External Environmental Description: Changes Overtime in DC and S Street

The longer I have lived in and researched Washington, DC, the more I have realized how quickly environments and locations change. Nothing seems to last forever, and while this may be portrayed like a bad thing, the Hostess Cake building is showing me how change can be a great thing. The Hostess Cake/Wonder Bread Factory building is on 641 S St. NW. It is also located directly across the street from the New Community Church, and right next to the Shaw-Howard metro stop. The metro stop allows easy access for essentially anyone to discover and interact with my site. Additionally, there are several apartment buildings surrounding the store. The apartments were very modern, but some of them had a more historic character or tone with their brick structure. Similarly, the Hostess Cake building, which was established in 1913, originally as the Dorsch’s White Cross Bakery, also kept the original brick when the building was reconstructed. In addition, there is a small white cross located on the top of the building in between the Hostess Cake and Wonder Bread signs. All three of these symbols and signs are representative of the site’s complex ownership history. Although the format and interior is completely redone and new, there is still evidence of the building’s past.

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The site is used by completely different individuals than its original purpose years ago. If it were not for the three signs, people would not know what the building’s purpose is. In fact, I struggled to understand what the building was used for until I watched individuals with business attire enter. The location is home to the Wonder Bread Factory office space, and the upper level of the factory is also leased to the company ISL. There is additional office space for the company “wework”, that is connected to Hostess Cake/Wonder Bread, and has an identical brick infrastructure. After the Wonder Bread section closes at six, individuals need an electronic key in order to access the interior. People who were entering and exiting seemed to be easily navigating the space, and had no difficulty getting inside.

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Overall, the site was not very colorful, and only contained blue in the “Wonder Bread” sign, red in the “Hostess Cake” sign, and white in the cross. However, the surrounding apartments were vibrant. There was not a single apartment I could see that had two of the same colors. There were reds, purples, grays, and blues. The modern and colorful apartments, in combination with the historic brick of the Hostess Cake/Wonder Bread building, created a beautiful area. Although some sections of the location had similar styles, none of them were identical and they all created their own unique, but complementary, sector.

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Combined with its surroundings, my site made me feel nostalgic. After speaking with a man named Keith, who lives next to the New Community Church, and has lived in the same home for several years, I got a good sense of how much has changed overtime in the area. With me, Keith reflected on how he and S Street have changed and adapted together. He commented on the nearly non-existent drug problem, which previously was rampant on the street and in the Hostess Cake/Wonder Bread alleyway. Even though this was my first time observing my location, Keith painted a picture in my mind on what the area used to look like years ago. His descriptions were what established the nostalgic feeling I had. I began to contemplate the changes in my own life, and wondered what physical changes I would observe when I returned to my hometown of Watertown, CT. Although my town would not be nearly as revised as S Street, I still wondered how even the smallest alterations would possibly impact my life for the better. All of these thoughts were brought up by observing the exterior of my site, and by reflecting not only on the its simple infrastructure of 2016, but also by imagining what may have been in my building’s place years ago.

Commonplace Book #4: Gender Inclusive Bathrooms

commonplace-book-assignment

The sign states that it is a gender inclusive bathroom with two stalls. A gender inclusive bathroom means that any person can use it, regardless of what gender they identify as, or if they do not identify with a gender at all. This sign is located at American University, which is crucial for a school that prides themselves on establishing an inclusive environment.  American University, or specifically the Housing and Dining Program, authored this sign. Most likely, their purpose was to ensure that all students on campus feel safe and comfortable. In my opinion, American University is taking a step in the right direction in providing gender inclusive bathrooms on campus.

 

Commonplace Book #3: My Favorite Sentence

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” Dead Poets Society 

Root Sentence: Ideas change the world.

All the other words in the sentence are supporting and making the root sentence stronger. The first half of the sentence, “no matter what anybody tells you”, is not completely necessary, but it is important to the overall message of the sentence. The root sentence on its own is strong and makes sense, but the overall sentence is much stronger with the supporting words.

My Sentence: Politicians and other popular figures may tell you that ideas change the world.

Similar to the original sentence, both have the same concept of “ideas changing the world”, however in this case, there are different subjects or people involved.

Segregation Through Infrastructure and Agriculture

In her article “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation through Physical Design of the Built Environment,” Sarah Schindler claims that infrastructure and architecture are responsible for maintaining discrimination in cities and towns. She provides several examples from Connecticut, such as a fence in New Haven and a concrete barrier in Bridgeport, in addition to areas outside of the United States, to suggest that governments do not need to write laws to separate groups of individuals (27). By putting up physical borders between different income-classes of people, these varying groups are immediately segregated. Although we may have not consciously recognized it, the government or private businesses have been altering infrastructure to sever groups. While it may be normalized to have these segregated areas, some groups have lesser privileges and opportunities as a result. Schindler’s purpose is for more people to recognize their unconscious bias, and to acknowledge the government’s role in segregating people through architecture. Individuals may not even realize or question why the borders are there, they simply accept it as if it is natural, and Schindler’s goal is for others to reject the normalization of discrimination.

