What are you working on?
For many years, my basic interest has been what I call design politics. This means trying to understand the relationship between two ideas that people often keep separate: a sense that the world, specifi cally an urban environment, is designed, and the concurrent reality that it is shaped by social, political, and cultural processes. At the confl uence of these areas, there is much to learn about relationships of power and questions of identity. By examining the meaning of the built environment, we have access to this knowledge.
This investigation is my way of understanding something about what makes the world the way it is.
One project I’m working on right now is an attempt to do a second edition of a book I wrote in 1992. It is called Architecture, Power, and National Identity, and it is a look at parliamentary complexes and designed capital cities in a variety of countries around the world. It investigates the meaning of the nation-state as expressed through the built environment. I’m revisiting it fi fteen years later to see how some of the places have
I also spent most of the 1990’s writing about the design, history, and politics of American public housing––that is, the formal way in which we in the United States have tried to house the least advantaged citizens. The fi rst book, From the Puritans to the Projects, was a look back to the early days of Boston in the early part of the 17th century and the attitudes about where the poor should be housed. It then follows the evolution of those attitudes all the way through various issues with immigration and into the public housing
projects of the mid and late 20th century. So the book became a history of the Boston Housing Authority, but also a look at race and poverty and the variety of ways people have struggled to cope with those issues spatially. Then there was a sequel called Reclaiming public Housing. That book was about efforts to rebuild and reinvest in public housing in ways that could be supportive of the low-income communities that live there. My current work is an attempt to take that project, which had been focused on Boston, and expand it by looking at some examples of how public housing has been transformed in several other cities nationwide.
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