Caroline Brigham | Class of ’17 | February 1, 2016
The city is a museum of fragmented publics, a vibrant exhibition of diversified life. The city embodies culture and identity. It is historically produced, but ultimately is an ever-evolving collective memory of the past and present, constantly seeking a better future. Houston is a composition of space and time – an extended lattice of unique puzzle pieces. Architecture and development are instruments capable of satisfying social relevance and encouraging connectivity amidst contrasting colors and textures. Some of us are Black, some Hispanic, some White, some Asian, but all of us are Houstonians. All of us deserve to share our art in the museum that is the city. We deserve to be valued and represented equally for our unique beauty and stories embedded in space and time.
In our quest for equality, neighborhoods are organs of self-government – mobilizing communities longing for connection, voice and belonging. Although, in an age of damaging post-industrialization we see an exhibit not of unity but of international competition, technological innovation, and diversification of society. The distinct, yet adjoining, cultures of the predominantly African-American Fifth Ward community, Hispanic East End region, and White Japhet Creek community resemble the consequently present societal and racial division in the city. But, we – interns, professionals and community members at the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation and the Buffalo Bayou Partnership – hold faith that one day soon these adjacent neighborhoods will tear down their comfortable walls and place a bridge where those walls once were. We can walk across that bridge, venture beyond stigmas and be open to one another. Once we make that leap of faith, the world will be a more peaceful and resourceful place to enjoy life together.
Together, we crave hope, choice and opportunity; this is the ultimate goal of cities. In order for this goal to be accomplished for all citizens of Houston, we must ensure safety and develop trust on the bridge. Then, once on the other side, we create an open, judge-less environment to share ideas – one that facilitates and celebrates encounters with strangers. In order to reach strangers, we must be intentional. We must cross the bridge, then witness and learn with an open, aware heart for others on the opposite side, no matter how far from home we feel. We must humble ourselves and embrace others’ thoughts and ideas, then share our own. We must build a bigger bridge together – a stable bridge that anyone and everyone can cross with a little faith. This bridge is not to exclude the homeless, either – a community who is too often forgotten and abandoned in this world of constant movement and resultant disconnection to the reality of our friends who sleep under the bridges we build each night.
The fragmentation of post-industrial urbanism does not keep the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation from collaborating and creating hopeful resources and affordable housing for the traditionally discriminated Fifth Ward and its neighbors. At the Fifth Ward CRC, we are sharing our skills with the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, landscape architects at Asakura Robinson, and Rice School of Architecture and professor Ernesto Alfaro to name a few, in order to design a shared landscape, which connects the Bayou waterfront to parks to diverse neighborhoods for healthy, connected living and learning. Along this shared waterfront, we are mapping proposed services to share, including much-needed grocery stores, clinics, and community centers to create a sustainable framework masterplan for the future of these beautifully woven exhibits of cultures and people. Each interlocking stitch and hand is one step closer to multiplying joy, warmth, and equality in Houston.