Autonomous Party Wall
Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood is a marker of contrast between overcrowded black housing projects and the prevalence of empty plots. The inset border of our project’s site corresponds to a completely open and empty ground level, nodding to the complex and unequal history represented by Bronzeville’s empty lots and returning this form of excess to the people who have suffered from a space left vacant for public engagement. Seeking to acknowledge and negate these discrepant inequalities, we propose an exposed party wall - leaving traces of the absent, awaiting to be completed by a house.
Masonry material language is replaced by the more contemporary construction technology of the American wood-framed house. While we acknowledge the impossibility of restitution for the properties in Bronzeville, we imagine an architecture of reparations. This architecture acts as a typological resurrection: a prolongation of the American row-house, adapted to present-day materiality and reclaimed by an oppressed demographic.
The ripped-apart masonry of existing, exposed Bronzeville party walls indexes the moment after the displacement of inhabitants. In hopes of bringing them back, our proposed party wall is treated as a freestanding autonomous element to which we plug in a single-row house on one side and imagine the future of a second row house on the other. The new party wall is setting the stage for the moment before.
[“House with 2 Party Walls” is our response to the RFP entitled “Up from the Past: Housing as Reparations on Chicago’s South Side” to showcase as a collection curated by Isabel Strauss for the 2021 Chicago Architectural Biennial, “The Available City”.]