– Spring 2010

Adaptive Reuse: New Strategies in Response to the Housing Crisis

Claire Barliant

Tags: Dan Graham, Gordon Matta-Clark, Mary Ellen Carroll

Damon Rich, Cities Destroyed for Cash, 2009, 1431 plastic markers on a panorama of New York City, c.30 x 30m. Photograph: Damon Rich

Damon Rich, Cities Destroyed for Cash, 2009, 1431 plastic markers on a panorama of New York City, c.30 x 30m. Photograph: Damon Rich

I remember when I bought my first home, and how that made me feel […] It's an overused phrase, but it's part of the American Dream. It's a wonderful feeling […] I don't have any study out there I could point to, but I wonder if the homeownership rate was higher in the Middle East if you'd have so much fighting and bickering. I'd love to see a study that shows what the percentage of suicide bombers who own their homes is. Because it's something you can point to and say 'that's where I live, and I own it'. -

- Robert Couch, former general counsel of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2008

Perhaps the only instance of homeownership being posed as a solution to the Middle East crisis, this staggeringly presumptuous comment was recorded by Damon Rich for his two-channel video Mortgage Stakeholders (2008). Couch was one of several people Rich interviewed for the video, in which academics, mortgage brokers and housing advocates explain the current economic downturn, each coming from a particular angle - some, like scholar David Harvey, theorising from a Marxist point of view, with others subscribing to the benefits of the free market. Rich filmed each interview separately, but juxtaposes the speakers on screen, so that while one person is talking another is shown patiently waiting for his or her turn to speak. The effect is one of even-handedness: if there is blame being cast, it is spread too widely to have a specific target.

Mortgage Stakeholders was part of 'Red Lines Housing Crisis Learning Center', Rich's exhibition at the Queens Museum of Art in the summer of 2009. With

  1. Joseph Grima, 'Foreclosure Tourism', Where We Are Now, Issue 1, Summer 2009. Available at http:// wherewearenow.org/vol1/intimacy/forclosure/ (last accessed on 30 November 2009).

  2. Rosalyn Deutsche, Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics, Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press, 1996, p.181.

  3. Account follows conversations between the author and Mary Ellen Carroll, September 2009.

  4. According to Carroll, Sharpstown is one of the first masterplanned communities in the US.

  5. The piece was commissioned for the exhibition 'wir arbeiten immer noch daran, nicht mehr zu arbeiten' ('we keep working, to no longer work') at the Galerie der Künstler, Munich, 12 March-8 April 2005.

  6. The table was included in the exhibition 'No Zoning: Artists Engage Houston', Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, 9 May-4 October 2009.

  7. Edward L. Glaeser, 'Houston, New York has a Problem', City Journal, Summer 2008, vol.18, no.3. Also available at www.city-journal.org/2008/18_3_houston.html (last accessed on 25 August 2009).

  8. Both Rice University's School of Architecture in Houston and Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture in New York are supporting prototype 180 and students will have opportunities to work with it directly.

  9. Gerald E. Frug and David J. Barron, City Bound: How States Stifle Urban Innovation, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008, p.50.

  10. Tom McCarthy, Nato Thompson and Eyal Weizman in a roundtable discussion moderated by Jeffrey Kastner, 'The New Geography', Bookforum, April/May 2009, p.50.

  11. Conversation between the author and Damon Rich, August 2009.

  12. Andrew Blauvelt, 'The Afterlife of Big Boxes: A Conversation with Julia Christensen', in A. Blauvelt (ed.), Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes (exh. cat.), Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2008, p.210.

  13. Ibid., p.214.

  14. Alex Kotlowitz, 'All Boarded Up', The New York Times Magazine, 8 March 2009, also available at www.nytimes.com/2009/03/08/magazine/08Foreclosure-t.html (last accessed on 25 August 2009).

  15. The Home Owners Loan Corporation is the same agency that transformed millions of Depression-era defaulted adjustable-rate mortgages into the thirty-year, fixed-rate mortgages we know today.

  16. It should be noted that although the red areas on the maps would seem to explain the source of 'red lining' as a term, the origin of the phrase is unknown.

  17. Connie Bruck, 'Angelo's Ashes', The New Yorker, 29 June 2009, p.55.