Creating Kenilworth: Advanced Marginality

footprintEnclave typically connotes an area that uses spatial strategies, both architectural and planning, to isolate it from the surrounding areas.  It is frequently used to describe ethnic enclaves or gated communities.  However, enclave is also used to describe areas that a made to be isolated.  This isolation goes hand-in-hand with the idea of advanced marginality.  That is, while low-income people have made absolute gains in wealth and consumption possibilities, they remain afflicted by a poverty of socio-spatial connections.  This makes it difficult to convert economic capital into social or cultural capital.

Kenilworth has always been on the edge of Washington, DC.  It transitioned from farming area to white middle-class suburban community.  Also, thanks to Walter Shaw and Helen Fowler in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the area became home to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, which would later become a National Park.  By the 1950s, White Flight combined with transplants from nearby, historically-black Deanwood and those displaced from redeveloping Southwest into Kenilworth Courts, a public housing unit, to remake the neighborhood.  By the mid-1950s most white families had left for good.

Today, Kenilworth is one of the most isolated neighborhoods in Washington, DC.  Part of this is geographical.  To the west, the neighborhood is bounded by the Anacostia River, to the north, an impassable border with Maryland.  South of Kenilworth is a branch of the river and another purely residential community: Paradise-Parkside.  However, the formation of Kenilworth’s enclave is not merely geographical serendipity.  Rather, in 1954 Kenilworth Avenue was built into a multi-lane highway, 295, bounding Kenilworth to the east.  At the same time, trolley lines disappeared replaced by buses.  It is unclear to what extent this was a lack of intentionally by planners and to what extent it was the deliberate creation of an enclave as the neighborhood’s demographics changed rapidly.

Imposed  enclaves are not only characterized by spatial isolation, but also by a poverty of connections and services.  Kenilworth today has no businesses and no retail.  Its recreation center was torn down in the early-2000s when it was found to have been built on a World War II munitions dump.  It has an elementary school; however, that school is slated to close.  Kenilworth was not always this way.  Beginning in the early 20th century and continuing until 1968, Kenilworth Avenue was the location of several businesses, restaurants, shops, and even a Safeway.  However, with the damage following the riots, these businesses left and never returned.

The image below is a poignant one.  It shows the partially built footbridge over the highway; a cruel reminder of the paucity of options in or out of Kenilworth.  This bridge is in juxtaposition with the Safeway, recently damaged in the riots of 1968.  It would never re-open.  The two events evoked by these juxtaposed images were foundational ones for the formation and production of an isolated enclave in Kenilworth.


Graham, Stephen, and Simon Marvin. Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities and the Urban Condition. London: Routledge, 2001. Print.

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SW Ecodistrict in the Anthropocene City


While city and nature are frequently falsely dichotomized, cities are also ecological spaces.  They are characterized as both drivers of ecological change and the principle victims of it.  Ecological urbanism and Eco-cities are, therefore, responses to ecological challenges including climate change and resource scarcity.  Hodson and Marvin question whether eco-cities are developing to achieve relative autonomy in response to ecological change and resource scarcity or if they genuinely seek to promote replicable and responsible common good alternatives for improving urban projects.  An important corollary to this problematic is the question of the extent to which eco-cities can or should be profit driven and, therefore, exclusionary.

After Southwest was rebuilt (see below) it became a mostly federal enclave.  Paul Williams described the (possibly apocryphally) use of images of Southwest’s L’Enfant Plaza in Soviet Propaganda.  Williams claimed that these depictions of concrete jungles were meant to illustrate the lifelessness of capitalist urbanism.  Whether or not this is true, Southwest’s urban renewal was successful insofar as it destroyed working-class communities and “slum” housing in creating a federal district.  It was a failure insofar as it ceased to be a lived-in community with neither retail nor cultural destinations beyond the Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall.


