Building Culture
Architecture As Apparatus and Social Process

On view at the Queens Museum, May 13 – June 13, 2021

Resulting from this pilot partnership between the Queens Museum and Unit 25, a transdisciplinary graduate design studio at the Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York, Building Culture asked architecture students to investigate how architecture intersects and participates with the myriad ways humans construct systems of support, solidarity, and their shared futures.

If culture is taken as a verb—the collective, contradictory undertaking in which we imagine new ways of being together, cultivating and tending to a way of life that has been imagined but has not yet arrived—then what does architecture look like when it helps build culture instead of just buildings?

Situated in Central Queens, this transdisciplinary, pedagogical experiment encouraged students to use a range of research techniques to explore how the built environment influences social and economic life. Architectural investigations and drawing merged with interviews, archives, and analysis to understand the matrix of institutions, cultural practices, and strategies deployed in the neighborhoods of Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Corona, and Flushing. Students translated this research into architectural speculations, apparatuses that seek to reshape entrenched processes to nurture rather than dictate life.

From memorials for immigrant health care workers to new spaces for youth socialization; from reimagined food commissaries from the perspective of precarious vendors to radical new connections between construction work and children’s play, 12 projects are excerpted and organized among four carts. Drawings, models, videos, and interviews are intended to share with the Queens community the potential of creativity in transforming the lives of its residents.

These are not answers. They are propositions that reflect possibilities for changing our environments, fostering cultures of solidarity across groups separated by language, citizenship, and economic opportunity. As we engage with the questions these projects raise, we might renew our understanding of how places and spaces operate in everyday life and imagine new ways of being together.

Instructors
Architect Nandini Bagchee
Anthropologist Vyjayanthi Rao
Unit Collaborator Nicolas Losi

Students
Brittany Gray, Caitlin McManus, Christian Coronel, David Ruiz, Dax Masiglat, Deidre Nolan, Henry Aguilar-Morales, Hito Rodriguez, Krystal Kaler, Nick Wu, Pedro Cruz Cruz, Sayem Shah, Victor Gorlach, and Yoo Jin Jang

Image Credits: Pedro Cruz Cruz, Henry Aguilar, Deirdre Nolan, Christian Coronel

 

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