Analytical Essay 1:
Place, space, and everything in between. As society progresses through technology, more people are becoming detached from the true meaning of life. A walk outside has turned into heads down on cell phones, a coffee date has become a conference call, and a person working in a factory or office has been replaced by machines. Many can’t deny that technology is taking over our lives, but is it for the worse or better?
Our built environment shapes who we are and often times it goes by unnoticed. But aside from technology, human behavior and human choice are defined by our location and the area we grew up in. The layout of a city is strategically planned before beginning construction. In most cities there is a good side and a bad side of town, but what causes those divides. As Sarah Schindler says, “cities were constructed in ways-including by erecting physical barriers-that made it very difficult for people from one side of town to access the other side” (1942). Transportation in a city not only separates people, but excludes. The wealthier side of a city will consist of high end restaurants and stores, which attract upper class citizens to move, live, and stay in within that area. While the other, poorer side of town, will have older homes, more run down buildings, discount stores, and very few future construction plans. With that, the cycle of poverty continues for that part of town because there are few job opportunities or job openings and no easy access to the improved, more sophisticated part of town. Sometimes, when all else fails, drugs and crime can appear in more run down cities and therefore create an even harder escape. The vicious cycle of drugs leads to violence, gang affiliation, and poor motivation to break away. When surrounded with illegal substances that are highly addictive, people’s brain chemistry changes and they will do anything to get their hands on the drugs. Education and a successful future for those involved in illegal activity is hard to obtain. But zooming out of the picture, this hypothetical situation was created because of the way a city was built.
My Complex Local System is the building where the drugs were hidden from S Street Rising. This book, written by Ruben Castaneda, is about the DC drug epidemic in the 1980’s and specifically how we was involved. After visiting my cite, I noticed how that the building, 1340 S Street NW, has remained the same while everything around it is changing. The building, built in the 1977, has almost an eerie feeling to it, maybe because I knew what it’s purpose once was or
1340 S Street NW (photo taken by me)
maybe because in general, it is not an attractive building. Interestingly, the building is one of the oldest in the neighborhood and attracts individuals that would have typically have lived there 30 years ago. The area is changing, it’s being renewed by fresh faces and expensive buildings, while this home has and most likely will remain the same. The building is located in an area called Cardozo/Shaw. This area is thriving, with new restaurants and stores on 14th Street, the area is attracting millennials. Cardozo/Shaw is growing and flourishing, and while maintaining a reasonable and relatively affordable rent, it’s a perfect neighborhood for post graduates. Cardozo/Shaw is a walker’s paradise, everything is in close proximity of one another; grocery stores, restaurants, shops, movie theaters, and the metro. Ideal for those who don’t have a car and rely on public transportation to get around the city. But 30 years ago, Shaw did not look or feel the way it did when I visited it just a couple weeks ago.
On a sunny, Sunday afternoon, I went to Shaw and was confused at the sight of an abundance of young adults strolling around. I did not expect to see this many white millennials especially since Howard University in nearby; a historically and dominantly black college. What I expected was an architecturally outdated, older looking neighborhood with not as much charm. Since Cardozo/Shaw is only 3 different zip codes, the area is small enough to undergo complete gentrification within a couple of decades. And that is exactly what happened. Since Cardozo/Shaw was affected by the drug epidemic in the 80’s, the neighborhood completely renovated itself to try and escape the past and move on. The neighborhood really tried to better itself after the epidemic and the only way to do so is gentrification. Renovating the neighborhood will attract a new demographic of residences and completely change the overall appearance of the neighborhood. But no matter how hard Shaw tries to rid of their past, their are still residences who have lived in Shaw throughout the drug epidemic and are fighting gentrification in order to preserve the past and all that comes with it.
Picture of 14th Street, off the corner of S Street (photo taken by me) *Notice the Obama sticker
The divide between the old generation and new generation is what gives Shaw so much character. Their tension between values and culture stem from their environment. I never realized the impact the built environment had on me and my perception of life until I stepped out of my comfort zone and went to college on the east coast. As David Fleming puts its, “many affluent suburbs, for example, are places where few people ever walk, where difference is rarely encountered, where children grow up thinking that the private automobile is the only legitimate means of transportation and the single-family detached home, the only truly human residence” (197). What Fleming just described is exactly where I grew up, a sheltered beach town in Los Angeles. And the exact opposite of Shaw, however, now people from the suburbs around DC are moving into Shaw because it’s undergoing gentrification. When I came to American University I’ve never meet a more diverse group of friends in my life. And the main reason we were all different was because of our background and the place we call home. The way we act and behave in college is different then we do at home. Our psychological behavioral patterns stem from our hometowns and most do not even know it. Margaret J. King, Ph.D., couldn’t have said it any better, “conference room, swimming pool, store, bedroom, classroom, stadium- all with their own sensory inputs, comfort levels, and press (the demands on the brain and sensory systems). Then ask yourself: how does my behavior change in each environment?” (3). Our environment and surroundings shape who we are and continue to shape the person we will become. The environment Shaw is located in used to be run down, poor, even depressing, and so were the individuals living in that area. The residences of Shaw in the 80’s were not politicians, leaders, or successful people. However, the blame is not completely on themselves, their environment influenced them more than they knew. And as one grows up, they start to understand that the way they were raised was not only from their parents but their city. Despite all coming from different backgrounds, most know that there are appropriate behaviors for every situation, and we must act certain ways in front of certain people or certain environments in order to fit the norm and not stand out.
