This project arises in the context of three broad structural problems:
1. Climate change and the urgent need to decarbonize our way of life
2. Gentrification and the powerful economic engines that have proven incapable of producing an equitable built environment
3. Existing modes of architectural practice that not only prevent architecture from addressing the above two crisis, but that actively produce a built environment that stands as an obstacle to transition
We recognize that every mode of energy capture that humans engage in has a corresponding spatial paradigm. The more energy we extract and harness from the environment, the more intensively we build. Fossil fuels, a unique and spectacular energy source due to their density of carbon, have given rise to a spatial paradigm—carbon form—characterized by specific materials such as glass, concrete and steel, and also by specific dispositions, such as expansion and growth.
We recognize that architecture will be fundamentally unable to address the climate crisis without ceasing the production of carbon form. To do so requires two tasks: confronting carbon form and overcoming carbon form.
To confront is to recognize that carbon modernity brought about a very specific kind of territorial organization, instigating a massive global project to reorganize the world and orient it towards production, subjugating people and landscapes to do so. To overcome is to recognize the need to think differently about how things relate to each other across space, time, ecosystems, and territories. This will require de-industrialization, de-territorialization, and a general reorganization away from extraction and production and towards maintenance, stewardship, repair, and care.
This need for reorganization brings up a pressing question: who will reorganize? In other words, how can an overturning of existing social structures be undertaken without creating enormous issues around power and equality?
This is a crucial question for architecture. During the Modern Movement, which was the last time architecture actively participated in the birth of a new world order, there was an assumption that architects themselves, through planning and design, were doing the reorganizing. This, however, presumed an industrial process in which architects orchestrated from a distance—that they would design, draw, indicate, and spec, while others would extract, produce, and ultimately build. The same assumptions guide our daily lives. As city dwellers we live off of agricultural surpluses created by others; our food comes to us, our basic needs come to us.
If we are to de-industrialize, the question of how people access their means of subsistence becomes paramount. If we cannot rely on global industrial supply chains, on whom or on what do we rely? What is clear is that new forms of cooperation become necessary, and the project of reorganization involves not only energy and space, but also labor.
In this context, we present a vision for San Ysidro CA, one that imagines how communal ownership of land might fundamentally change how land is occupied. By pairing the legal and financial mechanisms of a community land trust (CLT) with the mobilization of social labor through cooperatives, we imagine a series of transformations in the neighborhood. The result is not strictly a design project. It is the co-development of a vision, guided by the needs and desires of a specific community, and a series of tactics for remediation, stewardship, and transformation. Here, the grip of carbon form might perhaps be loosened, positing a way of thinking about the production of built form according to the concepts subsequently described, which center on land, labor, knowledge, and urban form.