Special Topics in Theory: Property
From the 18th century until today, continued failures in housing, pervasive violence across revitalized urban centers, persistent structural racisms and division as experienced by those most affected — all have signaled that the promise of modernist codes for a "well-tempered society" or postmodernism's appeal of "ordinary" pluralist forms has been largely rhetorical in nature and press upon questions of who constitutes the "public." Indeed, until recently, scholars, architects, and curators have not interrogated the problematic roles of race, gender, and ethnicity in the dissemination and representation of architecture and urbanism in the United States. Striking disparities exist as a lasting reminder of racial determinants having been embedded in the early crafting of policies and building of infrastructures that still determine where, how, and why architecture is allocated. Lateral to these sites of disinvestment and deprivation exist spaces of Black social life — kitchens, porches, street corners, and places of worship, to name a few, that are often unseen by design professionals but resonant within literary works and poetry. Questions concerning how (public) spaces might be "repaired" by renewed attention to the legacy of racial inequities are a central conceit to the notion of property. This seminar proposes various lenses to "unbuild" structural racism within the built environment as a means to assert an uncertain but promising equity.
The semester is staged across three platforms for independent and collaborative research. First, Valuation observes a cross-section of diachronic architectural and artistic examples within a number of contexts to underscore thinking about the shifting nature of property, vis-à-vis ownership and value. Second, Possessions will reframe and undo normative assumptions concerning recent and historical exhibition-making around spatial identities. Here we will interrogate the process of a forthcoming exhibition, Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America, from a functional and political perspective. The third, Premises, will allow each student to develop the first documents, questions, and critical lines of inquiry for the imagining of a Thesis, in architectural design. Our semester will be organized with potential opportunities to visit museums and galleries (virtually and/or live) alongside provocative conversations with curators, architects, thinkers, advocates, and designers.