The National Capital Planning Commission’s vision of a Southwest Eco-district seeks to succeed where the previous renewal failed.   Proposed in 2012, the redevelopment will, over the next 20 years, “contribute to the economic vitality and environmental health of the city” by focusing on the 10th Street and Maryland Avenue corridors of Southwest.  As per the problematic of Hodson and Marvin, the plan states that the redevelopment will be both, more environmentally and economically beneficial than alternative development strategies.  The vision of the project is for an area that is:

  • A revitalized neighborhood and  cultural destination;
  • A well-connected neighborhood;
  • A high performance environmental showcase;
  • A successful economic partnership.

It is impossible not to hear the appeals to public-private partnership, growth machine, and profit-making opportunities built into the future plan.  Also important, though over-looked by Hodson and Marvin, is the cultural production and brandscape of eco-cities.  The plan frequently makes reference to the district as an extension of the cultural-national space of the National Mall, and highlights the spaces reserved for future monuments.  In that way, the district is prepared for future cultural (re)production needs.  Finally, there is no mention of affordable housing.  Like Masdar City, this eco-district will likely be an enclave for the wealthy.  

As shown in the images below, the eco-district is planned to be a very walkable and bikable area.  However, in producing bike lanes and dedicated pedestrian zones, the planners of the eco-district can carefully manage the way in which it is consumed by those in it.  While the glass covering the train stop may include solar panels, it is also part-panopticon, part-green wash (for some reason glass is discursively legible to me as eco-friendly).  Similarly, eco-district does not mean utopian; the atmosfear of defensible spaces is apparent in these street designs.



sw-ecodistrict_DC_01 street

train station


Hodson, Mike, and Simon Marvin. “Urbanism in the Anthropocene: Ecological Urbanism or Premium Ecological Enclaves?” City 14.3 (2010): 298-313. Print.

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Georgetown and its Brandscape or How to do Enclave

Georgetown has long been home to various enclaves.  Until 1871, it was an autonomous area in the federal district, separate from the city of Washington.  Until the 1940s and 1950s, the neighborhood was a black working class community.  Today, it is the enclave of wealthy, white Washingtonians, with a University, shops, and faux-history for tourists.

Gerogetown’s geographical situation plays an important role in creating enclave.  The Potomac River bounds in to the West and South.  While it is south of Rock Creek Park, a major racial and socio-economic barrier in the city, it is still bounded on the east by Rock Creek itself.  Smaller parks, Montrose and Whitehaven bound it to the north.

georgetown tee


While Georgetown is geographically isolated, it also suffers from a lack of transportation in and out.  Parking is nowhere to be found, though there is limited bus service on the 30 series, D series, G2, and Circulator.  However, these options do not link Georgetown to much of the city.  Furthermore, Georgetown lacks a metro stop.  The conspiracy theory is that racist Georgetowners campaigned to prevent the building of a metro in the area to keep out people of color.  It is true that some angry letters were written regarding metro stops in Georgetown.  However, it was never seriously considered by planners because of engineering difficulties.  While it is entirely likely that letters could have grown into campaigns, what is more important is that people are very willing to believe that the lack of metro stop is because of racism and classism in the area.  This atmosfear, reproduced in the false historical narrative, reinforces both the paranoia of the residents who live within their “racist enclave” and in outsiders who may perceive it as such.

It is, therefore, more than spatial situation and strategies that make Georgetown an enclave.  Gentrification pressures (i.e. pricing out) and racial covenants on houses, like the one President Kennedy owned, first created the homogenous white neighborhood that exists today.  It persists because of sky-high property values, the decreasing number of affordable bars and restaurants, and the spread of high-end boutique stores.  As seen below, visitors are funneled into constructed brandscapes on “high-end” M Street or historical sites like the University.  These brandscapes segregate residents from visitors while also managing the trouble-free consumption of Georgetown spaces with identities tied to eating, drinking, and buying.  In that way, Georgetown can be both an enclave and a tourist destination, by redirecting others to carefully constructed consumption while spatially and socio-economically segregating “real” Georgetown from the other.  If only they could get rid of the damn students.


Caldeira, Teresa. City of Walls: Crime, Segregation, and Citizenship in São Paulo. Berkeley: University of California, 2000. Print.

Graham, Stephen, and Simon Marvin. Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities and the Urban Condition. London: Routledge, 2001. Print.

