Subliminal Exclusion: Discrimination Through the Built Environment

In Sarah Schindler’s article “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment” she discusses how people of color and poor people are disadvantaged due to restricted built environments. The first part of her article defines “architectural exclusion” as “man- made physical features that make it difficult for certain individuals…to access certain places” (1934).

She acknowledges that scholars do not recognize architecture as a form of regulation, just as most of us fail to notice the restrictive nature of our environment. Schindler mentions how we may not consider the design of a park bench as a way to regulate homeless people. She references Lawrence Lessig who views architecture as a tool used for regulation. “Choice architects” as coined by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstien create constraints that hinder African Americans and poor people just like healthy grocery stores that are placed in wealthy neighborhoods. However, Schindler argues that architecture is not simply a metaphor for regulation, it is regulation.

In part II, she begins to mention the ways in which architectural exclusion has been implemented. Robert Moses’s bulit Long Island bridges that purposely sat low to blockade racial minorities and the poor’s, who used public transit,  access to Jones Beach. He used his power as an architect to exclude people that he considered undesirable. In this case, his intent was evident but that is not always the case in an environment we do not think twice about. A more obvious example is the Eight Mile Wall in Detroit. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) would not approve of a new housing project unless it was divided from a predominately black neighborhood. Public transit has a dramatic role in architectural exclusion. A major issue is poor and black people unable to accept jobs in the suburbs due to lack of access. In Atlanta,  employers have to pay above minimum wage to hire retirees, teenagers, and college students, because the MARTA and public transit does not reach their area. The most serious case is when transit will not take a person to their final destination leaving them in harm. Cynthia Wiggins is a primary example as she tired to reach her job and was killed by a dump truck. Wiggins,17, was forced to cross a seven lane highway to get her job at a suburban mall. The mall would not allow the inner city bus to stop on their property as a way to keep certain people out. A long history exists of the placement of highways displacing black neighborhoods. For instance, in the 1950’s thousands of black people lived in what was known as the Black Bottom and low-income families were forced into public housing.

In conclusion, Schindler makes in depth points about the environments we occupy and how they are designed to exclude some and keep others contained. Although, architecture as a form of regulation way not be as visible it is just as damaging as other forms of discrimination. She expresses that the theory exists but it is often overlooked and bypassed by state officials and scholars. As a society we should strive to make our communities accessible to all but there are deep precedents that keep discrimination prevailing. Perhaps our next generation can make a difference if we study our environments, recognize the disadvantages that exist, then work to make a difference.

One thought on “Subliminal Exclusion: Discrimination Through the Built Environment

  1. You have a very nice title and it made your summary stand out from the rest of the summaries. You did a very nice job of making sure you put words that were not your actual language in quotation marks. You also did a good job of not inserting commentary in your summary. One thing you may consider next time is inserting the actual thesis from the text into your summary. Otherwise great job!
    – Bre

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