Here’s a story about Cabrini-Green I just read in a textbook for rhetoric for highschool students. It is Ryan Toppings The Elements of Rhetoric: How to Write and Speak Clearly & Persuasively. I am working towards my masters in Rhetoric and Composition. No, I have no idea what I’m going to do with it yet, but a friend mentioned that I have an uncanny ability to reinvent myself. Many authors I read make a ton of references back to architecture and design along with the principles we use to create good design.

Anyhoo, Topping relates the story of Cabrini-Green, a famous area of disrepair in Chicago. Christian and I used to do an art show up there in the summers, Wells Street Art Show. It was maybe a few miles from Cabrini, we would drive buy it early in the morning before we would set up for the show. We have seen it in so many movies that would retell the amount of gang violence, poverty, racism and over all sad conditions.

“During the 1960’s city planners wrongly assumed that poor people would prefer to live in a large building surrounded by a common green rather than a small flat with their own garden. As it turned out, when everybody owns the lawn, no one owns the lawn – except perhaps for the gangs that move in after dark. The projects were a disaster because the size of the buildings failed to match the normal feeling that one’s home is meant to evoke: a sense of privacy, ownership and intamacy.” (p.20)

Scale of the building to its occupants: Scale is something I talk to my clients about all the time. It is a core design principle we work from. When creating a space we truly need to include what we want to feel in that space. I like to consider what kind of life my clients have had or intend on having in the future. The feeling of the space is of utmost importance. I do all I can to get to know my clients through our design process as we weigh out what their priorities are. I have to wonder of the designers, architects and brain power behind the oversized buildings ever considered, ever interviewed the future residents of their homes they were creating.

We are studying the historicizing of rhetoric. By rhetoric I mean pretty much all the history, all the writing, all that we teach our children about our society and our culture, politics, math, science …. all of it I consider rhetoric. Watching what happened to Cabrini Green I wonder who wrote the overarching intention for that project? I am going to make a far reaching assumption and a sexist one at that and say that it was primarily a group of white men who knew what they thought a home should be and how to “handle” poor people. A. Epstein and Sons and Pace Associates, followed Le Corbusier in the epic fail.

“The new Cabrini-Green plan follows the received wisdom for remediation of American cities these days: complex public-private partnerships instead of top-down government-led initiatives, a restored street grid instead of Corbusian megablocks, and proximity to parks and transit instead of isolation behind the barricade of an interstate highway. Add to all that a careful mix of densities, uses, and incomes. Social scientists continue to debate the merits of this planning strategy, but time will tell on the ground. Build the place, let it set for a decade or two, and we might just have ourselves a sustainable neighborhood.” read more

I wonder what communities would look like of women built them? It is my opinion that once women’s voice started to be valued more and more, the open floor plan emerged more and more. The kitchen being the heart of the home, the shared space between kitchen dining and living rooms or family rooms. I want to see more women creating the planning for cities. Hopefully we wont have to wait a decade or two to see if it works or not.