Young, Iris Marion. Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1990. Print.

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Ethnoburbs in the DMV: Langley Park

casa de maryland

Casa de Maryland

For much of the country’s history, many urban areas included ethnic enclaves concentrated in inner-urban areas.  These enclaves often constituted part of the urban imaginary as Chinatowns or Little Italys or others.  However, as Anthony King argues, colonialism (American and otherwise), as well as, neo-liberalism have contributed to immigration flows of high-skilled foreign professionals and low-skilled foreign laborers to American metropolitan areas.  The growth of suburbs has enabled the creation of ethnoburbs, ethnic concentrations without rather than within cities.  These ethnoburbs are often further distinguished from ethnic enclaves in that they are often characterized by diverse ethnic clusters rather than singular concentrations.    

For Wei Li, the geographer that coined the term ethnoburb, the ethnoburb is an “outpost in the global economy.”  Wei Li focuses on the economic, political, and social dimensions of the productions of ethnoburbs, those being post-Fordism, deindustrialization, and the service economy, as well as, geopolitical upheavals abroad.  King’s important critique is that, while these things are all true, Li’s focus ignores the cultural and urban imaginary aspects of the ethnoburb.

Washington, DC, is becoming one of the most diverse cities in the United States.  However, this is not driven by the city itself, which is becoming increasingly white.  Instead, the metro area of Washington, DC, includes several strong and rapidly growing ethnoburb communities.  However, unlike tightly concentrated ethinic enclaves in cities, the ethnoburbs of the DMV, Langley Park, Annandale, Gaithersburg, Wheaton, Herndon, and others are mostly diverse multi-ethnic communities.  The map below shows Langley Park and surrounding areas in both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.  While Langley Park, in orange, shows a Latino/Hispanic (i.e. Salvadoran and Guatemalan) majority, many of the other areas, in yellow, have no ethnic majority at all.


In Langley Park, over half of the population is foreign-born.  As Wei Li originally argued, the formation of ethnoburbs, like Langley Park, was the result of both economic and geo-political forces.  Civil Wars in El Salvador and Guatamala in the 80s and 90s encouraged immigration.  Employment stability in both Washington and the suburbs around it made the DMV an attractive destination.  While real estate value began to climb with gentrification, immigrant populations found cheaper housing stocks in areas like Langley Park.  Langley Park is also close to the Beltway, important for commuting around the area.

However, as King argued, Salvadoran and Guatamalan immigrants have also contributed to the cultural remaking of Langley Park.  Price and Singer describe it as being called “Barrio de Langley Park,“ characterized by Pupuserias and the election of Latino officials in a county governed predominantly by African-Americans.  Langley Park-McCormick ES serves as an important community center with church services on the weekends.

papusa truck langley park

Similarly, Casa de Maryland, located in nearby Tacoma, has developed as a formal day labor site and distribution point for a variety of social services.  However, as demonstrated below, there remains some tensions between communities.  These manifest as county officials speaking predominantly to African-American issues and enhanced enforcement of loitering ordinances (directed at day labor sites) and crackdowns on informal vendors (like the pupusa truck right).


King, Anthony Douglas. Spaces of Global Culture: Architecture, Urbanism, Identity. London: Routledge, 2004. Print.

Singer, Audrey, and Marie Price. Edge Gateways: Suburbs, Immigrants and the Politics of Reception in Metropolitan Washington. Working paper. Brookings, n.d. Web. <;.

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Spectral Housing: Slums of Southwest

Arjun Appadurai uses the term spectral housing to describe improvisational and speculative housing developed in “slum areas.”  Driven by high demand, spectral housing violates spatial limits on dwelling places.  It is often constituted by semi-permanent, informal structures.  The economy of these dwellings can be similarly informal.  This “pirate urbanism” is constituted by the forced privatization of informal structures by local councils, criminal groups, or speculators.  These houses are considered spectral because of their semi-permanence and the fluidity with which they can be created and “cleansed” or eliminated.