Because I wanted to be educated on my site before I ventured out there, I decided to look up an analysis on it. City-data.com is a website that maps out places in the District of Columbia. With various pictures, graphs, and other data, this website helped me understand a new part of town I had never been to before. You can even click on different areas on the map within Cardozo/Shaw to see the average income, poverty rate, unemployment rate, and house/condo value. My complex local system was located in the zip code 20009, which has the second largest population in Cardozo/Shaw area, at almost 30,000 people. Zip code 20001 has about 41,000 people, and 20005 has about 9,000 people.
Map of the Shaw area (photo from city-data.com)
To the right shows a more detailed layout of Cardozo/Shaw and reveals how small it is compared to other neighborhoods in the DC Metropolitan area, which is why this area was so successful with gentrification. And while the overall living is rated an A on niche.com, the crime and safety is a C- and housing is a C. This goes back to my argument of how difficult it is to break away from violence and drug related crimes. Although this neighborhood has improved tremendously and will only continue to improve, there are still some safety precautions one must take if moving to this area. Theft being 575 times more likely to happen over murder shows that there are still people living in that area or on the outskirts who are poor, needy, and desperate.
1340 S Street NW (photo taken by me)
Looking further into the website, I found that the median household income is a little under $100,000 and almost half of the residents have a masters degree or higher. Education is a key factor to success. If more educated people are moving to the Shaw area than they would most likely want higher quality housing, dining, and shopping options than an uneducated person would. Which is why nicer restaurants, cafes, and shops are opening in the area. An educated person, compared to an uneducated one, has a higher chance in being successful in this competitive world. So why would an educated person want to move to a run down neighborhood? Shaw is changing solely for the people, the dynamics of the neighborhood is changing in order for a newer, younger, and wealthier crowd to move into. What was once a poor and uneducated, drug-ridden neighborhood has turned into upper middle class and college educated neighborhood. The buildings, the sidewalk, the front of stores, backyards, were all spaces in Shaw that were different 30 years ago. The people utilizing the sidewalks, living in the buildings, and shopping in the stores were all different 30 years ago. And although some older residents may argue that the tradition of Shaw is gone, I believe it has just started. With only 6% of homes having children, this young and hip new area in DC is attracting more millennials than ever.
As you move down the website there are charts on residents ages, house values, race, and income distribution. Since there is a lot of information on this website, the charts help clear up the confusion and break down the information in a more visually pleasing way. The charts throughout the website are colorful and clear.
Pie Chart of races in Cardozo (photo from city-data.com)
Residents’ age (photo from city-data.com)
Income chart (photo from city-data.com)
Although this neighborhood was once affiliated heavily with drugs and crime, it has turned over a new leaf. This neighborhood is now booming with young adults due to the new and relatively affordable apartment buildings, the trend-setting, modern cafes and restaurants, and boutique stores opening. King quoted Fred H. Gage, Ph.D., in her article on the power of place, Gage said, “change the environment, change the brain, change the behavior”(2). This is what’s happening in Shaw. The environment is changing so therefore the people are. The environment is growing, it’s becoming more populated, more businesses are opening, more restaurants are opening.
Besides the neighborhood changing, in the ways of reconstruction and more white, middle class citizens moving to Shaw, the value of my site is increasing due to the area becoming more popular. It’s current value is based at around $700,000 but is expected to be worth over a million dollars in 2018, according to Office of Tax and Revenue on dc.gov. The increase in house value shows just how popular this area is now becoming. Although the area around my site is rapidly changing, 1340 S Street NW is over 30 years old and the history, tradition and strong sense of community will always be a constant in the neighborhood. The divide between the old community and new community is in a battle right now, with the old trying to keep to their traditions alive and the new starting their own. This neighborhood will continue to change and develop in the upcoming decades but as of now it is in a transition period of the history of the past and the future of tomorrow.
Fleming, David, “City of Rhetoric,” SUNY Press, 2009.
King, Margaret J. The Power of Place: How Environment Affects Brain Function and Meaning.
Pipestem: Harper Perennial, 2009. Sensations3d.com. The Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.
Schindler, Sarah. “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment.” The Yale Journal of Law. Vol. 126, No. 6. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.