Image of the fence in New Haven, CT
Image of the fence in New Haven, CT

Schindler states that the government is partially responsible for developing these locations, and may be unknowingly, or knowingly, manipulating people to segregate those who are already discriminated against to begin with. To begin, according to Schindler, “many planning decisions facilitate exclusion within cities” (14). For example, the government refused to build new housing developments without a dividing wall (The Eight Mile Wall) due to an already existing development for the black community (24). The wall would further separate these two communities, thus making it even more difficult for others to overcome the unconscious and racial bias that may have already been formed. Schindler continues by highlighting the fact that by preventing these different groups from unifying, it will be extremely difficult for individuals of varying races to see each other as equals. More importantly, these divides prevent people from finding employment, and improving their economic and social well-being. When the government establishes buildings or forms of architecture that creates clear separation between different living conditions or areas, it is natural for the divide between groups to widen.

The Eight Mile Wall in Detroit
The Eight Mile Wall in Detroit

Schindler’s argument is that by preventing people from accessing public transportation, they are immediately being isolated, and are provided with less opportunities to succeed than the rest of society. Individuals from lower-income areas have difficulty getting to areas that are not near or accessible to public transportation, and as a result, there is a negative stigma attached to them when they are in these locations. To continue, Schindler states, “many communities actively push their elected decision makers not to bring transit stops to their neighborhoods” (30). Although people of varying socioeconomic statuses often use public transportation, a majority of lower-income and African Americans have no other option and are likely to be forced to use these methods. The less areas these groups can get to, the harder it gets for them to find employment. Without employment, it is nearly impossible for those of lesser economic status to successfully break unemployment and poverty.

Transit stop in Silver Spring
Transit stop in Silver Spring

As Schindler previously stated, it is very difficult for real breakthroughs to happen if the system is not changing. Additionally, it is challenging for there to be true change in the way we see people if individuals are unaware that they are unconsciously separating groups of people. This behavior simply “‘becomes just another part of the landscape’” (11), meaning that racist thoughts and actions are normalized and blend into the culture and structure of society. People may not go out of their way to be hurtful, but little actions and architectural structures contribute to segregation. When the government itself is establishing these bridges and walls, it allows others to excuse their own behavior, especially when the Supreme Court does not make any progress either. Schindler comments on the City of Memphis v. Greene case in which the court decided that the closing of a street connecting an all-white neighborhood to a black one was constitutional (6). It is extremely difficult to make any progress when the government itself is contributing to the racial divide. Overall, Schindler does not blame one individual for the lack of progress on architectural exclusion. She delegates responsibility to the government for creating these boundaries, society for accepting and adapting to them, and the Supreme Court for allowing these physical separations to continue.

The Struggles of Democracy

In the section “The Dilemma” in “City of Rhetoric” by David Fleming, he focuses on the difficulty of achieving the perfect democracy size due to varying sizes and groups of individuals. Fleming acknowledges the problem with our democracy, and how people are always losing one way or another. His goal is to solve “The Dilemma,” by finding the right amount of people where everyone benefits and can provide input. To begin, he analyzes the pros and cons of smaller versus larger democracies because these are the two major group sizes. Both Fleming and I agree that smaller groups lack debate and diversity. In most cases, they will agree quickly due to how little the group is, and there will be no discourse. On the other hand, they are more unified and focused. Together, they understand exactly what the goals of the group are. There are no questions on what they need to accomplish, and they are more committed to the end objective. However, nobody is challenging each other. When people are surrounded by those who are similar to them, individuals are stuck with repetitive ideas. Although smaller groups may be safer and more comfortable, there is often a lack of growth. In contrast, Fleming claims, “Large democracies, have sovereignty, power, and diversity” (50). While it is imperative for large democracies to be diverse and representative of those they are representing, it is difficult for all individuals to feel a sense of belonging. They also may not be able to be as involved with all the decisions made. The struggle is that a strong democracy should have the qualities of both large and small democracies. Fleming states this and mentions Aristotle’s ideal polis population because it is important to know that the ideal democracy is achievable, and this idea has been in place for over “two millennials” (51) but there does not seem to be any progress to attain it.

