Thomas Circle is much more complex than people may think. In fact, there are a myriad of facts that I’ve learned about this location that I would never have known just from looking at the location. For example, in his book, S Street Rising, Ruben Castaneda describes the corner of M Street and 13th Street as a place where people used to pick up prostitutes. Walking through that neighborhood now, it would never have even crossed my mind. The neighborhood of Thomas Circle is part of an elite community, with many apartment complexes, small shops and a few restaurants. The National Christian City Church is right behind a beautiful crosswalk and a statue planted right in the middle. Throughout this Built Environment Description, you will learn about things you never thought were found in Washington D.C. I hope you enjoy this journey of discovery.

Ana Lezama and I went to visit our sites together the week before Thanksgiving Break, when we found out that our sites are very close together. At noon, we got to Ana’s site, Lafayette Square Park. After taking a couple of pictures of the site, we posed in front of the White House and ended up at the Renwick Art Gallery, that is only a few minutes away. It was beautiful looking and learning about the history of Washington D.C. After walking around and absorbing it all in, it was time to go to my location. It wasn’t too far of a walk, only about 20 minutes or so. I took a few pictures of the street corner between 13th and M street and went inside the Thomas Circle Apartment complex that I had visited earlier. (I didn’t talk to the reception this time). We walked to Thomas Circle and looked at the National City Christian Church. We then took an über to Starbucks, ordered coffee and sat at a table by a window and worked on our built environment descriptions together. We actually stayed there until late afternoon. It was an overall very fun day, and I’m glad I found someone to explore my site with. It definitely made the project a lot more fun!

In his book, 2.0, Cass Sunstein makes the argument that instead of uniting the people; social media is only dividing us apart. Social media is a place where every individual has the liberty to express their beliefs and thoughts without any repercussions. According to Sunstein, this is not a positive thing. There will always be a group on social media that band together because they all have the same beliefs, especially in a political setting. It is hard to understand opposite sides of the spectrum when one is only exposed to the people that they identify the most with, which means that someone who is not open to democracy will end up never becoming open to democracy and therefore biased to their own perspectives. Also, social media is a platform for many extreme groups such as terrorism. This platform is used to recruit members as well as exploit social media.

The National Democratic Institute would refute Sunstein’s argument and instead say that technology and the use of social networks is imperative because it helps to start movements and show the government that the people can be just as involved in decision making as someone who works within the government. Owning social media helps with advocating social issues and raising awareness about events.

“A person’s duty is to achieve success through hard work and thrift, such success being a sign that one is saved.” -Max Weber

According to Weber, “protestant ethic” is the view that an individual must work hard and put a lot of effort into what they are doing in order to be ‘saved’. Weber argued that Calvinism encouraged a different outlook on how to be a great worker than what was known to those people in the past. In fact, he says that Calvinists believe that there were only a certain amount of spots in Heaven, and that they must do everything in their power to “reserve” those spots. This comes to my earlier definition of the protestant ethic: these people were always on the lookout for different signs that show that they have been saved, or assured that they will have a space in heaven. I find this to be very interesting because while they were too busy looking for signs, they didn’t realize that they were constantly contributing to their society and community.

Weber also argues that the act of being around your community and working hard for what you achieve contributes to the beginning of capitalism. Although this is true, that is not the only reason that working hard for your community can give back. This also is very important for creating a culture of innovation. If I am using Steve Jobs as an example, his inventions and ideas not only helped the rest of the community, but it also helped all of the others who had around the same ideas as him to become great at what they do. I think that when Weber argues that being great at what you do he takes into consideration the amount that it can help the overall community. When Jobs came out with the first Apple product years ago, he made an impact on the entire world. Apple is now the largest company worldwide to have ever put out so many electronics and have been successful in doing so.

In her article, “His & Hers: Designing for a Post-Gender Society,” Suzanne Tick argues that gender-neutral design is incredibly important for the kind of society that we live in today as all societies go through the transition of becoming more and more accepting of gender fluidity. Traditional gender roles are revolutionizing and no longer being seen the same way. To this day, the design landscape of many designers out there are still being seen through a male perspective. It is widely known that since the beginning of time, men have had the upperhand when it came to power, and that still lasts to this day. Suzanne Tick’s goal is to achieve a design that is not based on a man’s perspective.


Fortunately, there are many celebrities and high-ranking people that have brought to life the same concern that Suzanne Tick is describing. Famous people such as Emma Watson (I attached her speech from ‘He for She,” where she talks about the inequality of the LGBT community) have exposed the world to the unacceptable treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals. This opened the eyes of the public and helped them to understand why it is so important to make sure that every person is treated with the same rights. As women have started to take power more and more, it is seen that the hierarchies are starting to crash down.


Although design is well on its track to becoming more accepting, fashion and beauty have already started to take the steps to becoming less gender specific. This wasn’t mentioned in the article because it was before it came out, but recently, Covergirl Magazine came out with a new issue, and their covergirl (pictured above) is a beautiful male-identifying individual totally rocking that makeup. This happened earlier in 2016, and caused an outrage within many people internationally, but it also caused people to open their eyes and see that at this time, it’s okay for men to do traditionally “feminine” things and vice versa.

