Activism, Architecture and Real Estate in NYC – The Environmental Design University of Colorado Boulder

An examination of participatory practices in re-purposed buildings reveals the critical relationship between real estate, architecture and activism. In cities across the country, in the 1970’s, the devaluation of property created a vacuum of ownership. Vacant lots, storefronts, schoolhouses and abandoned tenements in New York City became havens for experimental, communal practices. These same urban landscapes, in the present time, are facing the opposite crisis of inflated costs and speculation by development that threaten the small gains made by communities in historically marginalized neighborhoods. What new practices might emerge in cities such as New York that can sustain community practices and challenge the status quo? Is there room for socially conscious design practices? What are the new modes of participation (for communities and architects) that can produce new, exploratory spatial outcomes?

Expanding the discourse of sustainable practices in design to include grass roots participation is important for the equitable development of cities. Working at the intersection of research, adaptive reuse and collaborative design, Bagchee Architects interweave theory and practice to find new ways to engage with the environment. Amid current debates about environmental justice and access to public space this talk addresses the often-overlooked domain of civic participation- commercial storefronts, offices, gardens, churches and community centers where citizens gather to plan acts of political dissent and collective participation.

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