How to Create Rhetoric

Map of D.C.

Map of Chicago

In “Cities of Rhetoric”  in City of Rhetoric David Fleming concludes that perfect cities of rhetoric, or cities in which civilians can come together to hear each other out fairly and talk through disagreements, are difficult to create, but not impossible. Furthermore, Fleming argues that as part of our human nature, we keep striving to create these “strong publics.” In other words, Fleming ends his book by reflecting on the types of publics that thrive, such as “the urban district, a public with (prototypically speaking) a medium-sized population (50-100,000), settled in a medium-size space…” (201) compared to previously mentioned publics that survived but ultimately failed in creating successful spaces of rhetoric. More specifically, Fleming focuses on how we can try to, or even hope to try to, build strong publics; Fleming believes that by teaching “civic education,” or city-based education with a focus on community interactions, in public schools is the first step on changing the way our cities function. Essentially, the conclusion is that the physical space of cities can influence interactions between its civilians in ways we don’t think about, but we can teach our kids to think in ways which we do not. For example, Fleming says, “just as we need to make our schools more civic… we need to make our cities more educational…” (209). As Fleming states, we have the power to change how future generations view public spaces, and we also have the power to change our public spaces to educate us.

In a broader context, I believe that Fleming is onto something with his ideas in his final chapter. While we may not think about it that much, our cities do teach us a lot. Fleming uses Chicago in his book, but that’s not a city I’m overly familiar with. Instead, I’ll look at Washington D.C.. The nation’s capital is supposed to be a place where rhetoric occurs. It is supposed to the the place where all major national matters get hashed out. However, there are clear divides within the city. Georgetown, for example, has no metro stop to keep the lower class out. If we change this, we can change the message that sends to the public. Furthermore, if we take the time to educate our young on relevant matters such as civic discourse, we can look into the future at least hoping that younger generations will be able to create what we couldn’t.





Photos from

Building Walls in Our Own Cities

In Part II of Sarah B. Schindler’s Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation through Physical Design of the Built Environment the argument is made that segregation and exclusion is not simply facilitated by the government through the law, but through the built environment and architecture. As Schindler points out in her introduction, “[d]ecisions about infrastructure shape more than just the physical city; those decisions also influence the way that residents and visitors experience the city” (1939). The article continues to go on about how the exclusion process works, and Schindler goes into great detail about various examples of manipulated build environments. Physical barriers and transit are the two main topics in Part II since they are arguably, the two methods that the widest range of people. Take modern day Washington D.C. for example. If you look at Chinatown, the Verizon center separates the more “undeveloped” residential part of the neighborhood from the hustle and bustle that the National Portrait Gallery attracts. Whether this was intentional or not, it certainly creates a divide in the neighborhood. As for transit, the SafeTrack initiative is a major method of exclusion, if you really look at it. Metro trains stop running at midnight for “public safety” when anyone who lives in or has been to the D.C. area knows that it can easily take at least an hour to get from one side of the city to another. Now add in people working late shifts in the area. If you get out of work around 11:30pm and the trains stop running around midnight and you have to get from Foggy Bottom to New Carrolton, you might be in a bit off trouble if you get out of work late or even if the metro itself is having issues. Sure, you could argue that these are “design flaws” or that they’re “for the good of the general public,” but as Schindler demonstrates in her article, it is quite easy for architects and local city officials to manipulate a built environment to become what they want it to be for who they want it to be for.