Project: Blockbusting: Eminent Domain and Hardboiled Utopias for the Generic City
Class: Advanced Studio, California College of the Arts, Architecture Division

Date: Fall 2014
Instructors: Brian Price

This studio is interested in reasserting architecture’s role in shaping and defining the city. The now rigid disciplinary limits that establish the hierarchy of urban planning (territories), urban design (zones), and architecture (objects) has marginalized our ability to produce new visions of the city. These regimes, intended to produce consistency and predictability, leave architecture as a purveyor of introverted objects, subordinate to a larger totalizing urban schema. The studio explored the limits of architecture as a form of urbanism; to push back on the bureaucratic form of the city.

As a means of recuperating our role in the city, the studio engaged the unlikely policy mechanism of eminent domain. Uttered only with contempt and dismissed as an act of cruelty, eminent domain is both the most powerful and least considered invention of modern urbanism. The mechanism entails a government’s right to selectively appropriate private land for the greatest public good; a mediation of competing interests and collective values central to the idea of the city. Rather than accept the vilification of eminent domain, the studio reevaluated its potential opportunistically. Eminent domain was be deployed in a highly experimental fashion, as a counter-project to modern planning, producing exceptions in the city’s measured structure.