Big companies have also begun to take big steps in becoming gender-neutral. A corporation like Google have started to adopt unisex bathrooms, which allows for people of all genders to feel safe, comfortable and included. It is obvious that there is much more advancements that need to be made regarding the acceptance of the LGBTQ community.

Moral of the story, it should not matter whether or not you believe that these people deserve their rights. What matters is that no matter what, all people are treated the same and not oppressed for the way they identify.



In her article, “Making Bathrooms More ‘Accommodating’”,  Emily Bazelon argues that it is important to realize that at this point, it is important to realize that genders are no longer only male and female. She also explains that this also applies to people who may not have been born as a certain gender, but identify as another. Transgender people are trying to stop society’s ways of thinking about gender bathrooms. Everyone knows how uncomfortable and borderline humiliating it is to walk into the wrong bathroom. This is an understandable request since it would put to ease how uncomfortable it is to go to the “wrong gender” restroom. Since it is 2016, transgenders have been much more accepted in common spaces and public facilities, but unfortunately it is still an issue that many people are struggling with to this day. In fact, it gets so bad in some places that there was actually a riot in Houston in which a group of people protested against gender neutral bathrooms. They even wore shirts that said, “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms.” This shows just how much of a commitment people have to leave things the way that they have always been.  

It is a little ironic how most schools have no problem calling people by their preferred pronouns and letting them join sports of the gender that they identify with, but have a problem with changing bathrooms to make them more accommodating to all genders. How are these people supposed to know which locker room to change in after a soccer game? How are they expected to accept their own identity if their own school is refusing to let them use the bathroom they prefer? It is more than important for activists and the general population to advocate for the rights of transgender people. Although it may be true that it is becoming more and more acceptable, our society is nowhere near becoming a completely inclusive community. There are even extremist groups whose sole purpose is to destroy the rights of the transgender people.




Emily Bazelon also talks about how using the word “accommodating” can be negative. Accommodating means that something has to change, and that people have to settle down for this change whether they like it or not. This isn’t a positive way of thinking about gender-neutral bathrooms. This movement shouldn’t be looked on as something that is bad and needs to change, but rather as how important it is to improve a way of life that is inclusive to everyone. I do understand how it can sometimes be tough for some people to understand the whole process of being transgender, but that doesn’t give one the right to be completely against it to the point that one can’t even deal with having a female-identifying woman in a women’s bathroom.

For women, at least, a bathroom is not a place you go to just to literally go to the bathroom. This is where ladies go to chat with their friends, fix their hair, do their makeup, and just be with each other.  If one doesn’t let another into their identifying bathroom, not only are they taking away the rights to use the bathroom, but also the rights to be a part of the female-identifying lifestyle.

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.” -Steve Jobs

One of the qualities that were imperative to his success in the Apple Company is his need for perfection. As a perfectionist, Jobs immediately turned to his staff to be the best that they can be. If he did not like a product or an idea, he would shut it down completely and make his team start over. Another one of his quality is his ego. Although this may seem like a bad quality to have, it was very important in Jobs’ case to show who’s boss. When he was making decisions, he was always right. Even when he did such as turning down an offer from a company such as Adobe, he always came up with a better idea. It turned out that in the end, he didn’t even need any of their products, because he made his own! (I.e. iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto etc…). The third quality that was important for his success is his motivation. Ever since he’s been working with his father in mechanics, he was always motivated to be the best (whether it’s proving his dad wrong or making new technological advancements).

        His environment was also a big factor in his success. First, the fact that he was adopted did change a lot of things in his life. Jobs has said that finding out he was adopted made him feel different than the others around him. He felt like he had to prove himself to others. Jobs also didn’t make friends easily, which was another factor. The people that he did make friends with stuck with him throughout his whole production of Apple Company since they were all computer and technology people. The third factor was his economic stance. His parents had to work very hard for their living and when he went off to college, he started to feel bad for wasting his parents’ money, since he didn’t want to take the class anyway. Long story short, Steve Jobs was a troublemaker who turned his life around to become a billionaire.

“Across the United States, you can hear calls for us to revitalize our national competitiveness. But wait—who is “us”? Is it IBM, Motorola, Whirlpool, and General Motors? Or is it Sony, Thomson, Philips, and Honda?” – Robert Reich

Robert Reich makes a valid argument in his article, “Who is Us?”. Reich argues that although it is very important for a cooperation to be established, it is just as important to open our borders to the people who’d like to work as a part of this cooperation. For example, there are millions of investors around the world that are willing to make American companies so much better, but there are places that still won’t accept them based solely on the fact that they are not “waving the American flag.” It is important to understand that an American cooperation is never fully an American cooperation. With all of the great minds and people overseas, every product that is made in the United States has some influence (if not A LOT of influence) from another country. For example, it is incredible the amount of pieces in the iPhone that are produced by companies abroad. In fact, the entire design of the iPhone 7 was designed in Israel.

