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Anti-Capitalist Meetup:”Shoot me now, motherf*****” Urban Design as Suicide by Cop

[PLEASE NOTE: Due to some coding problems, the images are not coming through here in this cross-posting. Please go to the original post ( ) to get all of the amazing images. Sorry for the inconvenience.]

In contrast to walking while (William) Whyte or even Walter White, Walking While Black may be more about the sidewalk than about the walking, since recent events show that cops seem to own that space more than the public during the evening demonstrations in Ferguson where armed police’s personal space gets more value than an unarmed citizen’s especially when it comes to distributing justice. The poor walk for necessity and run for their lives whereas the suburban gentry walk for leisure and run for fitness. Had Michael Smith been “jogging” down that street would the same violations of space have occurred: the police officer and then Brown’s right to a trial. What is the public space of the public sphere and why as the week of live stream video and phone camera video of protests and commemorative occasions has shown, is it (still) so segregated/segmented in such a democracy and has urban design in concert with urban planning facilitated such conflict.

With the rise of Urban Design as a distinct and somewhat more visionary discipline than the Urban Planning field in the 1960s-70s Mayors like John Lindsay of NYC provided the dominant narrative which we somehow see distorted more recently:

In April 1968, one month after the release of the Kerner report, rioting broke out in more than 100 cities following the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. However, in New York City, Lindsay traveled directly into Harlem, telling black residents that he regretted King’s death and was working against poverty. He is credited with averting riots in New York with this direct response, even as other major cities burned. David Garth, who accompanied Lindsay that night, recalled: “There was a wall of people coming across 125th Street, going from west to east … I thought we were dead. John raised his hands, said he was sorry. It was very quiet. My feeling was, his appearance there was very reassuring to people because it wasn’t the first time they had seen him. He had gone there on a regular basis. That gave him credibility when it hit the fan.

What public, communal rights to we have to our neighborhoods and how safe are citizens regardless of class status among our designated police services. Many black men have tested this proposition by walking in ruling class neighborhoods as an act of civil disobedience. How walkable is any town/city or are all pedestrians simply smaller units of crowd control by an occupying force, where the premise is that the streets are a grid that properly patrolled can achieve social order. Drago (sic) describes a territory where public space becomes quickly reduced to a social space that is the acceptable distance to draw a firearm. and is perhaps generous in comparison to the Tueller Drill limit of approximately 21 feet. Close Quarter Battle space is not the intended space of any modern city, town, or village, and the communicative nonverbal cultural space of proxemics cannot help us when the occupying force can arbitrarily and capriciously accost us for violating a much more complex social space.

The Kajieme Powell killing by St Louis city police (Warning Graphic Video) stands in stark contrast to the Michael Brown shooting in that its rationalization comes under regardless of the mental state or cognitive impairment of the victim. That makes it ever more tragic is that it is inspired by the other action. With the completely unarmed Michael Brown, no such defense of police firearms use is available. In both instances however, walking in one’s neighborhood (Walking While Black) seems to be the crime unless the commission of actual or alleged shoplifting has become a capital offense. These are not the flaneurs where “The (post)modern flaneur can equally well recognize the real, as well as supposed, character of the city’s threats, intimidations, menaces or simply challenges to free access. (Jenks 1995)” although for some the seeds of social change and resistance are there. Rather we sit at yet another specular degree of abstraction, where Egyptians sardonically offer us advice on urban unrest not unlike the one that overthrew their government.

After reading many of the legitimate concerns surrounding the incident, Business Insider spoke with Chuck Drago, former police chief and now a law enforcement consultant. He broke down the officers’ actions that day, concluding they acted “reasonably and legally.”

“The officers didn’t really have any choice but to defend themselves except with deadly force at the point,” Drago said, after viewing the footage for the first time.

If an armed individual moves within 10 feet of an armed officer, that officer has the right to use deadly force, according to Drago. “That’s when an officer knows he’s in danger,” Drago explained. Police also need to consider bystanders’ safety.

“What the officers should have done, or I hope they would have done, is control him or contained him, but I think there was enough urgency here,” Drago said.

