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Wednesday SO – IL

We at a+u are attempting to both process and adapt to the unfolding global health and civil rights crises. As a way to engage with this situation, we would like to use our digital platforms to compile and publish freely-accessible observations, commentary, and messaging from within the architecture and urbanism communities. Below, please find the seventh contribution to this series, by SO – IL.

How to live amongst each other? The pandemic has intensified two lingering forcefields. One of these fields is centrifugal; it drives apart. It thins out. It’s induced by fear. We are fearful of the other, the infected, the poorer, the foreign. We isolate in our homes, board up our institutions, close our borders, and turn on our screens, staring into others’ anxieties from behind our masks and shades. The second field moves centripetally. It brings us together, it consolidates and condenses. In our unwillingness to accept the fear we see around us, we rejoice in action. We collect ourselves on the streets to say, “Enough!”

Both forces are deeply human. Both create intolerable tension within ourselves and within society. Both are fed by the ever-widening gap between rich and poor. As architects, planners, and city makers, we operate within these fields. We author their dimensions. We draw borders, sections, edges. We divide. We decide, or at least represent, who is in and who is out. As we draw, we should take the utmost care in balancing these forces. We should calibrate these layered divisions with sensitivity, ensuring people come together as closely as possible, as safely as possible. We should work on the elasticity of our comfort zones, expanding them bit by bit. Living with each other on this ever-shrinking planet demands commitment and energy. We need to advocate for inclusivity and resourcefulness. We should use our imagination not towards consumers but citizens in all their heterogeneity. We should infuse our shared spaces with pockets of air, sites of shelter, hollows of repose.