Fleming elaborates on how one democracy size is not perfect for every group, and the government needs to adapt based on what they have, and the population they are representing. For example, local governments require unity. It is necessary for them to communicate easily together, and to make decisions quickly and efficiently. There is no need for a local government to be extremely powerful since they are not in charge of large groups. It is unrealistic for them to hear out all of those in the democracy. It is ineffective, and no decisions will be made. In addition, Fleming asserts, “we increase the capacity of the political system to handle critical problems” (51). Smaller groups are incapable of handling conflicts that extend to the rest of the world, or even the rest of a state or country. They do not have the resources or people to deal with issues that concern everyone.

Fleming refers to Aristotle over what the perfect democracy looks like, and how it would potentially be catastrophic if this dilemma is not solved soon. He argues that the best polis “is composed of a multitude of dissimilars in which each takes his turn governing and is devoted to making himself and his polis just and noble” (52). Essentially, he believes that governments must be ran by individuals who are different. If every person share the same principles, there won’t be any discussion or discourse. There has to be distinction. Aristotle refers to a “many-voiced harmony” (52). They all sing and work together, but there are still unique and successful voices. As stated previously, there needs to be a combination of both democracies. However, there always must be debate and challenge. The perfect group will be small enough for all to participate, but large enough for there to be varying opinions. Fleming overlooks what I consider to be a crucial point about what would happen if democracies continued to be ran without peaceful discourse and full participation. We have seen it now in modern-day elections, when individuals can not talk to each other despite their differences, there is no progress made. There is simply more arguing, and a divide is created among people when there should be unification for a common purpose. Although the perfect democracy may be difficult to accomplish, there is no better time for the country to band together and work on solving the dilemma.

Works Cited

Fleming, David. City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America. Suny             

Press. 2003. pp 50-52.

Commonplace Book #2: The Conversation

Intro 1: “Many readers believe that schools with high suspension rates are boosting the achievement of the students who don’t misbehave. However, research on the state of Indiana, which controlled for poverty and race, found that lower-suspending schools had higher achievement rates (Skiba, 2014). Similarly, a study that tracked every middle school student in Texas over six years and controlled for over 80 variables found no academic benefits in schools with higher suspension rates (Fabelo, 2011).” Source: https://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/resources/projects/center-for-civil-rights-remedies/school-to-prison-folder/federal-reports/are-we-closing-the-school-discipline-gap/AreWeClosingTheSchoolDisciplineGap_FINAL221.pdf

In this introduction, the writers do use “they say” by summarizing the other side of the discipline gap. They argue that, “schools with high suspension rates are boosting the achievement of the students who don’t misbehave”. The authors do a quality job of immediately countering this argument by inserting their “I say”. They used evidence from a credited source to prove that “lower-suspending schools had higher achievement rates”. This format mirrors Graff’s form almost identically. It’s a very effective example of how to embrace the “they say/I say” skill.

Intro 2: “The term ‘Third World’ was used frequently in histories of the societies, economies and cultures of many parts of the world in the second half of the twentieth century. But, although the phrase was widely used, it was never clear whether it was a clear category of analysis, or simply a convenient and rather vague label for an imprecise collection of states in the second half of the twentieth century and some of the common problems that they faced. Not even enthusiasts for the term provided any precision.” Source: B.R. Tomlinson “What was the third world?”

In this introduction, the writer also has a quality example of using “they say”. The other side claims, “the term ‘Third World’ was used frequently in histories of the societies, economies and cultures of many parts of the world in the second half of the twentieth century”. Like Graff states in the book, the author should summarize without sound accusatory or bias. Tomlinson does an excellent job of summarizing without showing which side he agrees with. In the next line, he effectively uses “I say” to counter the previous argument. This introduction is a wonderful example of the “they say/I say” method.

 

Commonplace Book #1: Sentence Structure and Phrasing

Political disintegration plagues Congress. House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker last year.

  • Political disintegration plagues Congress; House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker.
  • Political disintegration plagues Congress, and House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker.
  • Political disintegration plagues Congress, which is why House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker.
  • Political disintegration plagues Congress, because House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker.
  • Political disintegration plagues Congress, and therefore House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker.

I didn’t see the step; now I have a bandage on my head.

  • I didn’t see the step. I have a bandage on my head now.
  • I didn’t see the step, and I have a bandage on my head now.
  • I didn’t see the step, because I have a bandage on my head.
  • I didn’t see the step, so have a bandage on my head now.

Sentences completely change based on the phrasing and punctuation. Some of these sentences now mean differently due to the context in which the punctuation is in. For example one sentence says the bandage is on their head after the fall, now it says they fell because they had a bandage on their head. Punctuation makes a huge difference.