Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation through Physical design of the Built Environment (Summary One)



(Robert Moses’ overpass.)


The article titled Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation through Physical design of the Built Environment written by Sarah Schindler is broken up into five aspects that tackle the issue of how man-made structures can permit, prohibit, encourage, or discourage certain groups of people regarding where they travel and how they might behave, with a focus on how poor people (especially minorities) are targeted. According to the paper, the way people behave, travel, and where they might make their home is influenced by architecture; and by architecture Schindler means infrastructure, sidewalks, transit stops, benches, etc. Elaborating on this, Schindler mentions an example in which a city planner for New York named Robert Moses purposely built low-hanging overpasses over parkways leading to Jones Beach. The intention behind this was to prevent buses and in turn those who don’t own cars from traveling to the beach. More precisely, the consequences of this decision made it more difficult for poor people (especially minorities) to visit Jones Beach. Architectural influence can be more far-reaching and subtle than this though, going as far as to impact our decisions by molding the context of them, or by constructing the very options that we decide upon, leaving our free will intact. It’s the last part that is misleading. It leads people to believe that they’re fully in control. However, if one is given the options A, B, and C to choose from, then they should ask themselves: Why just A, B, and C? Why not D, E, and F as well? Are there external influences at work, pushing me to one option over the others? What is the origin of these options? Schindler provides a simple hypothetical demonstrating this concept in which a cafeteria manager displays healthy foods out in the open while making unhealthy foods less visible. Such a maneuver may influence people to try and eat healthier foods. In this example, architectural influence, although still manipulative, may lead to a good result; however, imagine if the cafeteria manager did exactly the opposite. Furthermore, bear in mind that many people wouldn’t even notice that they were being influenced at all. This brings me to Schindler’s final main point. Many people, and more importantly (arguably), those who help create and interpret law do not notice or take architectural influence seriously in the same they do for laws and policies. If a city or state created a policy or law that stated no poor person shall enter a certain public beach or park, then that would be illegal and there would be a huge outcry from the public. However, through architectural influence, Robert Moses was able to accomplish just this, flying under the radar of laws and much of the public. There is one final and interesting point that I learned from reading Schindler’s paper and that is laws, policies, and beliefs are much easier to observe and change than architecture. A city could have 2016 beliefs (equal opportunity for all) while still possessing architectural influence from an age where, to use one example, blacks were falsely seen as subhuman.

SCHINDLER, SARAH. Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment. Yale Law Journal. Apr2015, Vol. 124 Issue 6, p1934-2024. 91p. Web.

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