The Failure and Realization of Chicago’s Proposed Housing

In the chapter “Toward a New Sociospatial Dialect” in the book City of Rhetoric by David Fleming, the examples from chapters 4-7 are examined in terms of how discourse takes place and whether or not each “plan” was successful. In looking back at the ghetto, Schaumburg, the Near North Side, and 1230 North Burling Street, Fleming determined that while none of these proposals were perfect fixes, they may be a start to finding a way to create an environment that promotes public discourse. The most successful plan, 1230 North Burling Street, created an environment where its residents tried to act as one community. The issue with this was the homogeneity that came about. The second most successful proposal was the Near North Side. The idea of a diverse environment was promising, but ultimately, the majority of the power resided with the upper class residents. As for Schaumburg, it appeared promising for lower class citizens but ended up being another way to separate races. Finally, Cabrini Green, or the ghetto, was simply just segregated from the rest of Chicago and became known for all of it’s bad attributes.

The overall finding was that the environment of a society or community is influential on how the people in said community respond in three main ways. According to Fleming, the effects from the environment are “contingent,” “nonlinear,” and “dynamic.” In saying the responses from the people are contingent, Fleming suggests that the atmosphere and feel of a community is factor that dictates how people from different races, social classes, and socioeconomic status feel in the same setting. Similarly, Fleming’s idea of the effect of a place being nonlinear is essentially natural selection in terms of sociology. In other words, an environment responds to the extremes in terms of “good” and “bad” families. Finally, Fleming’s idea of environmental influence being dynamic suggests that one’s susceptibility to the influence of the environment changes over time. Essentially, from childhood to adulthood, the way in which we respond to our environment changes based on our interactions with our communities.

Using these three ways in which the environment affects the people, Fleming takes a different stance on ways in which we can create cities with genuine public discourse. While trying to create little utopian communities like 1230 North Burling Street may not be a sufficient way to go about this, Fleming suggests we focus on making sure everyone has equal opportunities in their communities. The people of Cabrini Green did not necessarily choose their situation, rather, they were not given the chance to escape or change it. In a similar manner, the upper class residents of North Town Village had many more choices of homes than the lower class residents did. Taking all of this into consideration, Fleming prompts us to find ways to make sure everyone gets the same opportunities, and in turn, people might be more inspired to participate in public discourse.

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.