In the First and Second Great Migrations, millions of African-Americans moved north to growing and industrializing urban areas, like Washington, DC.  Most of them were tenant farmers and laborers, and they were moving to a segregated city.  It was, therefore, unsurprising that many of those from the south, as well as other communities, moved into alley dwellings in Southwest, DC, and other neighborhoods.  Appadurai’s descriptions of contemporary Mumbai mirror this pattern and the “uncertainties about citizenship” it creates.

Alley life and laundry

According to the Alley Dwelling Act of 1934, alley dwellings are those in “…any court, thoroughfare, or passage, private or public, thirty feet or more in width, that does not open directly with a width of at least thirty feet upon a public street that is at least forty feet wide from building line to building line.”  The Alley Dwelling Act of 1934 and the Housing Act of 1937 provided some of the legislative framework for urban renewal and the removal of “blighted” areas like alley dwellings in Southwest.


In 1950, a Redevelopment Land Authority study concluded that over half of the homes in Southwest were “blighted.”  As the port activity decreased on the waterfront, the government began to develop plans for renewal.  Beginning in the 1950s, land and dwellings were either purchased or seized by the government using eminent domain.  Thousands of residences were razed and twenty- to thirty-thousand residents were displaced, many to purpose-built low-income areas like Kenilworth.  

Brown’s Court, alley dwellings east of the Capitol.

When Appadurai refers to housing as spectral, he connotes both the speculative, tenuous violations of spatial “limits” and the imaginary of communities quickly displaced by alternative imaginaries.  Both are apparent in the destruction of Southwest.  The image above illustrates the juxtaposition of “real” and “spectral” housing wherein “sufficient” and permanent street facing dwelling share space with “insufficient” alley dwellings.  It also displays the contradiction  of planning and disorder legible in the alley ways.  More concretely, the absurdity is the meticulous planner sketch of an area whose form appears to be anything but planned.

The image below is of the razed Southwest area.  It is incredible to see how desolate and the area looked in the middle of renewal.  The spectrality here is in the way countless urban imaginaries of working-class communities, slums, and ethnic enclaves were erased from the built environment.  Instead, a new urban imaginary will fill the space.  This imaginary is one of urban progress, modernism, and American identity.  The urban battlefield is a place in which a city is constantly remade and spectral housing is quickly cleansed in favor of alternative visions.  Though, the urban battlefield is also a space for resistance.  Several buildings survived urban renewal and now stand in protest to the modernist space of Southwest.  Less metaphorically, the urban renewal of Southwest was brought before the Supreme Court in Berman v. Parker (1954).

SW DC_leveled

Appadurai, A. “Spectral Housing and Urban Cleansing: Notes on Millennial Mumbai.”Public Culture 12.3 (2000): 627-51. Print.

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Washington’s Dual City

In a globalized economy, cities are situated in various informational, cultural, and economic flows.  The people in these cities have different relationships to those flows, some being able to direct or engage many of the flows as part of the formal economy while others are disadvantaged relative to those flows.  That is, receiving them or, as Massey would suggest, being left out altogether.  This means that while some parts of cities and city residents are becoming more integrated with the rest of the world, other people and places within cities become more spatially and economically isolated.  This is the Dual City.

In Washington, DC, Wards 7 and 8 have, since the early to mid 20th century, been spatially and economically isolated from the rest of the city.  Much of the reason for this is geographical, with the Anacostia River acting as a racial and social barrier in the city.  The economic isolation has not been unintentional.  The Congressional Committee in charge of the city had, for its entire history, done little to provide services to the predominantly Black and African-American communities of Washington, DC.  With Wards 7 and 8 being close to one hundred percent Black, it has only been in the past decade that they have begun to receive any attention from outside the neighborhoods.

East, west bus routes ward 7

The map above shows the spatial isolation of Wards 7 and 8 with only five bridges crossing the river.  More importantly, only a handful of east-west bus lines run across the river allowing people to move towards jobs in the city’s center.  Also visible on the map is Highway 295 which bisects the land east of the river.  Some neighborhoods, like Paradise and Parkside are cut off completely by the river and the highway, leaving only one entrance into the community.  This contrasts sharply with the public transportation options available to rest of the city.  The rest of the city is also more walkable, not divided by barriers like rivers and highways.

