Luis Alejandro Guerrero
September 26, 2016
In her journal, “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environments,” Sarah B. Schindler argues that the poor have been socially excluded and segregated from equal facilities and opportunities through the use of architecture and city planning. She states that, “this Article examines the sometimes subtle ways that the built environment has been used to keep certain segments of the population–typically poor people and people of color–separate from others” (7). Schindler constantly exemplifies the plight of the poor throughout the journal. She alludes that Robert Moses, who was a prominent architect of the time, purposely designed low hanging overpasses so that buses could not access the high class beaches on the other side of the town. At first this might seem like a small detail, however, it is is important to note that primarily black citizens relied on buses as their primary form of transportation, and thus due to the low hanging overpasses were not able to access these predominantly white-upper class beaches. It is here where we find the essence of Schindler’s argument. Segregation through architecture and infrastructure is a subtle way to discriminate others. The use of indirect targeting makes it difficult to argue that it was intentionally done even if the consequences are explicit.
Another important theme that is consistent throughout the piece is the difficultness that comes with proving segregation between cities. At a court level it is difficult to prove that people are creating cities to be architecturally restrictive. Schindler contextualizes this by citing a case in 1974 in which white citizens succeeded in closing down a road that connected a predominantly white neighborhood with a black one. The Supreme Court ruled that the road caused a slight inconvenience and that without it safety would increase. Schindler attributes this decision to two factors: “The most straightforward reason is that it is difficult to show the necessary intent to discriminate, especially in situations involving land use and the built environment,” and the second “that those entities often fail to recognize urban design as a form of regulation at all”(9). The problem then becomes a question if our laws are outdated or if they are being misused. As our world expands and technology arises, lawmaking takes time to catch up. And in some cases, certain aspects of society such as infrastructure are not even being thought of. Architectural exclusion is being used subtly by police, the rich and government officials to repress the poor and keep them at their social status. Walls, parking by permit, highways, gated residential areas- all of these serve the same purpose, to fragment society so that people are forced to stay where they are.
Schindler’s “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment,” is relevant in today’s world for a plethora of reasons. Its relevance can be found in the argument that we are currently facing a problem that hasn’t been brought up or talked about because of the multitude of layers that envelop it. Architecture and infrastructure are being used to subjugate the poor and to segregate social classes. Essentially architecture is creating a divide between society and thus as we grow in size and plan more cities we are exacerbating the problem by fragmenting society. According to Schindler the poor and rich must be able to coincide and share the same space without any boundaries. Laws should be implemented and interpreted so that a homogenous populace has the opportunity to thrive. But in order for this to happen, the first thing that has to occur is awareness of this issue, and awareness is what Schindler is trying to give us.