instant/instance city

Catalytic events in the life of a city and the building of urban memory

On Friday, hundreds of thousands of people converged on Downtown Oakland and Lake Merritt to celebrate the Warriors' 2015 NBA Championship. There were the athletes and their entourages, hard-core fans who camped out, those who just joined the winning band-wagon and everyone along the spectrum in between crowding the streets with an exuberant energy on a beautiful day.  The streets had not been miraculously repaved the day before (sadly the potholes on my street were still there), buildings hadn't changed over night but something in the air was markedly different. 

On the first Friday of every month, thousands gather in the Uptown area and beyond for the open-gallery-cum-street-party which started as an Art Murmur. Likewise, the scene is populated with the artists and their supporters, those in "the know" and those simply out for a party or a nice evening out. The event is in some ways like a reliable friend that you know will be there and could bring fun and surprise when we decide to go out.

Weekly, hundreds turn out at our local Farmers Markets, movies at the Paramount, and concerts at the Fox. The list of collective experiences big and small in our shared urban environment goes on. 

This is a landscape where countless unremarkable events occur- walks around the lake, the comings and goings of the work day, the running of mundane errands. And yet, this is the same terrain where we have also seen widespread demonstration, civil disobedience, rioting, vandalism, injury and death in the streets, police helicopters grazing the night air above. If these walls could talk, as the saying goes....

As an Architect, I like to reflect upon the life of the city, the times at which it is changed temporarily or forever, when a moment portends future progress or challenges, when, as citizens, we revel or sometimes recoil at what happens in our midst with wonder, angst, pride or feelings in between.