The areas of Wards 7 and 8 also deal with a limited number of services.  Wards 7 and 8 share a total of three full service restaurants and three grocery stores for about 140,000 people.  This is staggering when compared with the dozens of restaurants on M Street or the number of grocery stores within walking distance of Georgetown University.

condom map dc

Quality of services is also a challenge to the residents of Wards 7 and 8.  The map shows CVS pharmacies that sell condoms in locked cases in red, unlocked in green.  The blue dots represent 1000 black residents, the gold 1000 white.  For a city in which 1 in 20 adults is HIV positive, this is outrageous.  Locking condoms discourages people from buying and, therefore, using them while also panoptically reminding people that they cannot be trusted not to steal because they are black.  The map is especially useful in demonstrating this racial disparity.  This racialization is exactly what Castells described when explaining the Dual City hypothesis. 

Washington, DC, is an exceedingly wealthy city.  The images below display the disparity in both who is wealthy and who can direct spending towards their community.  The image on the left is the public library in Georgetown.  The image to the right is the Public Library the Deanwood community used from the 70s until 2008.

georgetown public librarylibrary kiosk

It is inaccurate to say that all of the neighborhoods in Wards 7 and 8 have the same experiences.  Some are relatively affluent communities.  However, the unbelievable service and economic opportunity disparity between there and Ward 2 or 3 speaks to the divergent experiences of the Dual City.  While many of the most powerful people in the world live and work in Washington, another quarter of the city is in a spatially and economically isolated and racialized community.  This undermines the cosmopolitan vision of this city as the capital of the free world. 

Bennett, Tony. “The Exhibitionary Complex.” New Formations Spring.4 (1988)  


Massey, Doreen B. “A Global Sense of Place.” Space, Place, and Gender. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1994. 146-56.

Soja, Edward. Postmetropolis. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999.

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The Barracks Row Brandscape


Brandscape is the usage of the built environment to construct identities for a location.  It often refers to the construction of marquee buildings or other unique structures to create a city’s skyline or brandscape.  The brandscape of Washington, DC, is obviously built around the image of the Washington, Monument.  However, brandscape can also refer to the local identities that neighborhoods develop through their built environment.

DC is home to several small strips that have very consciously constructed identities and brandscapes.  Adams Morgan, M Street,  and H Street are all good examples.  However, I would like to focus on one that has somewhat quietly created a very cohesive brandscape, Barracks Row.

marine barracks

Barrack’s Row, like much of DC, was damaged in the riots in 1968.  The highway that bisects it, also slowed its development, leaving an area filled with empty storefronts.  In the 1990s, with gentrification creeping across Washington, Barracks Row began to develop, constructing an identity as Capitol Hill’s Main Street. 

Today, Barracks Row is a mix of retail and restaurants that looks more like a Main Street than anywhere else in Washington, DC.  Its brand identity is also closely linked with the neighborhood’s historic ties with the old fishing and port industries on the river and the Marine Barracks.    

teds bulletin familyThe brandscape of Barracks is not just the Marine Barracks.  Rather, restaurants, like Ted’s Bulletin, with its bakery in the window and “Family Restaurant” sign, all contribute to the manufactured and nostalgic Main Street brand peddled by Barracks Row.  The red, white, and blue glass facade of the barber shop also plays this part. 

Sidewalk dining barracks row

With heavy pedestrian traffic, the plentiful sidewalk dining advertises both the food and the patrons, who get to consume in front of and with others.  This further contributes to the small community atmosphere of the strip. 

