Ila Berman, the director of CCA’s Architecture Department, opens Teddy Cruz’s lecture by asking if “architects [can] be designers of political processes and re-imagine invisible powers...?” The answer is yes. The example is Teddy Cruz.
Teddy Cruz practices in the San Diego-Tijuana border, and his work reflects and is inspired by the intelligence, creativity, and resourcefulness of everyday people along the border. Teddy Cruz speaks ephatically about everything: from the connection pins to an existing factory metal frame that his team is adapting, to the skate park that a myriad of skaters organized at the unincorporated site underneath a highway, to the Korean project that his team undertook as a case study to prevent the demolition of an entire neighborhood, to the border tour that he led from the US to Mexico through a massive concrete drain that destroys Tijuana River wetlands and dumps garbage on the Mexican side of the border.
At a philosophical scale, Teddy’s work focuses on urban projects that engage what he calls the Public Imagination. Some of his big questions are: “Can we imagine infrastructure differently?” The answer is yes and parts of the solution involves electing the right political leadership and “radicalizing the local.” Is it possible to consider the number of “social exchanges” as a factor in density calculations? The answer is yes, but moreso, it’s necessary to plan and build successful projects. How do we challenge exclusionary politics and economics of growth that ignore complete swaths of the polulation [especially poor people]? The answer is that we confront privatization that is camouflaged as public, and we propose inclusionary models of development.
If you aren’t mildly confused or simply overwhelmed by the task at hand, then maybe you haven’t payed attention. On the confusion part, it’s possible to wonder if Teddy is totally out of touch, because everyone knows that any poor person prefers to live in a McMansion rather than a shantytown. On the overwhelmed part, the task at hand is MASSIVE. Is Teddy too ambitious? It’s, as my architect friend put it, “like reimagining everything possible.” To answer the confusion part, Teddy is not out of touch and his ideas are not high-phalutant theories. His response is “well, when will that poor person get the McMansion?” Until those fictional keys are turned over for the fictional McMansion, this process of inclusionary design seems more practical. To answer the overwhelming part, once you get past the theory, Teddy Cruz is actually full of practical advice.
I’ve created a short list of this advice. It is completely plausible to compile other lists if you sat at the SFNOMA reception, or the CCA lecture, or one of the many lectures that Teddy gives around the world. However, these four points stand clear as pillars of practicality:
I acknowledge that even if Teddy’s ideas can be listed in ‘practical lists’, the work that Teddy Cruz undertakes is indeed ambitous. But perhaps the bigger issue is that the work elsewhere may simply not be ambitious enough. I’m sure that we can all agree that for architects of this generation, and for the public today, it is of much more benefit to ascribe to piles of ambition than to rubbles of irrelevant work.
Article Written by
Abel "Diego" Romero