Newsletter | Jul/Aug 2003

The OWA Symposium - Toward an Engaged Architecture

Date :



Saturday 13 Sept 2003 - 8:30am to 6 pm

Kathryn Anthony, University of Illinois
Dolores Hayden, Yale University
Ananya Roy, UC Berkeley
Nasrine Seraji, Cornell University
Eleni Bastea, University of New Mexico

Profiles of our speakers are published in our Nov/Dec 2002 Newsletter.

Abstracts from our speakers:

Impact of Under-Represented Architects and Scholars

by Kathryn Anthony

The presentation consists of two parts:

Part 1 addresses the impacts that under-represented scholars, writers, and critics have had on scholarship and scholarly activism about architectural and design-related issues. A brief overview of key works will be presented. The issue of potty parity will be highlighted. It provides an unusual example of how an awareness of gender issues in design has helped to change laws in several states.

Part 2 addresses the impacts that under-represented architects have had on the public. A call was sent to members of the electronic list-serves of the following groups: 1) the American Institute of Architects Diversity Committee, 2) the National Organization of Minority Architects, and 3) Chicago Women in Architecture. Members were asked to comment on the following question: What kinds of impacts have you made on specific design projects--impacts that would not have been possible had you or another person like you (i.e. woman, person of color, other diverse designer) not been on the design team? How/why were you especially able to address specific needs of users--in a way that someone else could not? Where was the project, who was it for, and who are you?

Specific cases will be highlighted. To date, these include: Debbie Kent at Pam Hutter and Associates, an architectural firm in Chicago; Patricia Saldana Natke, owner of Urban Works, another architectural firm in Chicago; and Paul Taylor of African Architecture, former university architect at the University of Maryland at College Park.

Building and Rebuilding Suburbia

by Dolores Hayden

For almost two centuries, Americans have chosen to live in suburbs marketed around the triple dream of single-family housing, nature, and community. Developers' efforts to transform farmers' fields into millions of wooden houses set in leafy yards have created metropolitan sprawl that can be sorted into seven historic patterns. Borderlands settled by individual families began in the 1820's, while landscape architects began to design picturesque enclaves in the 1850's. Streetcar buildouts for people of modest incomes flourished in the 1870's; mail-order and self-built suburbs grew around 1900. Real estate interests persuaded the federal government to subsidize vast sitcom suburbs in the 1940's. In the 1960's, federal subsidies for highways, malls, and commercial real estate stimulated edge nodes. Workers in edge nodes then commuted to rural fringes starting in the 1980's. Through times of boom and bust, the scale of American suburban development has increased, so that by 2000 suburban fabric replaced many older downtowns. Architects, landscape architects, and planners have suggested that neo-traditional towns, advances in digital technology, "smart growth," and "green building" can solve the problems of suburbs through better new construction in suburban locations. Instead, the reconstruction of suburbs requires a new kinds of political and economic commitment, as well as physical programs designed to engage seven historic suburban landscapes.

Praxis in the Time of Empire

by Ananya Roy

The 21st century started with great hope, with hope that it would be an opportunity for the renewal of our tired planet, for a just reconciliation of the conflicts of the 20th century, for the rise of an energetic civil society the world over. And yet, just a few years into this century it has become clear that we are faced with a quite different global order: Empire. If in the 1990's, there was great trepidation about the economic inequalities and political disempowerment being wrought by corporate globalization, then now such concerns are intensified by America's imperial ambitions. Today's global order is marked by a paradox: on the one hand, America has engaged the world through a "war on terror" and on the other hand, it has systematically disengaged from all international institutions that create global cooperation and accountability.

It is against this backdrop that I pose the question of praxis: what does engagement mean in a world of missile engagement? What does the practice of architecture and planning mean when the contracts have long ago been given out to Bechtel and Halliburton and when the American military is the main form of governance in "liberated" Iraq? What does it mean to imagine social and environmental justice when alongside militarized violence there is also the everyday violence of poverty in many parts of the world, and when in these regions the only source of hope is often a vicious form of religious fundamentalism?

Much of the recent talk around planning and architecture has been about "rebuilding": rebuilding the towers, rebuilding Afghanistan. But this bypasses crucial questions: who is rebuilding and for whom? According to what priorities? Is this an opportunity to do things differently, as various intellectuals have stated in their vision for a "democratic" rebuilding process in New York? Or is this business as usual?

It is a sobering thought to ponder the role of architecture and planning in the time of empire. But I argue that it is also a time of opportunity. This opportunity is not that of "rebuilding." Rather it is the opportunity to enact change in our disciplines, pedagogies, and professions. There are three calls for change that I outline in this paper. Planners and architects could be similarly inspired to imagine and implement a different global order.

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