Superior Construction

A look at the constructs of a booming U.S. city, this project questions development that favors money made off of urban spaces rather than livability.

Cities being built for profit carries the assumption that everyone living in the city will be profitable. We see this idea come to life in a multitude of ways; homelessness and the privatization of public spaces are a couple ways that I highlight in this work. The inception of these ideas came to me from a self-managed homeless encampment in Portland called Right 2 Dream Too. This site was a safe space for houseless people to set up their stuff and sleep, as well as have a sliver of protection with surrounding gates and a front desk. It was a positive example of the houseless community actively helping themselves. Of course, the encampment was removed and the lot now sits empty with the protective gates still up (and locked). The symbolism of this occurrence carries itself throughout the cityscape as public parks, lots, and plazas are blocked off and sit waiting for their turn to be developed into the city's new million dollar prize. You also see this symbolism in the city's blatant effort to move the poor and houseless out, as teams of men or police sweep through their camps and throw away all that they have.

"Superior Construction" is the company that installs many of the gates around town.

Portland, Oregon (2020)

In a growing city where developers have full control, it feels as though isolation is a tactic used on spaces to insure that it remains a private investment. I also see the isolation tactic used upon the poor and houseless. Through camp sweeps, the city tries to push out communities that need resources (only available downtown) so they are not seen, which does nothing to help the initial problem.

I used to gather with friends in this park. Of course, Portland being a small city with not a lot of places to go, many destitute folks without money to spend at a bar or cafe would also socialize here. This park is in the middle of downtown, it's extremely accessible, and has now been sitting empty and gated for over two years.

The lack of access to free, public spaces leaves the vulnerable population wandering with nowhere to go. This leaves them prying for accessibility not only to food, shelter and hygiene, but to community as well.

In my experience getting to know people on the streets, it seems that they are in a constant state of surrender. It boggles me when housed people with a stable livelihood state that they are scared of the houseless, or think that they will attack them. Being houseless means that you are in a constant state of vulnerability; constantly uncomfortable, constantly stolen from, constantly outside and exposed, and constantly subjugated to violence. Oftentimes, they are scared of you.

Ian

Ian with his 1970s Schwinn Varsity. He enjoys helping his houseless community with their bike needs. Having a free mode of transportation is an essential part of his life, and says it's a good way to empower those without a lot of resources.

Coffee

In 2016, Coffee lived in an apartment in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and worked as a cook. As he rode to work one evening in November he noticed ash falling from the sky; the Great Smoky Mountain wildfire was rushing into Gatlinburg from the mountains. That night he lost all of his belongings, and has spiraled into homelessness ever since.

Studies have shown that since the 1980s, Housing and Urban Development dollars spent on public housing has gone down drastically, while the number of laws criminalizing homelessness has increased threefold. With this in perspective it's easier to see how harmful camp sweeps are. There is no safety net for those who've experienced trauma and misfortune, and taking all they have can be their death.

'Superior Construction' is the company whose tag I noticed on some of the gates placed throughout town. This trademark grabbed my attention as I thought about cities literally being constructed for the superior and business class.

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