Senart’s Chop House, with its wood paneled façade and painted Coca-Cola advertisements, appears to be the remnant of old-Barracks Row, connecting the neighborhood to its past as an extension of fishing areas to the south.  The irony of this is demonstrated by the photos below.  Until 2010, Senart’s was a veterinary clinic.  This speaks to the way that brandscape is manufactured in the built environment.  That is, as a cohesive commodity to be consumed.  It is one that both shapes the way it is consumed, with walkability and street seating, as well as being shaped by the consumer, fulfilling the Main Street function for the young families in residential Capitol Hill.

vet clinicsenarts

Krupar, Shiloh, and Stefan Al. “Notes on the Society of the Brand.” The SAGE Handbook of Architectural Theory. London: SAGE, 2012

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Revanchist City and the Central Union Mission

central union mission facade

The Revanchist City refers to the post-Keynesian model of neo-liberal urbanism characterized by rhetoric and social policies of revenge against socially subordinate minority groups.  More specifically, the failure of liberal urban policies in the era after white flight gave way to an exclusionary urbanity, marginalizing groups who did not fit the new model vision for “civil society.” 

With its narrative of The Plan, Washington, DC, is an excellent example of the Revanchist city, and one whose revanchism existed long before Smith coined the term in his 1996 book, The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City.  One of the biggest victims of urban revanchism is the homeless community.  Washington’s Central Union Mission provides a specific example of the way in which homeless men and women are marginalized and dehumanized in neo-liberal urban spaces.

The Central Union Mission is a 122 year-old Christian organization providing housing, meals, and other services to homeless men and women in the Washington, DC, area.  In 1982, they moved from Pennsylvania Avenue to their current location on 14th and R Streets NW when the city seized their property through eminent domain as part of redevelopment efforts.

Around 2000, Central Union Mission began to look for a new home.  Whereas the Logan Circle area had been an important location for homeless shelter services in the 1980s, the neighborhood gentrified significantly in the time the Mission was located there.  The homeless population had mostly moved eastward, the businesses in the area were too expensive for the shelter’s residents, and the area’s new residents did not like sharing the space with a homeless shelter.


The Gales School

The Mission’s first choice for a new location was the Gales School at 65 Massachusetts NW.  Having been used as a shelter in the past, the Mission expected to be able to expand their service capacity.  However, the proposed purchase was blocked by an ACLU suit because of accompanying cash transfers from the city government to a Christian Organization.

The Central Union Mission found a new location that met their space and zoning needs on the 3500 block of Georgia Avenue NW.  However, as described by Executive Director David Treadwell, the mission’s proposed movement ran into a “political and neighborhood buzz saw.”  A NIMBY blitz from the neighborhood and opposition from Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham made the Mission reconsider.  A second plan for mixed-income housing on the property ran afoul of similar opposition, and the Mission chose to sell to a developer.

central_union_mission plans

A restructured plan for leasing the Gales school without cash transfers was eventually settled upon, and the Mission plans to begin moving to the new location in Spring of 2013.  Their old location in Logan Circle is set to become a 51-unit apartment complex after redevelopment.  One suggested name for the complex, in homage to its heritage, is “The Mission.”

The story here is not, developer buys homeless shelter out from under homeless residents.  After all, David Treadwell wanted to move.  However, he wanted to move because a revanchist urban strategy, gentrification, had already pushed homeless men and women east, and he wanted to follow.  This was not new for the mission; they had been displaced in 1982 by eminent domain.  Another important aspect of the revanchism is the fear of diminished property values and crime that prompted Petworth residents to push so strongly against the movement of the Mission to their neighborhood.                                

screenHowever, this goes beyond NIMBYism.  It includes rhetoric, like that of the screen above, that dehumanizes homeless men and women, characterizing them as parasitic criminals who must be put up with briefly before being passed off to another neighborhood.  The screen is one of many similar comments found on this issue.  This particular one comes from DCist, and provides a useful, unique look at how revanchist opinions are (re)produced.  Similarly, renaming the apartments, “The Mission” feels less like homage and more like revanchist triumphalism, juxtaposing the building’s new cache with its old identity. 

Short, John R. Global Metropolitan: Globalizing Cities in a Capitalist World. London: Routledge, 2004.

Smith, Neil. The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City. London: Routledge, 1996.

