The article’s author Shydale James writes “At a very fundamental level, architecture makes space for some people, communities and users by excluding others, for better or for worse. In that sense architecture is always political,” said Georgeen Theodore, an architecture professor at the College of Architecture and Design at NJIT. “It is important for designers to be more aware of the social consequences, as well as the drivers of design decisions that might at first seem completely outside the realm of politics.”
In their book, The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion, Theodore, Tobias Armbost, and Daniel D’Oca “Visualize one inequity by using an illustrative map that demonstrates how the construction of affordable housing units was shifted from wealthy, high-opportunity communities to distressed and disadvantaged ones in New Jersey. Another entry takes on the anti-homeless armrest, describing how people who would want to lie down or sleep on a bench are made to feel unwelcome through its design.
Theodore concludes with a reminder the designers and planners can play a role in ensuring that no one is excluded from our communities.
“By foregrounding the weapons or tools that are used by different actors to shape urban space, we tried to show that cities don’t naturally evolve,” explained Theodore. “The conditions that we find in the built environment are the product of intentioned human actions. The city is makeable. Ultimately, designers, planners, even readers have the capacity to create their own weapons to fight for a more equitable and inclusive city.”
Theodore, Tobias Amborst and Daniel D’Oca have are principals and co-founders of the Brooklyn-based architecture, design and planning firm, Interboro.