27 August 2003

Architecture of Segregation

Chicken&Egg Public Projects “conceives and develops interpretive environments and interactive strategies that advance public understanding of cultural and social issues.”

Coming soon:

Architecture of Segregation explores how racial attitudes shaped urban, suburban, and rural landscapes that maintain divisions in American society. This multidisciplinary project examines the ways in which forces ranging from violent individuals to institutional practice to government policy embedded racial biases in everyday spaces, places, and structures during the second half of the twentieth century. Through collaboration with a network of scholars and institutions, Architecture of Segregation will comprise a major publication, national traveling exhibition, web site, and educational activities. These products, conceived to engage a broad audience, are intended as a stimulus for public discussion, continued scholarly research, and new directions in public policy.

The Supreme Court’s 1896 approval of separate and ‘equal’ facilities for blacks and whites permitted Americans to build an exclusionary, unequal society. The Civil Rights, Voting Rights, and Fair Housing Acts of the 1960s gave hope but did not lead to the dismantling of the architecture of segregation. Today, Americans do not realize how decisively discriminatory motives guided the construction of everyday landscapes. Scholars in many disciplines have examined segregation but have not provided a broad view of its physical structure, from housing to highways.

Cross Bronx ExpresswayArchitecture of Segregation asks: How have racial attitudes shaped the built environment? What are the structures of a closed society? How do these keep races apart, even in the absence of prejudice? Architecture of Segregation will encourage the general public, scholars, policy makers, and the media to consider these questions as they reexamine the twentieth-century construction of the American home. By concentrating on familiar spaces and activities, it will encourage the public to understand the forces that shaped the landscape and to recognize how that landscape shapes their behavior and beliefs. With this understanding, they can consider rebuilding a divided United States....

A book, published by The New Press, will take a geographically diverse, cradle-to-grave look at black and white worlds. Essays will be written by leading scholars, such as Jacqueline Jones on work in the rural south, Raymond Mohl on the interstate highway system, and Gwendolyn Wright on housing. Contributors include Mindy Fullilove (birth), Waldo Martin (education), Lise Funderburg (neighborhood), Maurice Berger (leisure), June Manning Thomas (worship), and John Vlach (death). The Graham Foundation has provided a grant to support publication.

A national traveling exhibition is scheduled to open in 2004 at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., which is producing the project in conjunction with Chicken&Egg Public Projects, Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions, and a planned consortium of museums in New York, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Minneapolis, and San Francisco or Los Angeles. Using powerful visual media within a striking spatial configuration, it will include artifacts, photographs, and artworks representing white and black environments from all regions of the United States. The exhibition will serve as a springboard for public programs, including discussions, lectures, workshops, tours, and film series. Architecture of Segregation will engage the public in an exploration of the relationship between race and place in the United States.”

I wonder how the exhibition organizers are working with groups engaged in current struggles, and how those groups can use the event to build some public pressure.

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