With the 2016 elections barely behind us, there are many people who would prefer to not think about politics for a while. But whether we want to think about it or not, politics is everywhere, and engagement is essential. In the run-up to the 2016 elections, we worked to communicate the potential impacts of state and local ballot measures on our cities and on the built environment. Where we live, how we get to work, and just about everything we buy is impacted by politics and government in some way. And though the 2016 elections may engender feelings of resignation, the only way to achieve progress and positive outcomes in this new year is through active involvement in the civic process, especially in non-election years.
Here in the City of Los Angeles, voters already fatigued by all the elective offices and twenty-something propositions and measures on the 2016 ballot must now prepare for municipal elections coming up in March. And unlike typical city elections, with notoriously uncompetitive city council races, and abysmally low turnout, this year Measure S also threatens to completely strangle our already strained housing market. We will be dedicating much of our efforts over the next few weeks to discussing Measure S, and why it’s the wrong solution for Los Angeles.
Beyond elections and ballot measures, politics also plays an undeniable role in our every-day interactions with our cities and the built environment. Cities are more than just one-dimensional caricatures to be used as punch-lines in stump speeches. They are vibrant and dynamic places, where disparate voices can come together and thrive, but only if we actively strive to make our cities welcoming.
Many architects and designers prefer to deny the role of politics in their work, and many critics are all too happy to view buildings as singular objects, devoid of any societal context beyond their aesthetic impact on their neighbors. But buildings are more than just objects; they are products of planning guidelines, safety regulations, financial systems, “market” forces, societal biases, and historical inertia, to name just a few influences.
And what are all of these influences if not products of politics? When we ignore the role of politics in the places we inhabit and the cities we call home, we abdicate our rights to make positive changes. In the coming year, and beyond, people[PLACES]spaces will strive to tell stories about design, buildings, and cities that elucidate these all-too-often overlooked aspects of our buildings and our cities. It’s not easy, but we all have a civic duty to do what we can to work with our communities to seek the best solutions for our blocks, our neighborhoods, our cities, our states, and our nation.