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Lessons from Baltimore: Civic Action, Not Defensive Architecture, Needed

Baltimore was only beginning to undo the ill effects of the architecture and planning response to the riots of 1968 when the protests and unrest of 2015 struck. Can the architecture field produce a more positive response to violence this time?
May 5, 2015, 7am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson begins a plea for urban designers to do better by noting the ripple effects of an earlier period of unrest in Baltimore.

"After Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in April of '68 and Baltimore rioted, communities near [Maryland Institute College of Art] petitioned the city to rezone the neighborhood as residential only. No more corner stores. No more restaurants. If people could not gather, the thinking went, then they could not riot. Four decades later…witness the ripple effect."

Noting that architecture is in a soul-searching, perhaps soul-defining, moment, Dickinson wonders if the violence and despair of recent events in Baltimore could provide the field with an opportunity for redemption from its past and current mistakes.

"Can our buildings move beyond the soulless structures and aggressive infrastructure that we saw in the wake of '68, and offer instead beauty, civility, and respect? In January, the AIA dubbed 2015 'the year of the advocate,' and challenged members to become legislative activists. Will architects take up the cause of shaping the next American city into one that makes all of us—regardless of race, class, gender, and income—a welcome and vital part of civic life?"

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Published on Friday, May 1, 2015 in Architect Magazine
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