Resurrection City and architect John Wiebenson

NYT has been doing a great series recently, "Unpublished Black History From the New York Times Archives" and one of the latest articles features reporting from the 1968, Poor People’s Campaign.

How many Archinectors out there are familiar with the story of "Resurrection City" (see this oral history via American Public Media)?

Or the fact that "An architect designed rudimentary tents and wooden structures for temporary residents, and then came a city hall, a general store, a health clinic and a handful of celebrity visitors, including Sidney Poitier, Marlon Brando and Barbra Streisand"?

I know I wasn't. As far as I could tell from a quick search, neither of these topics have been mentioned in news or forums on Archinect.

Did some research and while there is some additional information out there about the architecture of "Resurrection City", there doesn't seem to be tons...

Best/first - is a 1969 essay Wiebenson wrote in JAPA reflecting on his experience and how "Though temporary, Resurrection City is a useful model of the community development process in action."

Smithsonian Magazine - has a paragraph in an article about the larger movement.

MIT - has a photo of one of the "A-frames with a plastic door", available via their digital archive.

WETA's Boundary Stones blog - focuses more on the movement but has a couple of great photos.

A moving eulogy to the man and his life/work, by Sam Smith long-time editor of DC Gazette (now the Progressive Review).

Anyone have tips for further reading?

Some photos

Credit: George Tames/The New York Times


The construction of Resurrection City began shortly before protesters were set to arrive. (Photo source: Library of Congress)


After my further digging, I suspect he and his work might be a bit more familiar to architects in DC area, as since 2003, AIA DC has awarded the Wieb Award (for Combining Good Architecture with Good Works).

An interesting side-note is that Wiebenson was the author of a comic strip, Archihorse (example below).

On and he is from Denver/CO originally, which I only learned after I read the above strip. Interesting to note that similar conversations continue today (see for example Denver Fugly) in Denver.

A while ago I started a (somewhat) related thread re: participatory-design/performance and political and ecological engagement in architecture and urbanism. Specifically within context of counter/sub-cultural movements of 1960s/70s.

Mar 17, 17 12:23 am

No one has anything to add?

Mar 18, 17 6:14 pm

I just discovered this- thanks for pulling the thread to the top again. Let me digest.

Any thoughts Marc?

Kos Scarpa Kos

... somewhat incongruous with the theme - but all those stripes remind me of Daniel Buren's works. Archihorse!

Mar 21, 17 11:19 pm
Kos Scarpa Kos

... or Beetlejuice. Archihorse!

Mar 23, 17 5:39 pm

@Kos, were you familiar with the old Archihorse comic already?

Mar 24, 17 10:47 am
Kos Scarpa Kos

... nope. Those are interesting and fun finds, Nam. Thanks for sharing this. 

>>>and this minimal artwork is essentially a visual catalogue celebrating the simple charm of tents

Mar 26, 17 6:58 pm

The reply button is acting strange, but this is a crazy complex thing. This  was DC after the Cassel's development proposal fell through, but before Prince George's County became establish as a place for affluent African American families. The thing that I find really fascinating is that was essentially a Hobo jungle established on the Mall. The significance of that being that the presence of these individuals and the construction was in plain sight- making the jungle a far more visually and political territory. 

 I'm thinking about it in in the context of Don Mitchell's contemporary work on cities and his argument that cities are increasingly made to be exclusive using both policy and policing. You don't fit the image, and you are pushed to the spatial margins of a locale, as is the case with jungles.  In this case, by occupying such a prominent space, erasure becomes more difficult, especially in the context of the active civil rights movement.

Mar 28, 17 10:57 pm

Agreed. As a precursor to Occupy, current fights over the Right to the City (or camping/tent bans) and POPs et al., is fascinating. Also the fact that part of the rationale purpose, was to provide a way for / proximity / visibility to the halls of power so that as the Smithsonian Mag piece puts it

"There was a lot of lobbying."

A la., some of Don Mitchell's work, a real "Political Landscape"

@Marc - "I never give up irony, irony is a serious matter" Marcantonio Raimondi Malerba

Apr 1, 17 7:36 am
Kos Scarpa Kos

>>>illustration frontispiece for the second edition of Laugier's Essay on Architecture (1755), arguably one of the most famous images in the history of architecture. For Laugier, this primitive form represents the first architectural idea and an abstract concept.

Hut/tent: the same form could stand for a number of different concepts, and multiple shapes could be used to represent the same concept. At the same time, numerous interpretations can be suggested for the “HOME” icon (a new contemporary Laugier's hut?).

May 11, 17 12:21 pm

icons tagged >>> hut >>> home >>> icons

Jun 24, 17 8:21 am


Jun 26, 17 12:31 am

>>>HOME icon

Jul 9, 17 6:23 am

>>> the huts of the Colchians and the Phrygians from 1826 edition of Giovanni Poleni - Exercitationes Vitruvianae Primae - published 1739-1741. 

>>> Fig. III - 3D HOME icon - no 3D glasses needed to see it!

Jul 9, 17 11:25 am

>>>3D HOME icon #2 

Jul 15, 17 4:56 am

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