Monday, September 25, 2006
Art Meets Wonk
The Architectural League is one of those many places in my adopted hometown that so consistently and constantly produces fascinating projects that I’m often overwhelmed by its opportunities. Of all the Don’t Miss exhibitions, competitions, panels, and projects they are always offering, Architecture and Justice: Criminal Justice as Urban Exostructure is Definitely Don’t Miss.
This particular exhibition and program look at mapping incarceration and return rates in different American cities, and the policy implications of those patterns.
But it also reminds me of other policy implications in the relationship between architecture and incarceration. My work sometimes takes me to a small town upstate; the big shiny new high school is built on a site originally meant for a prison. When the town's NIMBY elements managed to block the prision, to save money the municipal authorities used the same blueprints for the prison to build the school, changing key features but also keeping the cellblock system in place. The shape of a building - at least in theory - says everything about its function, and the message to the kids who attend is obvious. That’s some policy implication.
The Architectural League is housed in a gorgeous building at 457 Madison Avenue that is The Urban Center with another of my favorite NYC art-meets-wonk agencies, the Municipal Art Society, which champions urban design and planning and “believes that the physical city -- its light, air, land and open spaces -- and its sensible development are critical to New York's continued economic health and social well-being.” Check it out.