Creating Political Communities through Architecture

I wonder what work has been done to assess how architecture creates political communities.  Much is fluid in American culture, but through all the changes I think it is safe to say that people have strong attachments to their homes.  The style outwardly — very literally — connotes the occupants values.

So when I drive around the city, suburbs, and beyond I see changes in architectural style (and not just domestic architecture, by the way) that I think connotes values that can be assessed politically.  After all, all art is in some way political and architecture certainly entails a great deal of artistic expression.

But it is more than that.  Some homes are boastful, others modest.  Some embrace quirks, others conform.  Some houses progress toward energy saving technology while others eschew it.  Houses might be open to the street and neighbors, others create barriers between inside and outside.

If you pay attention to neighborhoods and communities, it becomes clear that houses of similar styles — similar values — congregate together.  It is easy to draw some superficial conclusions.  Let’s take an obvious one.  An urban, high-density community likely draws people with values different from those living in large houses in sprawling developments in the exurbs.

I’ll risk sounding snarky, too, and suggest that you can see shifts in aesthetics that will align with values.  People who don’t want to be bothered with ordinances regulating home size, landscaping, and other factors might choose to live where those regulations don’t exist, right?  Those people probably have a different set of priorities compared with people who do live with the ordinances.

These are obvious examples.  However, I think you can draw conclusions based on choices homeowners make for things like architecture, landscaping, and more.  We know we can make general conclusions because there is an entire research industry that guides marketers on factors such as these.

What I think is interesting, however, is whether architecture creates the community or the community demands the architecture.  If I want to attract conservative or liberal values to a city, can I do it with architecture.  I am pretty sure you can!

i think we even do have communities that are planned, maybe unintentionally, to conform to political identity.  Think about it.  When a neighborhood approves (or disapproves) ordinances, what is it doing?  It is making rules that some people will find comfortable and others will not.  It is sorting out who might choose to live in a place as much as it might be protecting an architectural identity.  Indeed, I think the two are co-identical.

Has there been much work on this?  Time to go to the Google!


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