How we design inequality

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How we design inequality

How we design inequality

The editors of a new report on architecture and real estate discuss why affordability isn’t the solution to the housing crisis.

The American housing crisis is getting worse. The problem is not affordability, as most building developers would argue, but inequality, says a new report titled The Art of Inequality: Architecture, Housing, and Real Estate, produced by the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University. Jacob Moore and Susanne Schindler, who edited the report along with Buell director Reinhold Martin, spoke to Metropolis editor Samuel Medina about architecture’s role in abetting inequality and the urgent need to revive the issue of public housing.

Samuel Medina: Can you explain the beginnings of the project?

Jacob Moore: When I came on at the beginning of 2013, the Buell Center was finishing up the last part of Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream, more specifically, “Comments on Foreclosed,” which was an attempt to digitally map out all the public commentary that surrounded the exhibition’s stay at MoMA. I helped wrap that up, but as an institution, the Buell Center was already very embedded in housing as a subject of research. We’re almost two and a half years into the House Housing: An Untimely History of Architecture and Real Estate initiative (of which The Art of Inequality is a result), which draws on a large body of research about housing and real estate in the attempt to locate architecture’s role therein. Despite my involvement in this study, I should say that I’m no expert on housing—those of us at Buell try to make that clear in all our projects. But Susanne has a very different background vis-à-vis housing.

Susanne Schindler: I’ve been involved at Buell since the summer of 2013. I’m an architect by training and I’ve always been interested in the ways that design and policy do and don’t interact in housing. Although I’ve worked as a researcher, curator, and editor on House Housing and The Art of Inequality report, I come to all of this from a design perspective. I think housing is one of the most fascinating design challenges, independently of whether it’s called “market-rate,” “affordable,” or “public” housing. […]

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