the architecture of gentrification.


in your opinions what are some of the most gentrifying projects of all time?   

Feb 18, 13 3:16 am

High Line, New York

Millennium Park, Chicago

Arts District, Anywhere, USA

Feb 18, 13 5:37 am

i don't really have anything to add, sorry, but orhan your suggestions puzzle me.

why do u say the highline? it was constructed in an already incredibly affluent (and 'cultured') neighborhood. i don't know the history of millenium park, but that doesn't seem so very integrated into any kind of 'neighborhood'. the park is right in the metropolitan center of chicago, nearby museums.

Feb 18, 13 9:39 am

You could easily argue that a huge percentage of urban architecture (new or renovation) has both resulted from and further expanded the moving in of a set of higher-income folks than the ones before them.

Urban renovation is a basic function of architecture, often one site at a time.  It changes property values, which has socio-economic consequences---sometimes dire ones for those at the low end of the scale.

So while there is the occasional project that may help to catalyze demographic change in one part of a city, the rest of the story involves all the many individual changes undertaken by owners and/or tenants on dozens or even hundreds of sites.

Feb 18, 13 11:11 am

I agree with jk3hl's skepticism about the High Line, Orhan. I don't think it started much, just added to.

I'd say light rail/mass transit lines in general have been great catalysts for improvement.

Feb 18, 13 11:28 am

The High Line is a magnificent utilization of abandoned structure for public pedestrian use. It is also a potential blueprint for a method to transform and revitalize urban centers.

As for gentrification, this is the direction of society in general by mass marketing of money culture, epitomized by luxury high-rise apartment houses in which an elevator takes you in your car to your apartment-level garage.

A more specific example: after hurricane Katrina, perfectly good public housing in New Orleans was torn down to benefit developers.

Feb 18, 13 11:51 am
vado retro

Granite countertops!!!

Feb 18, 13 12:47 pm

Miles, Yeah New Orleans is a good example of planned gentrification.  other projects like the high line may add to gentrification even if the initial  intent was good, but NOLA was straight up sinister.  Brad Pitts work however was a great example of improvement without gentrification....Of course heavy subsidizing was required to get this result, but none the less it was a really great balance imo.  Did anyone see Spike Lee's doc  on NOLA?  "If God Is Willing Then The Creeks Won't Rise"  Alot of what Miles is pointing out was clearly shown in that film.

Also, what's going down in China makes Western gentrification seem more "organic."

 I would argue that cities are becoming gentrified because they have lost their utilitarian function...The utilitarian value of the industrial city, trade center, ect.... is being replaced with a more qualitative cultural value.  Also, there are policies that further gentrification like NY's restrictions on street vendors, the war on the homeless, etc. all in the name of public health.  I see a more sinister agenda with these regulations. 

Feb 18, 13 4:47 pm

aren't we in the business of gentrification?

Feb 18, 13 5:45 pm

Welcome to Utopia.

Sad, isn't it?

Feb 18, 13 6:10 pm


I would not call the housing developments in NOLA perfectly good developments. The truth is they were far from it and pretty substandard. While the method they used to develop the replacements was shady at best, it was needed. 

Feb 18, 13 9:16 pm

OK.. What about "vibrant" arts districts?

Feb 19, 13 2:09 pm

I think Haussmann's Paris plan would be a huge gentrification push we shouldn't forget. Swaths of Paris slums and poor districts were cleared so developers could make new housing and boulevards for the more affluent people of Parisian society.

Feb 19, 13 6:41 pm
don't be a goat

The High Line as a park is a great public project. However, it altered the zoning in that district. There was a feeding frenzy for developers to buy up air-rights from surrounding lots and under this new zoning law they were allowed to consolidate them to build along the High Line. Prior to that the as-of-right did not allow for the amount of FAR we are seeing in that area today, which made all of those luxury buildings profitable for developers. It was a gentrification catalyst. Before architects even started doing competitions for the High Line which dates back to 2002-2003 the city was going to tear it down. Friends of the High Line and countless architects before those who built it saved it by design. We further gentrified the neighborhood in the process by showing developers they could make big bucks there.

Unless you're Sam Mockbee, all architecture is gentrifying.

Feb 21, 13 10:18 pm

this mentioned before, but why all architecture is gentrifying?

