ARCHITECTURE, HIERARCHY AND CONTROL: THE SOCIO-SPATIAL MANIFESTATIONS OF NEOLIBERALISM IN AN AMERICAN UNIVERSITY
Urban Theory Lab
Columbia University, situated within West Harlem, provides an insightful and intricate site for the investigation of exclusions within space and at multiple scales in the urban context. Such an inquiry reveals complex changing realities, histories and forms of knowledge production and discourse. The evolving role of Columbia University’s architecture and spatial design, from the protected pastoral center (Haar, 2010) to the renegotiated network campus for the knowledge-based economy, serves to signify and solidify hierarchal relations of power between the University and the community at large. Hierarchy and surveillance are further sustained and propagated within a knowledge-based economy under a neoliberal regime as the role of the university in the urban context evolves alongside an emphasis on security and transparency. This paper illustrates the ways in which architecture and design, neoliberal urban governance, and various forms of control and surveillance all come together to impact feelings of (in)security in ways that overlap and are mutually constitutive. In addition, security, is experienced in highly nuanced and subjective ways. Such an understanding is not reflected in constructs that foster common-sense understandings and desires for heightened physical security and control measures in place in Columbia’s present and planned campus. Such narrow understandings of (in)security are not limited to the University but rather are symptomatic of broader societal trends. Thus, it is imperative that we begin to deconstruct common-sense neoliberal thought that has contributed to a fragmentation of knowledge, spatial practices and human relations and begin to seriously seek out alternative spatial design practices and urban topographies that breakdown hierarchical orderings of spaces and people.
By Julia Borowicz
Figure 10 1968 Student Protests, 1968 Columbia, http://www.columbia1968.com/history/photos/
Figure 11 Student protesting Columbia’s current expansion plan, Stop Columbia: a website of the Coalition to Preserve Community, “Columbians must take a stand” published April 3, 2012, http://stopcolumbia.wordpress.com/author/stopdisplacement/page/2/