Deep Segregation

deep here is employed to characterize both a spatial quality relating to an extension or situation far in or down from the outer edge or surface, as well as a conceptual and perceptual dimension marked by intensity and extremity and a state of action necessitating full absorption and involvement.      

Deep Segregation is marked by recognition of the always and already, ongoing processes of reclamation and transformation of segregated experiences; a sociocultural, political, aesthetic, and architectural embrace of (or at least a direct reckoning with) a supposedly detrimental condition—segregation.

DEEP SEGREGATION argues that in order for any presumed "we" to live together, this so-called "we" must recognize and confront difference, including the disparate and fundamentally unequal ways in which life has been and continues to be lived. Rather than attend to the spectacular, extremes (such as extreme poverty or extreme wealth), or the universal, this work champions a close reading and engagement with the seemingly banal, the middle, and the particular, the black and brown.

Featuring Tracey Towers (1967-1972, Bronx, NY, Paul Rudolph), Schomburg Plaza (1975, East Harlem, NY, Gruzen & Partners), and Harlem River Park Towers (1969-1974, Bronx, NY, Davis Brody and Associates), DEEP SEGREGATION chronicles and brings into view the architecturally invisibilized typology of high-rise residential towers developed mostly in 1970s New York for low-moderate- and middle-income black and brown bodies, under the Mitchell-Lama housing program. This work interrogates, speculates on, and theorizes about the techniques, material, and deeply entrenched forms of urban segregation these towers formalized, along with the inventions, joys, pleasures, and challenges of those who have called and will continue to call them home.

Three-Dimensional (Fragment/Sectional) Representations:

Pink Opaque Acrylic
Schomburg Plaza, 1975, Gruzen & Partners, East Harlem, NY

Excerpt from Ife Salema Vanable,
“Schomburg Plaza and the High-Rise Residential Tower Lying in the Negro Sense,” Unpublished (2017).

“Schomburg Plaza is a six hundred-unit apartment complex comprised of twin, offset, thirty-five story, 100 x 100 ft. octagonal residential towers facing Central Park and an eleven story, mixed-use rectilinear bar building on Madison Avenue. Cast in shadow, recessed areas between balconies are akin to trenches, rendering alternating sides of the high-rise towers striated and furrowed out. Built with poured-in-place concrete and adorned in concrete block treated with the corduroy treatment associated with the work of Paul Rudolph,  although not of the ashy gray of Rudolph’s work, but of a more ruddy hue, the towers stand in firm geometric, muscular, material dissent of the public housing projects designed in a “pragmatic, no-frills NYCHA Modernism, adorned in fireproof Hudson River-brick;” [1] a material choice also firmly rooted and committed to economy of production as championed by the New York Urban Development Corporation­­. The concrete block was less expensive than the brick.”

[1] Bloom and Lasner, eds., Affordable Housing in New York, 132.

Grey Opaque Acrylic:
Tracey Towers, 1967-1972, Paul Rudolph, Bronx, NY

Orange Opaque Acrylic:
Harlem River Park Towers, 1969-1974, Davis Brody and Associates, Bronx, NY 

Excerpt from Ife Vanable, “Working the Middle: Harlem River Park Towers and Waterside Plaza,” in the Avery Review 30 (March 2018).

“River Park Towers was designed by Davis Brody & Associates (DBA) and is marked by a pair of nearly identical, vertically articulated conjoined towers of thirty-eight and forty-two stories; the sets differentiated by mirrored plans and offset positioning. In contrast to the horizontally articulated, red-brown brick of NYCHA “projects,” River Park Towers is adorned in eight-inch-square, rusty-brown “super bricks” designed by DBA, though laced with traces of that distinct “project” red.[2]...Growing wider as they get taller, the Towers command views of the George Washington Bridge, Yankee Stadium, and the Whitestone and Throgs Neck Bridges in the distance. Their muscular geometry and looming presence—at four hundred feet, they are the tallest buildings in the Bronx—are anomalies in the surrounding context of modest apartment houses and detached homes set into the hills of Morris Heights.”

[2] The Davis Brody & Associates custom brick was similarly deployed at its earlier, 1968 Riverbend Houses, a Mitchell-Lama co-op located in Manhattan. The custom 5.5-by-8-inch bricks were first referred to as “super bricks” in reference to Riverbend Houses. Nicholas Dagen Bloom and Mathen Gordon Lasner, eds. Affordable Housing in New York: The People, Places, and Policies that Transformed a City(Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2016), 218.

Ife Salema Vanable with
Nienying Lin and Sally Chen
Models by Nienying Lin