own time, more than I can go into in this brief post. I am not talking about the...


  • GIS across borders

    Is there any more concise record of globalization and its various militaristic and managerial operations than the Coordinate Reference System options in your standard GIS software?  For a project sited in Detroit, I have started building a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) map focused...


  • Learning from stinkbugs

    On November 23rd, a biologist, an economist, a media theorist, a composer and a few other academics came here to Akademie Schloss Solitude to make a symposium on RhythmAnalysis.  The title references Henri Lefebvre's Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life, but the presenters talked...


  • How to Live

    Before coming to Stuttgart I didn't know anything about the Weißenhofsiedlung (residential development curated by Mies van der Rohe in a collaboration between Deutscher Werkbund and the state).   It's a fascinating predecessor to the Case Study Houses, as well...


  • Le Corbusier or Hans Scharoun?

    1927 in Stuttgart, Germany.  I'll give the answer in my next real post.


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About this Blog

This blog started with research, theory topics, travel and architecture discoveries during my fellowship at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany. It continues, somewhat awkwardly and sporadically, with my relocation to Detroit as an Assistant Professor at University of Michigan. The blog spans architecture, urban design, planning, and tangents from these.

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