Reich would definitely not agree with Trump’s assertion that Apple should manufacture the iPhone and other devices here in the United States. Reich would argue that Trump doesn’t understand that pretty much the majority of the iPhone is manufactured somewhere in Japan, or China, and being taken over by companies on a global scale. It is not realistic to tell Apple that they can only produce their products from the United States because in that case, it won’t be half as good as a product created with the help of companies worldwide. The pieces, design, and overall environment of the phone would be nothing like it is now.

The corner of 13th street and M. Street is not just a street corner. At first, I was confused as to what I would write about the interior of my location, then, when I went to visit my site, I realized that there were many buildings in the area that I was eager to explore. This is very different from what Ruben Castaneda described in his book, S Street Rising. Although Castaneda talked mostly about the exterior of the location, I am positive that if this was a street corner where many prostitutes were being picked up, it would not have all of the buildings and elegant apartments that I saw nearby.


When I got to the exact address of my location, the first thing I noticed when I looked up was a building with a sign that says, “Thomas Circle Apartments”. This sign was located right in front of a beautiful brick building, which was very surprising to see.  I decided to take a look inside and it was luxurious and beautiful and nothing like I expected it to be. The atmosphere felt friendly, welcoming, and the opposite of what was expected. I went to the front desk and told them about my project, but the woman working there must have been having a bad day, because she just looked at me with a blank stare and told me to check the website. So unfortunately, I was unable to get a view of the actual rooms (although I’m sure they are as beautiful as described on the website), and I decided to take the woman’s advice, and visit the website. The website talks all about what a great neighborhood Thomas Circle is, and how convenient it is that it’s so close to such a great area and community. In fact, it is noted on the website that there are very wealthy residents that live in the area. Although Castaneda does not talk much about the interior of this location, with  his description of the exterior, it is pretty obvious that the inside of these buildings are nothing like they used to be.


This is what the building looks like currently


This is what the building looks currently

This is what the building looked like in 2007


On Google earth, it doesn’t show the sign for the apartment until August of 2014, which means this building must be relatively new. Before then, it seems like it was more of a small restaurant. The building looked a lot less polished in 2007 than it does now. As seen from the pictures above, there is definitely someone that is taking care of the building. It definitely has a more modern feel to it, especially with the white walls and fancy door.


I walked a little bit further to Thomas Circle, where the National City Christian Church is located. The inside of the church was mesmerizing. There were columns that went all the way up to the ceiling, and it was obvious by the looks of the people attending the church service that they were of very high class.

In their article, “Recognizing Campus Landscapes as Learning Spaces,” Kathleen Scholl and Gowri Gulwadi argue that the physical, social, and mental environment is an important aspect of a student’s college career.  

The physical environment of a college campus.

The physical environment of a college campus.

The physical environment refers to the actual landscape and area around the institution. Although this may seem irrelevant, it is actually very important to the overall quality of a student’s education.

The social environment of a college campus.

The social environment of a college campus.

The social environment depicts how a student communicates with others; chances are that the more people a student has to speak with and be around, the more positive his or her learning outcome will be.

The mental environment of a student.

Mental environment is how a student regards himself or herself. How students perceives themselves is extremely important to how successful they are going to be in the future. The more self confidence one has, the more they are able to get things done, which leads to reaching their potential and achieving their goals.  

As described, this means that the aesthetic as well as the overall aura of a campus is imperative to a student’s education. This makes sense because I know that for me personally, it is much easier to be able to study outside of my room, when I go to a university that has such a beautiful campus. If I were to walk outside on a regular school day, there are students studying everywhere outside, hanging out by the tables in front of buildings, or reading on the quadrangle, which helps to prove Scholl and Gulwadi’s claim that all types of environments are extremely important to the education of a student at a learning institution.

In their article, Scholl and Gulwadi explain the exact textbook definition of the word campus. “The word campus, (derived from a Latin word for “field” – “an expanse surrounded…by woods, higher ground, etc., Harper, n.d.) was first associated with college grounds to describe Princeton University in the 1770’s (Eckert, 2012; Turner, 1984) and now refers to the overall physical quality of higher education institutions (Bowman, 2011).” This definition is extremely important because as seen in the beginning of the quote, the definition of a campus was solely the physical environment. To break down the quote, the beginning says that any piece of land that is surrounded by an institution (whether it is a higher ground or the woods), is considered a campus. This definition was first developed at Princeton University. As the years passed by, the definition developed into meaning that a campus is now described as the physical environment of the higher education institution.

On the other hand. Scholl and Gulwadi try to disprove this definition. They are saying that the physical qualities of a college campus is not the only important aspect when it comes to student life and education. This definition does not take into consideration the mental environment and social environment of a student. When I say mental environment, I mean the aura of the college campus. For example, what do the students themselves think about the campus? Do they act positively or negatively when talking about the campus? What a student believes about their school can gravely change how studious they are. Social environment is also very important. If a student were to have many friends and study groups to be around, chances are he or she will be much happier in their school. This means that when they will go to their campus, they will have a positive outlook.

Works Cited

Issue, By. “Recognizing Campus Landscapes as Learning Spaces | Scholl | Journal of Learning Spaces.” Recognizing Campus Landscapes as Learning Spaces | Scholl | Journal of Learning Spaces. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.