All-Access City

2012

For their “Brave New City” feature, Metropolis Magazine invited seven designers to imagine “what a fully accessible city might look like (and better yet, how it would function).” Our specific challenge was to imagine an all-access community center.

You can see our project here.

Our argument is that the “what” matters less than the “where.” What Jane Jacobs said about a city sidewalk–that it is by itself an abstraction, and that it means something “only in conjunction with the buildings and other uses that border it”–could also be said about community centers. A nicely designed, amenity-rich new community center–like a handsome new school–would be an empty gesture if it was built in an exclusive enclave accessible only to the rich. An all-access community center is only conceivable in an all-access community: one that first of all does not discriminate in the sale, rental, and marketing of homes, in mortgage lending, and in zoning, but that affirmatively furthers fair housing, and creates a welcoming environment for all, regardless of income, race, religion, or physical ability.

In this drawing we present an incomplete (and somewhat eclectic) collection of tools to help build an all-access community, ranging from practical, physical things like raised crosswalks and curb-cuts, to larger, more policy-based tools like inclusionary zoning, housing vouchers, and racial quotas, to more irreverent things like garage sales, festivals, and Halloween.

One more note: if you can’t locate the community center, it’s because it doesn’t exist: working from Jane Jacobs’s idea that programs are typically best distributed around a neighborhood than aggregated in a complex, we distributed the usual functions of a community center (rec room, meeting space, walk-in clinic, etc.) around the scene, so that they are a part of the existing fabric.

Project Team: Tobias Armborst, Daniel D’Oca, Georgeen Theodore, Rebecca Beyer Winik, Lesser Gonzalez (illustration)

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