Mythbusters covered the Tueller drill in the 2012 episode “Duel Dilemmas”. At 20 feet the gun wielder was able to shoot the charging knife attacker just as he reached the shooter. At shorter distances the knife wielder was always able to stab prior to being shot.

So what of making a stab at killing an entire stylistic movement using the demolition of a specific area in a specific urban region region?

The modern world died at 3.32pm in St Louis, Missouri, on 15 July 1972. The dynamiting of the notorious Pruitt Igoe housing scheme was a noise that resonated around the world, at least according to architecture critic Charles Jencks in his 1977 book The Language of Post-Modern Architecture.

That Bourgeois construct may have died but it has returned like a Spectre when a St Louis suburb abandoned by White flight had its racially disproportionate police force kill an unarmed teen. The kind of social and cultural revolutions promised under modernism and post-modernism has failed to arrive except as the deaths caused by petty theft from over-priced convenience stores.

St Louis, like so many other metroplexes has had a period of so-called “machines for living” in terms of social housing (see Chicago’s Cabrini Green) whether the architect-designed vertical tower blocks of Pruitt-Igoe, or even the hygienic movements of garden cities and their green belts whether the latter is a more nuanced version of the former in its horizontality or its current appropriation by so-called sprawl (Los Angeles being a so-called example of a Post-Sprawl City). In each instance it is as chronicled by so many other urbanist historians and critics the function of modern industrial capitalist development manifested as land economics occasionally obfuscated by the covert aestheticism or veneer of “Modernity”. In each instance and in each iteration the State always Stands Its Ground regardless of scale. In some cases it’s with regulation and zoning, in others it is as with South African Apartheid, with segregating the neocolonized population and using police power whether eminent domain or individual cops.

Ferguson and Jennings are the tale of two such cities with histories as de facto apartheid settlements in a county defined by “White Flight” where housing developments like Pruitt-Igoe were like the Cold War policy of containment as post WWII suburban growth facilitated by FHA financing and automobile culture moved the middle class into further segmentation and ultimately social division. Even with waves of gentrification and re-gentrification of the central city (Henri Lefebrvre) the donut effect remains the same, despite new stadia and convention centers the difference in power between the County and the City is no more broadly stroked than in the shootings of Michael Brown and Kajiemi Powell. Urban Design is but a symptom of these tragedies but the structural connection is clear in terms of the projection of crime, especially its petty forms as a cause for the ultimate in state-sponsored violence against individual citizens. The Euro-centric spaces of Modernism were more neo-penal than cosmopolitan. North/South racial division of the County as well as the natural boundary of the Mississippi River serving to define the containment of racism even pre-Civil War


This film, directed by independent filmmaker Chad Freidrichs, revolves around the Pruitt-Igoe social housing development in St. Louis, Missouri. Most urban planners and St. Louis residents think of Pruitt-Igoe as, well, a failure. Freidrichs challenges this categorization and delves deeper into the histories of St. Louis and Pruitt-Igoe to explain the layered reasons for why it ended the way it did….
Pruitt-Igoe is not only understood as a failure by some, but images of its demolition often serve as an icon for failed modernism of the 1950s. In The Pruitt-Igoe Myth Freidrichs disproves this as a shallow theory and uses compelling personal narratives and historical accounts to show the good, the bad, and the ugly of the short lived social housing complex. The film shows that blame on a singular fault, whether it be blame on the residents or the modern design, is both unfair and far too narrow-minded to be the true cause of its short life span.

All authors agree that by the end of the 1960s, Pruitt–Igoe was nearly abandoned and had deteriorated into a decaying, dangerous, crime-infested neighborhood; its architect lamented: “I never thought people were that destructive”.

Explanations for the failure of Pruitt–Igoe are complex. It is often presented as an architectural failure; other critics cite social factors including economic decline of St. Louis, white flight into suburbs, lack of tenants who were employed, and politicized local opposition to government housing projects as factors playing a role in the project’s decline. Pruitt–Igoe has become a frequently used textbook case in architecture, sociology and politics, “a truism of the environment and behavior literature”….
The Pruitt–Igoe housing project was one of the first demolitions of modernist architecture; postmodern architectural historian Charles Jencks called its destruction “the day Modern architecture died.” Because it was designed by a leading architect and won a “building of the year” award – though no professional awards – its failure is often seen as a direct indictment of the society-changing aspirations of the International School. Jencks used Pruitt–Igoe as an example of modernists’ intentions running contrary to real-world social development, though others argue that location, population density, cost constraints, and even specific number of floors were imposed by the federal and state authorities and therefore the failure of the project cannot be attributed entirely to architectural factors.

