Segregation Through Architectural Barriers
“Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment” Part Two
In part two of her essay, “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment,” Sarah B. Schindler argues that an increase in segregation and discrimination is directly linked to new transportation features and infrastructures that limit exposure of low class African Americans to many of the same opportunities that white upper class Americans have. Schindler highlights on the effects physical barriers, locations of transit, and organizations of neighborhoods have on our inability to consider architecture and infrastructure as an exclusionary object.
The use of all of these factors to segregate communities are either imposed purposefully or created for alternative reasons such as public health and safety or efficiency. While “some of these designs expressly serve to exclude those who are unwanted,” and “others have that effect indirectly” (Schindler 1953), the declared “reason” for the change in demographics is not a crucial factor if segregation occurs either way. Physical barriers in neighborhoods and on streets can be viewed as purposefully imposed structures. For example, Robert Moses’s Long Island bridges were created for the sole purpose of not allowing public buses to pass underneath them which disabled low-income minorities from entering upper class areas.
Schindler realizes that many people who are in denial of this segregation will create excuses as to why these architectural landscapes are intact. When confronted, Moses stated that the bridges are “innocuous features” (Schindler 1954), completely disregarding the racial segregation that the bridges created. It is with this sense of denial that segregation perpetuated into a multitude of other physical barriers.
Along with the segregation that was created from the Long Island Bridges, large walls and gated communities were built prevent certain people, specifically blacks, from entering areas that were predominately white.
Residents would have to travel to other cities just to get around the walls, making their journey longer and more difficult. Many people made the claim that the barriers were built to enable better traffic patterns and safety of individuals; however they also “often intentionally restrict[ed] access by a certain class of individuals” (Schindler 1959), completely counteracting the attempted justifications.
Although physical barriers prohibited many from entering certain areas, Schindler parallels their inability to enter these areas with the difficulty transit locations created for employed workers or people searching for jobs. Often, communities “actively push[ed] their elected decision makers not to bring transit stops to their neighborhoods” (Schindler 1962) because they didn’t want to interact with black workers. They feared that it would enable blacks and low income workers to pollute the area in which they lived. However, “employers in some suburban Atlanta areas were forced to pay higher than their typical near minimum wage to attract retired and teenage workers” (Schindler 1963) due to the exclusion of transit stops from part of the suburbs.
Similarly, construction workers built infrastructure in an attempt to redirect traffic into slums and ghettos and use them as pass-by areas that intersected with a highway or major street. In New York, the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge “makes an almost perpendicular hard right turn north” (Schindler 1965) in order to avoid traffic exiting in the wealthier part of the city. Neighborhoods were torn apart and highways were created to cause a disturbance to these areas. Over-town became “an urban wasteland dominated by the physical presence of the expressway”(Schindler 1967) in which people living in these communities were constantly triggered by the sound of car horns and police cars passing by. Even government formed foundations, such as the Federal
Housing Administration, would only agree to funding if the community “was sufficiently residential and racially segregated,” (Schindler 1956) increasing the presence of discrimination in every aspect of society. In dominant white areas and high class neighborhoods windy, curvy, one-way streets were created in order to make it easy for non residents get confused on direction which would then discourage them from returning to those
upper class areas. Schindler finds her point to be relevant because it presents an alternative view of architecture that many people would not have previously seen. Schindler argues how landscapes and structures were built in order to segregate the population and limit accessibility of white high class areas to black low income people.
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