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Monument & Counter-Monument – FDR Memorial and Grace’s Deli

graces deli memorialMonuments are physical manifestations of community memory.  They are able to serve several different functions, most built around remembering events.  Their form is dictated by the historical and aesthetic context in which they are built.  Monuments are used by their sponsors to construct official memories of events.  Recently, they have been criticized for their self-referentiality.  That is, they make the viewer consider the monument rather than facilitating remembrance of the event or object.  They are also criticized for the way in which some absolve or console their viewers. 

Counter-monuments challenge the premises of a monument.  Ostensibly about the same thing, remembering.  The counter-monument uses its form or structure to facilitate remembering rather than encouraging the viewer to consider the forms of the monument.  Through this, counter-monuments can enlist viewers in the (re)production or reification of the memory, rather than delivering an official memory to viewers.

Washington’s identity for much of the country is tied closely to the large number of monuments covering the National Mall and surrounding spaces.  Close to all of the monuments there use traditional forms for monuments providing for the development of official histories.  The FDR memorial, in particular, creates a history not representative of reality.  Furthermore, its form is highly self-referential, preventing much of the remembering it supposedly encourages.  DC is also home to another type of monument/counter-monument, spontaneous memorials to victims of violence.  We will consider the ways in which they constitute counter-monuments, in comparison to the FDR memorial. 

fdr sculptureThe FDR Memorial  encourages a selective remembrance of Franklin Roosevelt and his presidency through the imagery included in the Memorial.  The sculpture of Eleanor Roosevelt is important because it is the only one of a first lady in a presidential memorial.  This suggests the strength of their relationship, or at least her influence on him and his presidency.  However, this history hides the truth that President Roosevelt was a serial adulterer.  Similarly, the Braille prominent throughout the monument reminds us that President Roosevelt was a person with a disability.  However, several of the sculptures of President Roosevelt, like the one above, hide his usage of a wheelchair.  Also, the forms of many parts of the monument encourage people to interact with the monument rather than encourage remembrance of the event or object.  This is what Young describes as self-referential.  These images, all lifted from vacation albums, demonstrate the way in the symbolic value of the monument is in people interacting with the structure itself, rather than the object of remembrance.  While I do feel strange about using holiday pictures of strangers, these pictures are useful because there are so many of them in so many different locations.  For many, the monument refers only to itself. 

breadline imageFDR Memorial - radio

participate memorial

Spontaneous Memorial at Grace’s Deli, 700 block H Street NE

Spontaneous memorials also create spaces for remembrance in Washington.  They frequently act as counter-monuments in that, by creating them, people are forced to remember.  This is reminiscent of the cairn described by Young.  Because so many contribute to them, it is impossible for a grand narrative or official history to be created by them.  In these ways, they can function as counter-monuments. 

I want to conclude briefly by problematizing the dichotomy I presented between monument and counter-monument.  Though the FDR memorial may discourage remembrance and create memory regimes, it does not prevent remembrance.  Rather, the many tactile elements do remind us that FDR was the president and a person with a disability.  On the other hand, spontaneous memorials are frequently comprised of the same elements composed in a ritualized way.  If many are very similar, the premise that creating them necessarily means remembering is challenged.  In that way, counter-monument can refer to specific types of monuments that utilize form in unique ways.  Or, memorials can function as both monuments and counter-monuments, depending on their viewer/creator and the contexts in which the memorials are viewed/created. 

Azaryahu, Maoz. “The Spontaneous Formation of Memorial Space.” Area 28.4 (1996): 501-13.

Young, James E. “Memory and Counter-Memory.” Harvard Design Magazine (1999)

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Gentrification of H Street NE

H Street Festival 2012

Gentrification is the preparation of a space for use and inhabitance by people of a higher socio-economic class with an accompanying reinvestment in the built environment.  It also connotes the concomitant displacement of people of a lower socio-economic class who are priced out by rising property rents caused by reinvestment and renewed interest in a neighborhood’s property.

Gentrification as an urban process has gone through significant changes in the way it functions and changes communities and cities.  When Ruth Glass coined the term in 1964, gentrification meant roughly the movement of individual gentrifiers into decapitalized urban areas who recapitalized their homes through their own “sweat equity.”  Gentrifier-driven gentrification, however, as Smith points out, has given way in the 1990s to developer driven and state supported gentrification.  This is the Public-Private partnership Harvey discusses.  H Street NE in Washington, DC, is the archetypal example of the new face of gentrification in Washington and in American Urban spaces. 

