[This text was originally published in AREA Chicago #13 in April 2013]
Clearing Mutuality. A floating utopia in an unexpected Chicago Location
I have spent the past five years teaching at a neighborhood elementary school located in Chicago’s Clearing neighborhood. Clearing is located on the Southwest side of Chicago, a subdivision between present-day Nashville and Narragansett and between 59th and 63rd Streets. The subdivision is named after the Clearing Industrial District where farm goods were “cleared” through the airport and railroad yards in the vicinity. Every morning I listen to the sound of the rail cars as I enter the school building. The sounds coming from the rail yards are meditative.
Currently the Clearing neighborhood and its inhabitants are experiencing a period of flux. Clearing, traditionally a working/middle- class neighborhood made up of mostly Caucasian Americans and a smattering of immigrants from Eastern Europe is welcoming a new demographic: immigrants from South and Central America and the Middle East. With change comes tension. This tension can be felt in the neighborhood. I take a daily walk through the neighborhood and I feel a definite undercurrent of tension in the public space.
I can feel the tension every morning walking into the school building. Tension relevant to race and class. Tension caused by a feeling of loss of territory. People who have lived in the neighborhood for generations feel they are being invaded; they are losing their territory. So they are feeling and acting on feelings of a strange loss or grief. I can see/feel the resentment and fear within my students towards their new neighbors and classmates who come from cultures and exhibit habits that they are not familiar with.
I am imaging structural utopias, dwellings where tension caused by race and class is cleared and transformed into an authentic state of mutuality amongst the people of Clearing. The dwellings will float above the current structures present in Clearing and will encourage a clearing of tension and cause an onset of mutuality. These dwellings are based on Yona Friedman’s theory of mobile architecture: “dwellings decided on by the occupant” [Yona Friedman, Pro Domo (Barcelona: Actar, 2006)].
In my utopia, Clearing Mutuality , dwellings will not be decided on by the occupant but will magically clear the occupants of the weight of hate and fear caused by an unwillingness to understand people who come from different places. The dwellings in my utopia will be loosely based on Yona Freedman’s original rules for mobile architecture.
New Construction serving for individual shelters must:
1. touch a minimum surface of the ground (in Clearing Mutuality structures will not touch the ground but will be attached to existing single family homes);
2. Be demountable and movable (this rule will remain the same, with the addition of the structures having the ability to self transport or float from location to location without the consent of the person/people inhabiting the structure);
3. Be transformable at will by the individual inhabitant (in Clearing Mutuality only the exterior shape of the structure can be modified by the individual inhabitant. The interior of the structures will remain uncluttered, a free and open space)
4. Construction of elements of habitation that are variable and interchangeable, including the mobility of the exterior fa.ade, interior walls, floors and ceilings (this rule will remain the same except for the interior wall);
5. The possibility of evolutivity, of supply and networks for energy, water, and waste disposal (this rule shall remain as is);
6.The development of unités d’habitiation of sufficient size and significance to constitute cities in and of themselves: buildings in the form of bridges; interchangeable containers that can circulate, fly, float: floating buildings: climatization of large spaces (the structures in Clearing Mutuality will not form a city. The structures will form an organic community. The structure will function as bridges in between homes, cultures and people on an intimate/mutual level. The structures will fly, float and circulate with the Clearing community). ◊