09 October 2018

Inspiring Better Cities > Elevating the Role of Architects as Advocates for Equitable Housing

OK sounds nice, right?
What happens when we take that hyper-local to home right here in downtown Mesa. . . What we get instead is what you < see in the opening image: plans for new construction in the Mormon Temple Area for a Massive Make-Over that mimic the retro-old faux-historic architecture used for the 23-acre Cave Creek, an urban revitalization project in Salt Lake City.
Shall we call it "Cave Creek-Lite" resigning ourselves to outside plans with no local input from downtown residents?
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There's nothing "Mesa-authentic" in the proposed plans that have doubled from about 4 acres into more than 8 acres now. It's not the right thing and it's not the right time.
That's the hype we get and the hype we read:
If you're not directly involved in real estate speculation and development as an investment affiliate of the for-profit tentacles of the LDS Church all this came as a surprise slow-reveal after years of behind-the-scenes planning with city officials, developers, and stakeholders (so they said in announcements from the Mormon Newsroom in May 2018).
No financial details disclosed. No input from the public. 
Is there any redemption at all for this architectural mimicry? 
There's only one local architect - Tim Boyle, with a degree from Columbia University - who did speak up. He's also an appointed member of the City of Mesa's Planning & Zoning Board who panned the bland architecture but nothing else.
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Here in downtown Mesa, now classified in contiguous census tracts as a distressed low-income neglected neighborhood qualifying to be included in 7,8000 Opportunity Zones nation-wide, we have a crisis in affordable housing that's well documented. 
There's none of that in any of the new behind-the-scenes plans revealed and  announced from Salt Lake City for this new Massive Mormon Make-Over here in Downtown Mesa.
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“The affordable housing crisis here in Mesa is not going away — it’s only getting worse,”
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Among three other developer plans made public in the first few months of 2018 - that all somehow seemed to appear at once with no collaboration - there were none that included affordable, equitable, innovative, or inclusive affordable housing.
One stands out like an out-of-scale and out-of-proportion sore thumb proposal in downtown Mesa's mostly one-story historic district for a 15-story luxury high-rise >>
It's featured on the cover of Compass Magazine, published annually by the Mesa Chamber of Commerce.
MESA: A VIBRANT CITY TO LIVE, WORK AND PLAY Now and Tomorrow. . .Inspiring?
“The housing crisis is not going away — it’s only getting worse,”
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We can do better from the ground-up from the get-go when there's no income-bias that restricts qualifying residents to 40%-50%- 60% of the neighborhood median income level by incorporating 'affordable housing' across the entire income spectrum into any new housing. Otherwise it's a new segregation leading to battles against "Gentrification" that displaces long-time residents.  Easier said than done for sure, but we have to start somewhere here when other cities are proving it can be done.
This study is from Next City if we all been wondering what NextMesa might be:
Elevating the Role of Architects as Advocates for Equitable Housing
"In the early 2000s, urbanist Karen Kubey began thinking about harnessing architecture for social equity. . .

A model of Colville Estates, a publicly-owned, half public housing, half market-rate development in London. (Credit: Karakusevic Carson Architects)
We were sort of fringe characters,” she says of the urbanists, architects and planners who believed architecture could serve as an important piece of more equitable cities. “A lot of [that work] was small-scale, a lot of it was pro-bono.”
In ensuing years, as the world moved toward urbanization and a global housing crisis has emerged, she witnessed a change.
“I’m interested in how some of that thinking has become a part of the way major firms are working and how profitable work is happening,” she says. “The field of architecture is paying much more attention to housing.”
It’s with that in mind Kubey served as guest editor for the latest issue of Architectural Design, titled Housing as Intervention: Architecture Towards Social Equity.
She points out that regulatory constraints, profits for banks and developers, NIMBYism and supply-chain challenges often take center stage in discussions around housing. Architects, Kubey believes, can be powerful voices in the complex housing challenges increasingly dominating cities.
Gordon Lasner’s essay, “Architecture’s Progressive Imperative: Housing Betterment in the 19th and 20th centuries,” presents a historical look in architect’s roles for social change.
“In many respects, architects have limited control, especially in such a diffuse arena as housing,” Lasner writes. Policymakers, developers and lenders tend to shape the larger contours of the system."
Take, for example, the early history of the multi-family apartment building, a common housing type for centuries in Scotland but virtually unknown in England and the United States. In the 1840s, British architects promoted the idea of the multi-family building as a solution to the high cost of urban housing; a parallel campaign in the United States, led by architects like Calvert Vaux, emerged after the Civil War.
Blogger Note: Vaux & Olmstead designed New York City's Central Park
Kaja Kühl and Julie Behrens highlight the work of architects in Berlin in their essay, “Spaces of Migration: Architecture for Refugees.
Local architects rejected the concept of emergency, dormitory-style shelters for refugees and instead advocated for units with private kitchens and bathrooms that could be converted into permanent affordable housing.
In further collaboration, they challenged the mindset of “architecture for refugees” to instead design “architecture for all.”
In London, where city government has re-invested in its public housing stock, the role of architect as advocate has never been more important, argues Paul Karakusevic in his essay, “A New Era of Social Housing: Architecture as the Basis for Change.”
He cautions against a “one-size-fits-all approach” to build or rehabilitate public housing and pushes architects to forge close relationships with residents’ associations and local authorities and use it as the basis for their work.
HERE'S WHERE SOME OF THESE IDEAS HIT HOME HERE IN MESA:
Karakusevic’s firm, Karakusevic Carson Architects, worked to rehabilitate a public housing project with “a community left disillusioned and disengaged after 18 years of stalled schemes,” he writes. “In 2000, approximately half of the estate was demolished, leaving behind a rubble-filled wasteland.”
The firm kicked off its design process in 2013 with the resident’s association at the center. He writes that “through regular steering-group meetings and public-consultation events, the residents were heavily engaged throughout; from the site planning of new streets right through to the internal specifications.”
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ONE MORE TIME:
“The housing crisis is not going away — it’s only getting worse,”

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