ARC 605-UD-: Imagined Future Citizenships: Speculations for the Border Region of Western N.Y

GIS generated map of western new york.

Photo: Ann Lui

In this studio, students expand and dive deeper into this paradox of borders through the questions posed by Dimensions of Citizenship, the U.S. Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. The semester’s work will be catalyzed by the specific conditions of immigration, refugees, and asylum-seekers in Buffalo and western New York. 

Located adjacent to the U.S.-Canadian border and home to multiple resettlement agencies, Buffalo has become a home for 12,000 refugees in the last decade from Burma, Bhutan, Iraq and other nations. How do Buffalo’s residents model, from the scale of a shared table in the West Side Bazaar to the histories of industry and immigration along the Erie Canal, complex contemporary conditions of citizenship—unstable and rapidly transforming, shaped by both violence and longing?

Divided into two phases, the semester will begin by developing collective research in the form of local case studies on the paradoxical constructions of citizenship in Buffalo. Students will document the formal and relational conditions of belonging outside of traditional ideas of the nation-state: dollar-van systems in immigrant neighborhoods, linguistic networks, or spatial properties of a group WhatsApp chat—affiliations described by Donna Haraway as the "kin" we build against the backdrop of ecological and geopolitical crisis. In the second half of the semester, students will translate their research into speculative proposals for sites along the U.S.-Canadian border. Inspired by Afrofuturism and works of transcendent imagination within conditions of oppression and exclusion, this second phase of the studio will combine the unique observations of socially-engaged practice with futurist, visionary projections.