Reading Analysis: Architectural Exclusion (Part 1)

Analysis of Part One of Sarah B. Schindler’s Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation through Physical Design of the Built Environment

In part one of Sarah Schindler’s essayshe argues that architecture functions as a form of regulation and constrains the behavior of those who interact with it. She proposes that architecture allows people to exclude one another on the basis of socio economics, race, and gender. For example, in Long Island, ”bridges were designed to be so low that buses could not pass under them in order to prevent people of color from accessing a public beach”(Schindler, 1934). Discrimination can be achieved through architecture just as easily as laws from the past. “Urban design tactics, including street grid layouts, one-way streets, the absence of sidewalks and crosswalks, and other design elements can shape the demographics of a city and isolate a neighborhood from those surrounding it”(Schindler, 1934). This means that those who only have access to public transportation are deprived of several opportunities. Evidence of this is seen through the building of physical barriers. Historically, “walls, fences, and highways separate historically white neighborhoods from black ones”(Schindler, 1937). Schindler mentions how the Metropolitan Atlanta Regional Transit Authority (MARTA) is

Metropolitan Atlanta Regional Transit Authority map.

Metropolitan Atlanta Regional Transit Authority map.

designed to give people of color access to suburban communities. However, “the lack of public transit connections to areas north of the city makes it difficult for those who rely on transit-primarily the poor and people of color- to access job opportunities located in those suburbs”(Schindler, 1938). Therefor, members of the lower class are more likely to accept accessible minimum wage jobs as opposed to higher paying suburban jobs.

Through the works of other legal scholars who also have also considered how  built environments serve to regulate human behavior, she further argues how “infrastructure placement and design as physical and symbolic contributors to  economic and social inequality, exclusion, and isolation”(Schindler, 1940). For instance, the armrests on public benches are an example of how architects use physical means to discriminate against the homeless. In addition to regulation in means of transportation, built environments can function to control human behavior in smaller controlled environments. For example, in the case of a cafeteria, if junk food is placed in a less accessible place than the healthy food, a customer is more likely to purchase something healthy. “The architectural constraint is that it is physically difficult to reach or see the junk food, and thus it is harder to access”(Schindler, 1948).

Sarah Schindler argues that through architecture, people of color and low socio- economic class are less privileged to opportunity in society. She makes valid, credible points through the use of her research, indicated in her footnotes. These points include the fact that architects use physical barriers to separate the upper class from poor and colored people. The lack of public transportation to aristocratic areas additionally contributes to the discrimination of these “unwanted” people.

Works Cited 

Sarah B. Schindler, Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation through Physical Design of the Built Environment, 124Yale L. J.1934 (2015). 

Kahn, Michael. “Could $8 Billion Vision for MARTA Become Reality?” Curbed Atlanta. N.p., 2015. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.
China, Zen Cart. “Wood Preservative Park Bench Outdoor Leisure Chairs Garden Chairs Landscape Outdoor Public Benches Chair.” Wood Preservative Park Bench Outdoor Leisure Chairs Garden Chairs Landscape Outdoor Public Benches Chair. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.