Ugly, Following the Requirements of the Market

Baffled City: Exploring the architecture of gentrification

Ignored for years, redlined by the federal government, and systematically denied the loans that would have allowed the families who lived there to build generational wealth, these “hot,” “new” neighborhoods are being “discovered.” For someone to move in, someone else has to move out. So, in East Austin, in Houston’s Freedmen’s Town and Third Ward and Montrose, in Dallas’ Bishop Arts and Oak Cliff, among other gentrifying and -fied neighborhoods, the architectural language (what architects call “vernacular”) has become inseparable from the vocabulary of policy, where other complicated words, like “displacement,” “segregation,” “inequity,” and “NIMBYism,” are warring furiously.

The white elephants—towering over the bungalows and cottages that used to be good enough, obscuring the present and obliterating the past—reveal what Nicanor calls “two very different dynamics and two very different futures.” Maybe the saddest part is how few new Texas houses have porches, one of the features of older residential architecture that served as a gesture of welcome.

I had a front-row seat as this exact thing happened in Atlanta during the 2000s, and “ugly” is the right word to describe it. To be honest, gentrification was a major factor in my decision to go to grad school, as I could no longer afford to live in the city where I’d built my work history and made professional connections. In my experience, the point the writer makes about adding cars to these cities is prescient, as Atlanta came to have the worst traffic in the country during the relatively short span of the four years I spent in school.

And good lord these types of residences are eyesores, not to mention made of particle board.

The photos in this article are wonderful, and I recommend reading it in a web browser if you’re interested. The site doesn’t have autoplay videos or “disable your ad blocker” pop-ups, and it’s worth it.