Feb 22, 13 1:57 am

The favelas, 2016 Summer Olympics, World Cup 2014:

Feb 22, 13 5:53 am

Then of course there are cases where architeture does the opposite, like when an airport is built and the surrounding areas become cut off from one another and devalued because of their proximity to an undesirable thing like an airport.

  Projects that improve an area without gentrifying it are usually small in scale.  Urban gardens and small community projects like libraries and schools are usually not gentrifying, so it probably has more to do with scale and architype than architecture.

Feb 22, 13 11:35 am

To add to scale and archetype, might I add that any downtown municipal or professional sports stadium has to be considered a obscene gentrification move. Has all the qualities of increasing property values for all the wrong reasons, plus adding significant municipal and government debt through shrewd deals with owners.

This coming from a huge sports fan.

Feb 22, 13 12:00 pm

I would add many of the recent urban and architecture interventions in Medellin... the Medellin Effect.

From perhaps the most dangerous city in South America (Guerrilla, P. Escobar... Imagine Ciudad Juarez, MX) to the most liveable in a couple decades... Some even say its the nicest city in South America now. The city was full of dangerous fabelas where the police would not even enter.

Feb 22, 13 12:04 pm


I would not agree with you that European colonisation is one of the most important gentrifying "projects" of all time. 

Feb 22, 13 12:06 pm
don't be a goat


I was just offering some further explanation as to where some of the behind the scenes law and politics of the High Line come into the picture.

I am making a bit of a generalization in saying all architecture. My general stance is based on the fact that most architects work for private developers, and most private developers have a singular interest in making money.  Designing affordable housing does not reap the profit margins that developers look for, luxury condos do. The majority of architects are bound to designing for an elite financial class because we are bound to work for developers. Their interests inherently become ours. Most architects themselves cannot even afford to live in the places we design.

(I do believe architecture can do so much more! I just haven't figured out how to do that yet.)

Feb 22, 13 1:21 pm

Time Square is an obvious one. Hoboken , NJ in the last 20 years.

Feb 22, 13 2:44 pm
won and done williams

I would argue that architecture has little to do with gentrification; it operates at a different scale. Gentrification occurs at a neighborhood or district scale; no one building is responsible for gentrification. There are very few developers that develop at a district scale; Homer Williams in Portland and Tony Goldman in Miami come to mind, but they are the exception. Rest easy, my architect friends, the sin of gentrification does not fall on you.

If you are looking for an "architecture" of gentrification, I think vado came the closest: granite countertops!

Feb 22, 13 4:08 pm

$300/sq.ft. granite, yes.

$30/sq.ft. granite, no. You can't buy a crappy laminate top for that price.

The high line is a public park, it is not gentrifying. That developers capitalized on the creation of a public park is simply the result of capitalist values as reflected in zoning codes that allow this to happen. So it's not the park that is gentrifying but society itself. It's a failure of values.

Paul Fussell summed this up nicely in his book Class, which should be required reading in high school.

Feb 22, 13 5:43 pm
The poor do not retain the services of architects.
Feb 23, 13 9:13 am
chatter of clouds

Downtown Beirut / Centre Ville/ BCD/ SOLIDERE ( aka solid ayre)

Feb 23, 13 9:36 am

The poor do not retain the services of architects.

But the places they live in (with the exception of cardboard boxes and shanties constructed from scavenged materials) are designed by architects.

Or should I say were.

Feb 23, 13 10:48 am

In most cases, one building cannot (on its own) cause a neighborhood to change incomes over night. Any attempt at "revitalizing" an urban area carries with it the implication that a certain class of people or building use is dead and needs new life breathed into it. In the current post-suburban era, cities have become more desirable places to live. In my opinion, almost every building going up in cities across the country has gentrifying motives behind it.

You can see it in the complex public/private dealings which occur behind closed doors and the "incentives" like tax abatements or payments in lieu of taxes, which are necessary in almost every urban project. These projects can take on so many different forms that I'm not sure how much architectural design/form dictates whether or not a building/project gentrifies a neighborhood.

In some cases, like the Highline, we can see how a particular project spurs tons of new development in the area where wealthier people move in. Though Chelsea was in the process of gentrification before the Highline, it was the catalyst for super high end development not previously possible (FX - this op/ed: Many residents and businesses were displaced after rents skyrocketed. Frank Gehry buildings and Hudson freaking Yards would not be happening (in Chelsea specifically - probably in some other part of the city) without the Highline. It may be good urban design, but like mentioned before, you can't ignore all the back doors dealing which made it possible and which will fundamentally alter the place without input from the people living there.

