Friday, January 27, 2012


This is pretty incredible. From NPR: "Microsoft is under fire this week over a patent it was granted that's been dubbed the "avoid ghetto" feature for GPS devices. The new feature is meant to help pedestrians avoid unsafe neighborhoods, bad weather and difficult terrain by taking information from maps, weather reports, crime statistics and demographics, and creating directions that, according to the patent, take "the user through neighborhoods with violent crime statistics below a certain threshold."

Just the other day we were lecturing about the Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion, talking about how GPS NAVIGATION can actually be a weapon of inclusion, since while there is a "fastest route" option and a "scenic route" option, there is no "avoid ghetto" option. Was someone at Microsoft at our lecture? Did they receive a leaked copy of our manuscript? We're flattered that people are using the book as a toolkit, but we were hoping people would use the tools that are about inclusion!

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Relman, Dane, & Colfax is a pretty righteous law practice. Their cases are pretty good fodder for The Arsenal of Exclusion, based as they are on one or another evil, exclusionary weapon (for example, the BLOOD RELATIVE ORDINANCE). One of the cases featured on their website today is Kennedy v. City of Zanesville, which centers on a predominantly white county that for decades has refused to service an African-American neighborhood with water. From the Relman website: "The sixty-seven plaintiffs in the case had alleged that the City of Zanesville, Muskingum County, and the East Muskingum Water Authority refused to provide them public water service for over fifty years because they live in Coal Run, the one predominately African-American neighborhood in a virtually all-white county. The Coal Run plaintiffs live within one mile of public water lines alongside the Zanesville city limits, but were denied public water service for nearly fifty years. As a result, they had to haul water from the city, collect rainwater, and store water in cisterns, where it often became dangerous for consumption. During the same time period, white residents on the same street were provided with water."

To paraphrase a talking head from a video about the case: "This is something out of the 1940s."

The tactics didn't necessarily have the effect of uprooting the community, but it did make life difficult in it (the community is called "Coal Run" because it is between two mines, both of which have polluted groundwater). Thankfully, Relman, Dane, & Colfax is really good at fighting against the evil forces of exclusion. A federal court jury returned verdicts totaling nearly $11 million against the City of Zanesville, Ohio, Muskingum County, Ohio, and the East Muskingum Water Authority for "illegally denying water service to a predominately African-American community on the basis of race." The jury also awarded $80,000 in damages to Fair Housing Advocates Association.

As with Thompson v. HUD, maps played a key rule in making the case. In the map below, you can clearly see that the water line stops where the black peoples' homes start:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Interboro's Holding Pattern at MoMA PS1

We don't post too often about the work we do on this blog (we post about it on our main website), but we would like to take some time to tell you about a project we did for MoMA PS1 this past summer called Holding Pattern. We like to think of it as a project about inclusion.

First, some background: every year, MoMA PS1 commissions an architecture firm to design and build a setting for big, Saturday afternoon parties called “Warm Ups” that are held in MoMA PS1’s courtyard. The program is: provide seating and shade for the roughly 6,000 visitors who visit the Warm Up every Saturday between June and September. The budget is small, and you have to build everything yourself in 4 months.

When we first started to think about what to design, we thought about two things: First: what happens to the stuff from a project after the project is over? Does it get thrown out? Could we design and build something that could be put it to a different use once the party is over? Second: PS1 is located in the borough of Queens, the most diverse, vibrant, and exciting part of New York City. And while MoMA PS1 is a great, community-friendly institution, in some ways, it can seem a little insulated from the great stuff on the other side of the 16-foot tall concrete walls that surround its courtyard. Look at the view from Checker Management, a taxi stand across the street:

Might there be a way to undermine this wall?

We spent a lot of time in the neighborhood, talking to people. The first person we talked to was the owner of Checker Taxi Management, Mike. To make the wait between taxi shifts a little nicer, Mike built a small, impromptu plaza with plastic chairs and tables, a shade awning, and a few planters. Here drivers sit, talk, play board games and drink coffee. We thought this was an interesting space and it suggested to us that the Warm Up’s PS1s programmatic requirements—seating, shade, and a water feature—sometimes overlap with the needs of the Warm Up’s neighbors.

This gave us an idea for a kind of radical recycling that tries to strengthen MoMA PS1’s ties to the neighborhood by matching Warm Up’s programmatic needs with the needs of its neighbors. We went around the neighborhood, and asked every business we found the following question: is there something you need that we could design, use in the courtyard during the Warm Up, then donate in the fall, once the Warm Up is over?

Now that the Fall has come and gone, we can look back at the process:

With this approach, we radically expanded our client group, from one client (the museum) to fifty clients, from the LIC School of Ballet to 5pointz Aerosol Art Center, to the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens. Holding Pattern operates like an urban design project, developing an environment that responds to multiple, very different and sometimes changing desires (something that a fixed piece of architecture could never do).

The project then became something effectively designed by people in the neighborhood. We hoped that by doing this, we could help strengthen the ties between MoMA PS1 and Long Island City. Towards this goal, we also also invited neighborhood institutions to make use of MoMA PS1’s courtyard for programs of their own making. These included B-Boy Workshops with 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center, Ballet Workshops with LIC School of Ballet, Readings with the Queens Library, Qulit-making Workshops with New York Irish Center, Bike Maintenance Workshops with Recycle-A-Bicycle and more. It was great to see people in the neighborhood take ownership of MoMA PS1 in this way: