Summary of Schindler’s “Architectural Exclusion”

Sarah Schindler’s Architectural Exclusion examines an inconspicuous form of discrimination that may be more prevalent in our day to day lives than any other. This inequality goes unnoticed as it lies in regulation of the built environments we live in, but we simply see them as something as inconvenient as a one way road. As the essay points out later, one way streets may only exist headed in certain directions- directing the flow of traffic to keep the poorer side of town on their respective “side.” This is one of numerous forms of regulation Schindler analyzes pertaining to the restraints created by design.

Schindler argues that there is no “neutral design” in the environment. In layman’s terms, architectural functionality is dual- beyond that of simple aesthetics. Placement and design of anything from benches to bridges are intended to control the flow of people and how they interact with the environment. Neutrality is a middle ground, once taken away can only function to help some people and hurt others. This is where the idea of “traffic logic” comes into play, while an environment’s design can undermine certain groups of people, it also subconsciously reinforces negative behaviors between people i.e. what becomes discrimination.

Examples that are illustrated in the text range from gates to transit stops, to one way streets as aforementioned and parks and landscapes. Gates and public transport namely are described as what blatantly separates the poor and the rich, the people of color and the white people. Detroit built what was to be known as the Eight Mile Wall to separate an existing black community from a wealthy white community they were constructing nearby. A gate almost ten-feet-high in Hamden, Connecticut right in between a white suburb and the primarily black housing in New Haven. Schindler points out that if you fast forward thirty years and we have created a new, legal way to continue this blatant segregation- gated communities.

Public transport and transit stops are another “in your face” exclusion. People living in California to Georgia can attest to this as the essay denotes. People living in the suburbs around major cities like Atlanta and San Francisco vote to keep public transportation like MARTA out of their neighborhoods fearing that if they had a stop on the line it would be easy of access and bring more poor people and minorities to the area. Specifically they do not want those groups of people taking advantage of the jobs in the area and the more convenient amenities and ease of access one might find in the suburbs.

Just briefly in section two, Schindler mentions that local government partakes in architectural exclusion with blockades and traffic control. Looping roads and concrete barriers used to “lower crime rate” and ease the flow of traffic. This ties into another example of exclusion- highways and exits. Oftentimes exits are placed away from wealthier communities and highways used in hopes to displace black communities by running through them.

Schindler leaves us with the last example of residential parking permits. The idea behind them that only you and your friends have access to drive and park in these areas. They are not accessible by public transit and they prevent random people from wandering in and of the property. Courts will uphold these restrictive policies tying us back to the idea of why exclusionary regulation is so prominent and hard to undermine as most “do not believe” environment design intentionally separates.


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