Feb 23, 13 11:51 am

Gentrification is essentially the result of the capitalization of real estate. I don't mean the financing of it but rather the way in which every aspect of it is viewed as an investment rather than as being for a more mundane purpose (like housing). Thus we have everything from minimum square footage requirements (to protect property values) to massive investment bank pump and dump schemes (the housing bubble, the mortgage bubble) that eventually result in thousands of abandoned properties that are bulldozed not because they are not incapable of providing housing but because they are incapable of providing profit.

The "best" (highest profit) properties to develop are often the ones that are the cheapest to acquire such as the worst (cheapest) house in a particular neighborhood on the worst (cheapest) neighborhood in a particular city.

Feb 23, 13 1:08 pm

You guys keep talking about gentrification like it's a bad thing. WTF is that about?

Feb 23, 13 1:36 pm
chatter of clouds

there have been overtly obvious negative examples and perhaps arguably (?) positive examples given above ("art districts" or that high line) but i think i agree with miles jaffe in his definition. although the properties need not be completely abandoned. hence i gave downtown beirut as an example. developed by a tycoon businessman, later prime minister, wh obought properties at modest prices and, according to some critics, under questionable policies...turning the war ravaged area that used to be the diverse and cross-cultural/cross-class heart of the city where a vegetable market, red light district and assortment of high end and low end shops existed into a remarkably monoformulaic district catering for the middle class and the rich (in a country where the middle class were eroding)..a capitalist shisha open mall now largely frequented by people from the gcc arabica. ok, you can argue that at least something was done...but there could have been consensus on what was done and there wasnt really. not that there would be, i grant you that. but definitely fishy things happened. not like mermaids or anything

if that is not gentrification, what then is? do i want to talk about what happened to the lebanese shores? overtaking of public beaches by businesses...untill you a "Wall" of private clubs blocking access to the nonpaying public to the best beaches of the country? another example of gentrification, no? peef, this is how a merchant culture shoots itself in the foot..or mouth...

Feb 23, 13 1:39 pm
chatter of clouds

ok, after more thought, i think i would add to miles jaffe's definition one more condition: the public have to be either pretty complacent or pretty inept  at putting up a good fight to resist the gentrification. if people care about their neighbourhoods and if they are empowered (legally and socioeconomically) to resist, then they would do so.

its funny to see some mcdonalds in istanbul relatively empty compared to the kepap shop next door...i wonder how mcdonalds is fairing in this land of assorted fresh meat fests (its not so vegetarian friendly *sigh*)

Feb 23, 13 2:02 pm

tamnuz, I think you are overestimating the power of the public vs. the power of private sector money and their control of the political process. Money is power, and the public cannot compete.

The great irony is that we are talking about a political process that takes money from the public (taxes) and uses their power to benefit themselves and  a few select individuals (in this case developers). Many of these developers are rewarded with property tax abatements that extend decades into the future., which translates directly into increased profit and higher taxes or diminished services for everyone else.

Feb 23, 13 3:28 pm
chatter of clouds

Miles, i'm neither overestimating nor am i underestimating. i gave conditions:

" if people care about their neighbourhoods and if they are empowered (legally and socioeconomically) to resist, then they would do so"

your objection is covered in the case where these conditions are not met. furthermore, my concerns are not bound by the capitalist north american sensibility. in fact, even within north america, this is not a general rule that financial benefit is the predominant principle. for instance, some would say that, within canada, quebec is acting to the detriment of its own benefit by attempting to preserve its socialist francophone culture (and they would even claim that it is a detriment to canada as a whole). of course, there is corruption but then we are talking of seperate things.

history does not always flow in the direction of greatest financial benefit of, even, the most powerful. capitalism is not the the truest and last revelation of history - have some humility please...and hope even. all empires (of places, or of thoughts) come to an end..and not necessarily because of some entity's, or thought's, usurping power but because of their own decadence. it is in the nature of communities to rot for something else to flower.

Feb 24, 13 12:07 am

tammuz, if the populace is socio-economically capable of resisting development they have already been gentrified. And even a relatively wealthy public doesn't have much swing, at least where I am. The local municipality has enacted numerous zoning changes to benefit developers - illegal spot zoning legalized as a "planned development district" - in spite of strong community resistance. And this area has some of the highest property values in the country. Let's not forget that the legal process is ruled by money, too (the O.J. Simpson rule: "the only color that really matters is green").