Promenade / promenading in cities where no one walks but rides.

The Flâneur

“‘Man as civilized being, as intellectual nomad, is again wholly microcosmic, wholly homeless, as free intellectually as hunter and herdsman were free sensually.’ Spengler, vol. 2 p. 125” (AP 806)

“Taking a walk is a haeccity . . . Haecceity, fog, glare. A haecceity has neither beginning nor end, origin nor destination; it is always in the middle. It is not made of points, only of lines. It is a rhizome”. (1000 P 263)

“Flâneur” is a word understood intuitively by the French to mean “stroller, idler, walker.” He has been portrayed in the past as a well-dressed man, strolling leisurely through the Parisian arcades of the nineteenth century–a shopper with no intention to buy, an intellectual parasite of the arcade. Traditionally the traits that mark the flâneur are wealth, education, and idleness. He strolls to pass the time that his wealth affords him, treating the people who pass and the objects he sees as texts for his own pleasure. An anonymous face in the multitude, the flâneur is free to probe his surroundings for clues and hints that may go unnoticed by the others.

That may be the life in the shopping mall rather than an authentic urban life, but what of the anti-capitalist’s urban maps? What are our cognitive maps for such (life)worlds – are they free of policing and are we all safe regardless?

It is often implicitly assumed by researchers that their readers understand what cognitive map and cognitive mapping are, and their justification for study. This paper differs in this respect by explaining explicitly the ‘what’ and ‘why’ questions often asked, demonstrating cognitive mapping’s multidisciplinary research worth. First, it examines questions concerning what cognitive maps are, the confusion inherent from the use of the term ‘map’, and the usage and reasons for alternative expressions. Second, it examines the theoretical applications or conceptual research, concerning cognitive maps role in the influencing and explaining spatial behaviour; spatial choice and decision making; wayfinding and orientation; and the cognitive maps utility and role as a mnemonic and metaphorical devise; a shaper of world and local attitudes and perspectives; and for creating and coping with imaginary worlds. Third, it discusses cognitive mapping’s practical and applied worth, concerning the planning of suitable living environments; advertising; crime solving; search and rescue, geographical educational issues, cartography and remote sensing; and in the designing and understanding computer interfaces and databases, especially Geographical Information Systems (GISs). Journal of Environmental Psychology Volume 14, Issue 1, March 1994, Pages 1–19 Cognitive maps: What are they and why study them? Robert M. Kitchin

Jameson argues that what is needed is a “cognitive map” of the present, one that reinjects an understanding of the present’s real historicity. Jameson compares the situation of the individual in postmodern late capitalist society to the experience of being in a postmodern urban landscape: “In a classic work, The Image of the City, Kevin Lynch taught us that the alienated city is above all a space in which people are unable to map (in their minds) either their own positions or the urban totality in which they find themselves: grids such as those of Jersey City, in which none of the traditional markers (monuments, nodes, natural boundaries, built perspectives) obtain, are the most obvious examples” (Postmodernism 49). The notion of a “cognitive map” enables “a situational representation on the part of the individual subject to that vaster and properly unrepresentable totality which is the ensemble of society’s structures as a whole” (Postmodernism 51). Jameson expands this concept of cognitive mapping to ideological critique, suggesting that his task is to make sense of our place in the global system: “The political form of postmodernism, if there ever is any, will have as its vocation the invention and projection of a global cognitive mapping, on a social as well as a spatial scale” (Postmodernism 54). Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke UP, 1991.

Unlike the Pastiche proposed by Jencks in writing about St Louis we might ask whether we can walk in Marx’s shoes in his London and ask whether spaces are economically determined by its property owners or constructed by its travelers.

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