More samplings of Black Lives Matter protest street art on and around Pioneer Place mall in downtown Portland, Oregon.

Note: My photo exports add a watermark by default; I am not claiming copyrights on anyone’s street art.

Three pieces on urban planning, public spaces, and architecture; as they relate to the moment and the movement of Black Lives Matter. Deirdre Mask for The Atlantic proffers that street renaming is not merely performative in an empty sense; Matt Hickman for The Architect’s Newspaper profiles the Foley Square street mural in New York City (via Civic Signals); and Craig Wilkins for Curbed proposes that architecture as a profession needs an analogue to the Hippocratic oath (via Civic Signals).


I’ve spent the past four years researching street names and what they reflect about communities. I understand that merely changing a street’s name might be seen as “performative,” another show without substance. But performative can also refer to words that, as the philosopher J. L. Austin theorized, don’t just speak but act. (Try arguing that the words I do, said before your beloved and a judge, don’t actually do anything.) Here, the naming is the doing. And although changing street names alone cannot alter societal norms, it captures the momentum of the BLM movement in a concrete way.


“For a long time, in both urban planning and in architecture, there has been a refusal to acknowledge how political our work really is,” said Hassen. “For me, personally, it feels very important at this point in time to acknowledge that as creators who are in positions to help shape the public realm that we come to it with our values and our political standings—because the places that we are involved in creating are not neutral spaces.”


As a profession, we don’t all talk about our role in redlining. We don’t talk about equitable resource allocation, or argue for or against it. We don’t talk enough about the increased privatization of public space. We have been complicit in the design of public housing, which was nothing but warehousing people, when we knew better. And if we didn’t know better, we should have. And what’s the result of that? Whole generations of people have been lost because they were confined to spaces that we designed, and we keep refusing to acknowledge and own up to that.

Yale Union, once home to XOXO Fest, and down the street from where I lived for a decade, soon will be no more, as it “repatriates” the historic building to Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, a Native-led nonprofit. My favorite bit from the Artnet coverage (via Andy Baio) is the bit where someone tricked the Puget Sound Business Journal into thinking something similar happened with the Seattle Art Museum.

Looking at photos I’ve posted recently, I’m now starting to wonder if my not ever having developed a single, driving aesthetic is due at least in part to the aphantasia. I should google for stuff on art by aphantasics.

Now that we’re all getting clear on Confederate statues, learn why Union statues in the West need to go, too.

Those responsible for pulling down and tagging these monuments have not been identified, so we cannot know their motives, but some Americans might see these removals as part of a “slippery slope” that monument advocates warn against. After all, as Colorado’s governor, Jared Polis, put it, these statues are of “Union heroes of the Civil War who fought and lost their lives to end slavery.” But while many Union soldiers did fight for emancipation in the East, Union soldiers in the West fought for Native annihilation and removal. For this reason, these monuments in Denver and Santa Fe deserve to be examined with the same scrutiny as Confederate statues.

Trump’s using his National Garden of American Heroes to once again declare that national art must be classical, prohibiting any modernist takes. He tried this before, for all new federal architecture.

Yet the greatest contradiction in the proposal may be its approach to art and speech. Even as the president makes the case for sculpture in teaching history and inspiring unity, his order advances another front in the culture war by dictating an aesthetic vision for the park that emphasizes only the literal. “All statues in the National Garden should be lifelike or realistic representations of the persons they depict, not abstract or modernist representations,” the executive order reads.

“Seeing all that white marble,” writes Ian Forrester, “does have an effect on the way we see the past.” I’ve come across this surprising tidbit about ancient sculpture before, but now it occurs to me to wonder to what degree the mistaken sense of plain white marble informed and impacted the thinking of later sculptors when creating their work.