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BUILT: Huddled Masses, Living Here?

BUILT explores the changing city in the US and the challenges that will affect housing, infrastructure, neighborhood cohesion, and equity in the coming years. BUILT is a series of research, installation, dialogue, interview, and performance events of varied scale, including the opportunity for public conversation offered at this blog.

In the coming years, the population of the US will continue to expand with increasing concentration in urban areas. There is no one plan for how that will happen. Where will we live? Will we be thoughtful about that? Can we imagine better cities, neighborhoods, and homes? Will we act to achieve that vision?

And who will be involved? As before, we begin with a photograph:


In the BUILT process, we’ve been working around notions of place, power, ownership, and voice. This photo of Chicago residents marching in last year’s national immigration rally foregrounds the role of democratic dissent in urban life. It poses a deeper question as well, one regarding national history (whether in the US or elsewhere): how do we, and how have we, shared space? What factors determine, influence, and establish the right to inhabit space–to claim and name a place?

BUILT is a performance/civic dialogue project and a collaboration of Northwesten University’s Theater Department & Portland, Oregon’s Sojourn Theatre, led by visiting artist Michael Rohd.

Photograph by Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press. The full text of the poem alluded to in the title of this post is available here.


BUILT: Huddled Masses, Living Here?


11 Responses

  1. Micah C Gardner says

    This picture represents, with one startling image, the history of Chicago. The relationship between the El train and those marching makes me wonder if each technological innovation designed to serve the city’s growth is on a different plane than the people for which it exists. Likewise, the movement suggested in the photograph’s use of deep space implies a flat, perpendicular, and machinistic movement compared to the complicated and impending movement of the people approaching the camera.

    This picture has human quality to in spite of the gargantuan city.

  2. Justin says

    I love the positivity of this image!

    This mass of people, representing various nations, although labeled by different flags, is marching together with no one flag leading another. It’s not only about the United States, it’s about united nations and their ability to inhabit the same space if only for this one moment. That’s progress!

    Notice the stoplight is in red. Could this be a negative sign in such a triumphant scene? Perhaps it is signaling that there is a limit to the amount of people entering the United States; there’s a limit to humans populating the world.

  3. mr says

    i keep coming to the – do not enter sign in the lower right corner…i know its a very literal way to read an image brimming with broad poetic potential, but my eye keeps going to it..in this image of protest, where does the voice saying do not enter exist…? micah says the people march and create a giant spectacle that perhaps rivals the city itself…justin says that in the marching together, there exists the potential of unity…and i’m left wondering…if i’m a martian and i come upon this representation with no context, do i think the people are marching for something, or against something…?

  4. Shade says

    I love seeing a city street occupied by people and not automobile traffic. I keep trying to do the math and figure out how many single occupancy vehicles this street could hold, in comparison to the thousands of pedestrians it holds now. (Even the El car adds to the theme of city street sans auto.) As our population continues to skyrocket, urban space will be at a premium. When will city dwellers have to start giving up space for their vehicles in order to make room for their neighbors?

  5. Ehren says

    As this blog is about photojournalism, I find it interesting looking at this photograph out of context. This photograph clearly has a celebratory composition. A large mass of people with flags from around the world says unity to me; it says celebration of multiculturalism. Yet immigration is a v ery politically charge issue; is the march really all that celebratory? It is interesting to note that this rally would have looked very different if taken from ground level. Maybe it would have seemed crowded, angry, futile, or any number of less celebratory words.

  6. Robin says

    I’m thinking about those signals in this image ordering the masses to stop, halt, do not continue. The red light and the do not enter sign. The constructs of order and the regulators of transportation chaos. These constructs tell people when and where to move. And, yet here are these hundreds and thousands of people making an active choice to override the mechanisms of society. The light says stop, but the people are go-ing. To choose to march about immigration (the moving of people from one place into another) in a place of transportation and to deliberately go against the the signals and laws of the road.

  7. Kathleen says

    Interesting too to note that there is no a discernible end to the flow of people, and yet clearly a very limited amount of space. How do we reconcile the number of people who would like to come to this country with the limited resources of the government?

  8. Josh says

    While there have been great comments on the picture itself and its composition (which may be closer to the purpose of the site) i want to take it in another direction and muse a little about the questions posed…One theme I see us returning to in these pictures and in the rehearsal room are conflicting ideas of who gets to occupy a space, and how that occupancy is determined or held. In the macro view, this is a simple question at the heart of immigration battles–who gets to come here to where we are,and who decides whether they can come or stay. But it plays out on a small scale, from who gets to move into a building to who decides whether you can stay in your apartment or whether it gets to be bought and turned in to condos. I think this raises all sorts of interesting and flawed arguments about who should/does have that power…Should it always be up to a group of elected officials (governments, housing authorities, zoning commities)? Is it more about financial power and monetary sway? Do values have to match? Or is it often simply a matter of I-was-here-first, another theme that gets played out as a defensive measure (i grew up in this apartment, so you have no right to buy it out from under me…we live in this community already, you can’t come here and change it, etc) often in our gentrification/development arguments, but is dangerous and toxic (to me at least) when applied to large scale immigration (none of us, really, were HERE first, and yet we are all here now, and telling others they can’t come).

  9. Mike B. says

    As I have viewed the pics on this site and have been reading articles…noticing issues of shared space…what sticks in my mind is the physical experience of sharing a space with boundaries. Interesting to me to think about what it felt like to be in this crowd…funneled by the street, fueled by a shared passion/issue? After all is said and done, the quality of our inhabitance of a space is crucial to me. The neighborhood where Built will take place in Portland, although touted as a green development, feels very cold to me…so much glass and steel. It will be interesting to see how that transforms as the construction continues. Lots of steel in the picture above too. I have a friend here who is battling a neighbor who is planning on cutting down 8 very old pine trees on his property in order to build an additional structure. Portland’s urban growth boundary has the consequence of raising questions about urban density. Hmmm…trees or buildings? I’m interested in the experience of how we live in the space we share.

  10. Philip says

    I am also struck by how the stoplights are RED (we can clearly see one facing us, but can assume the opposite one facing the crowd is also RED). No doubt the traffic signals were disregarded on this march, but it’s interesting to think the automatic clocks that govern traffic lights kept their regular rotations despite no one adhering to them because the street is shut down for the march. One would wish the entire street could be lit in symbolic green lights to give support for the marchers?

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