In regard to history "not flowing in the direction of greatest financial benefit", there is no doubt that history is shaped by power, and that money is power. I for one can't wait for the end of empire, and strive for a more egalitarian and responsible society.

In regard to Canada, that is just another example of Finlandization, and a tiny minority of the NA population. This enables it to attempt to be more responsible to its population, but only within the bounds of its overwhelmingly powerful southern neighbor.

You can't take corruption out of the picture because it is an essential element of capitalism.

Feb 24, 13 11:14 am
chatter of clouds

here, i totally disagree with you :o) and moreso, i would say that it is your belief that you are doomed to "gentrification" (unforunately, you pushed the word to an extreme of meaninglessness after being one of the few above who actually brought it to its core a few posts ago)  that renders you incapable of you put it, "at least where you are". of course, if everyone believed that they are cursed, they'll end up falling into the pit of their own curse. opposite to a greek play (where the protagonist does not know or believe his or her destiny) but with the same conclusion.

  i don't know whether the US has gone over that edge (wouldn't it be nice if California would secede and  turn socialist)  and , it would be so much nicer) but i dont believe the rest of the world is or that history is that obvious. i'm sure it could pull out a global disaster out of its pockets anytime and 'reroute' itself.

Feb 24, 13 11:32 am

tammuz, the power of accurate observation is commonly referred to as cynicism by those who do not possess it.

Feb 24, 13 11:55 am
chatter of clouds

ok, Miles, now you're steering towards complete bullshit  (with all due respect to your person).

Feb 24, 13 12:05 pm

I'm not talking about my belief system, I'm talking about my experience. I'm in one of the most gentrified places on the planet, where are you?

Feb 24, 13 12:25 pm
chatter of clouds

no mister, i think we have reached an impasse. you know you are not the only place on the planet; should you not then have enough appreciation for the fact that there are alternate places and cultures and ways of thinking? should you not appreciate that what you imagine to be facts are also myths. no, there are other places and other sensibilities. there are philosophers who are still not seduced by the brain-death of vulgar materialism, always others...don't be so narrow, you are not autocad bot, you're human. good day/night

Feb 24, 13 12:49 pm

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Too bad.

Feb 24, 13 12:55 pm
chatter of clouds

not at all; you have communicated fully and so have i and we disagree with each other. this is not a failure in comunication (at least we did not stoop to insulting each other as is common here) ; better to describe it a failure in agreement rather...and thats ok.

Feb 24, 13 1:04 pm

I suspect that an ironic and seemingly inverse relationship exists between our locations and our points of view. It might be fun to explore that. Or not.

Feb 24, 13 1:19 pm

 resistance to gentrification/development can only happen if the public is aware of such urban issues.  In general, the public knows less about urbanism than they do about quantum physics.  Urbanism should be part of the public discourse.  I was amazed when visiting the netherlands that people in the cafe talked about urban issues.  People in the US debate abortion and gun control, but rarley ever talk about new projects being built.  Even high profile projects like the high-line are never covered by the media.  I have always felt that it is the responsibility of architects and urbanists to bring such issues into public light.  How can we do this?  I would love to see a high profile film maker like Micheal Moore do a Doc. on this issue.  

Feb 25, 13 10:54 am

 I would say that corporatization of the public realm is also a form of economic gentrification.  People may be able to live there, and even have the illusion of private land ownership...but ownership over the market place has been slipping into the hands of a few...creating an ever narrow ownership class and a bigger working/consumer class.  One walmart, with one owner, and 100 employees has replaced the traditonal market place of 50 small shops, with 50 owners and 1 employee. 

Feb 25, 13 11:17 am

jla-x, good points.

But the media's job is not to "bring such issues into public light", but rather to create as much profit as they can with as little cost possible incurred along the way. Thus CNN (and most of the others) have no journalists, they just repackage feeds supplied by others, which is far cheaper than actually having journalists on staff. This is exactly the same as walmart putting everyone else out of business by buying the cheapest possible shit overseas. And since the media makes money advertising for walmart, they have no desire to bite the hand that feeds them.

Feb 25, 13 1:03 pm
chatter of clouds

" if people care about their neighbourhoods and if they are empowered (legally and socioeconomically) to resist, then they would do so"

an example

Mar 5, 13 4:15 pm

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