In the early 2000s, Joe Englert, a veteran restaurateur and developer, purchased several properties on the eastern end of H Street NE.  With years of experience developing quirky bars in gentrifying neighborhoods like U Street and Shaw, Englert’s goal was to develop and entirely new nightlife location in Washington.  H Street, a once vibrant commercial strip, had been destroyed in the 1968 riots and never really revived, despite efforts in the 80s with Hechinger Mall on Benning Road.  In 2005, H Street NE was named the beneficiary of the city’s Great Streets Initiative that worked to provide development aid to several “under-invested” streets to develop them as retail locations, paying for many things including the lamp sign to

H Street lamp signIn the year that followed, Englert opened seven other bars and restaurants on the strip, while encouraging other developers and businesses to follow him.  The city supported many of these developments with the H Street NE Retail Priority Grants and tax abatements for projects like the forthcoming Giant Eagle on the Western end of H Street.  The city has also helped to overcome the geographic isolation of H Street by providing a shuttle services until 2010, adding another bus route, the X9, and beginning development of a street car line from Union Station to Eastern H Street.

H Street NE is a model of contemporary gentrification and the public-private partnership discussed by David Harvey.  After the end of the Keynesian city and the retreat of the government from urban spaces, city government’s were left in an entrepreneurial, neo-liberal space wherein they were obligated to seek expanded tax base and higher tax revenues.  DC, with its legacy of Control Board and its desire for statehood, has a large incentive to increase revenues.  With H Street being the most recent example, the city government has worked to attract private capital for redevelopment by reducing risk through subsidies, abatements, and infrastructural support.  The strategy has paid off as the city is seeing increasing revenues and is developing a new reputation as a place for urban professionals.  H Street is unique in that it is less residential than commercial, meaning that displacement is less pronounced.  However, it is notable which businesses were ineligible for retail grants, restaurants, liquor stores, and hair salons.  That is, the businesses that were there before Mr. Englert arrived.  Business owners are being displaced, however.  Most notably, H Street Playhouse recently closed to move east of the Anacostia River, citing high rents as the reason.

Below are two images of the Argonaut, the first new bar opened by Mr. Englert.  The former is a picture of building in its previous use, the latter is the current one, though it should be noted that it was rebuilt in 2010 after a kitchen fire.  This comparison is illustrative of the reinvestments in the built environment that are part of gentrification.  Also, important, though less obvious, is the particularly way in which the “new” Argonaut uses its space.  Gentrifiers, as a class, not only use space, but consume it.  That is, gentrifiers derive cultural and symbolic capital by living in and consuming their gentrified homes.  However, this cultural and symbolic capital is only currency with other gentrifiers. The open patio at the Argonaut, where I and many others have eaten, allow us to consume the gentrified space in view of as many others as possible, in order to maximize our value from the space.  This is particularly interesting when considered in relation to the area east of the Argonaut.  The old picture gives us a view of the Delta Towers, senior homes east of the Argonaut.  These spaces past 15th Street have not received any of the same development money or attention, making 15th a very clear line of demarcation between gentrifying and not.  Smith highlights this when he describes current phases of gentrification as geographically limited, meaning that gentrification and development efforts now work street by street or block by block rather than trying to transform entire urban cores at once.

  Argonaut patio pre-gentrificationArgonaut patio post-gentrification

Glass, Ruth. London; Aspects of Change,. London: MacGibbon & Kee, 1964.

Harvey, David. “From Managerialism to Entrepreneurialism: The Transformation in Urban Governance in Late Capitalism.” Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Smith, Neil. “New Globalism, New Urbanism: Gentrification as Global Urban Strategy.”Antipode 34.3 (2002): 427-50.

Smith, Neil. “Toward a Theory of Gentrification A Back to the City Movement by Capital, Not People.” Journal of the American Planning Association 45.4 (1979): 538-48.

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