Posted on February 22, 2008 by

Nicolai Ouroussoff reviews MoMA's Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition which features "Architecture and Justice":

"Bioengineered crossbreeds. Temperamental robots. Spermatozoa imprinted with secret texts. Although the fascination with organic form has been around since the Renaissance, we have now entered an age in which designers and architects are drawing their inspiration from hidden patterns in nature rather than from pretty leaves or snowflakes. The results can be scary, but they may also hold the key to paradise.

“Design and the Elastic Mind,” an exhilarating new show opening on Sunday at the Museum of Modern Art, makes the case that through the mechanism of design, scientific advances of the last decade have at least opened the way to unexpected visual pleasures.


Perhaps the most unnerving project here is “Architecture and Justice” from the Million Dollar Blocks Project, a graphic study by Columbia University’s Spatial Information Design Lab. Using the computer to filter through masses of data on prison populations, the group studied several American cities and identified the blocks where the highest concentration of prison inmates lived when they were arrested. That more than $1 million a year is spent on incarcerating people from each one of these blocks is shocking misuse of resources.

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The graphic display on a blood-red grid is a bold expression of how the computer can be a powerful analytical tool for dislodging received wisdom and enabling us to examine entrenched social problems through a new lens."

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Posted on September 26, 2007 by Laura Kurgan

Million Dollar Blocks project exhibited in Just Space(s)
LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions)

September 26 – November 18, 2007
Organized by Ava Bromberg and Nicholas Brown

"Everyday we confront spaces that don't work - from our neighborhoods and parks, to our prisons, pipelines and borders. In this exhibition and programming series, artists, scholars and activists reveal how these spaces function - and dysfunction - making way for thought and action to create just societies and spaces.

The projects in this exhibition reflect the renewed recognition that space matters to cutting edge activist practices and to artists and scholars whose work pursues similar goals of social justice. A spatial frame offers new insights into understanding not only how injustices are produced, but also how spatial consciousness can advance the pursuit of social justice, informing concrete claims and the practices that make these claims visible. Understanding that space - like justice - is never simply handed out or given, that both are socially produced, differentiated, experienced and contested on constantly shifting social, political, economic, and geographical terrains, means that justice - if it is to be concretely achieved, experienced, and reproduced - must be engaged on spatial as well as social terms."

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Posted on January 8, 2007 by

"From water pipes to porn shops, cartographers have charted almost every aspect of local urban life, giving rise to a sort of cottage industry: the New York City specialty map. The latest—and one you are not likely to see unless you run in criminal-justice circles—is a rendering of the city that breaks down, block by block, the home addresses of all New Yorkers incarcerated in a given year. This map won’t get you from Century 21 to the Met. But it does reveal that more prison-bound Bronx residents lived in walkups than in any other type of building, that Staten Island is the most law-abiding borough, and that Brooklyn—nicknamed “the borough of churches”—ran up the state’s highest bill in prison costs.

Eric Cadora and Charles Swartz, co-founders of the Brooklyn-based Justice Mapping Center, collaborated on the project with an architect named Laura Kurgan, at Columbia’s Spatial Information Design Lab. “What started out as a scholarly inquiry has turned into a national initiative,” said Cadora, whose team has mapped twelve cities so far. Their New York is a digital crazy quilt of “bright-against-black”: the areas least touched by incarceration in 2003, the year they chose to study (Riverdale, Bay Ridge, the West Village), appear black and gray; those more so (Coney Island, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Hell’s Kitchen) neon orange."

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Posted on September 15, 2006 by Spatial Information Design Lab


September 15—October 28, 2006

The Urban Center

457 Madison Avenue
New York City

Architecture and Justice mapped criminal justice statistics to make visible the geography of incarceration and return in New York, Phoenix, New Orleans, Wichita, and New Haven, prompting new ways of understanding the spatial dimension of an area of public policy with profound implications for American cities. In 2006, the United States had more than two million people locked up in jails and prisons, a disproportionate number of whom come from a small number of neighborhoods in the country’s biggest cities. In many places, the concentration was so dense that states spent in excess of a million dollars to incarcerate the residents of single census blocks. In fall 2006 the Architectural League presented the exhibition Architecture and Justice, created by the Spatial Information Design Lab (SIDL) at Columbia University and the Justice Mapping Center (JMC), which worked together to use the language of design to suggest new ways of understanding problems of incarceration and poverty in American cities.

The exhibition included maps of Phoenix, New Orleans, Wichita, New Haven, and each of the five boroughs of New York City, illustrating prison expenditures by administrative district. Smaller maps of each city illustrated poverty and population density, and an enlarged and detailed map focused on Brownsville, Brooklyn. Additionally, a digital projection enabled viewers to manipulate maps to compare different types of data.

Architecture and Justice was organized by Laura Kurgan and Eric Cadora. It was made possible, in part, by Graphical Innovation in Justice Mapping, a grant from the Open Society Institute and the Jeht Foundation to the Spatial Information Design Lab.

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