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Architecture’s Role in Environmental Justice | Architect Magazine

In a recent project, the London-based organization Forensic Architecture examined the toxic legacy of Louisiana’s “Death Valley.”

Forensic Architecture is investigating the environmental racism in an 85-mile stretch of land along the Mississippi River once known as Plantation Country but today known as Death Alley. The project team has identified anomalies that point to the existence of cemeteries for the historically enslaved Black community of several plantations on the site of a proposed industrial complex.
Forensic Architecture is investigating the environmental racism in an 85-mile stretch of land along the Mississippi River once known as Plantation Country but today known as Death Alley. The project team has identified anomalies that point to the existence of cemeteries for the historically enslaved Black community of several plantations on the site of a proposed industrial complex.

 

Architecture has the power to create and build communities that bring people together, offering another aspiration to the challenges already facing the profession. Forensic Architecture, a London-based research agency comprising architects, archaeologists, and journalists, is pushing the boundaries of how designers can change the way we look at the built environment. The organization, which is led by architect Eyal Weizman, has investigated human rights violations, including violence committed by states, police forces, and corporations, and uses pioneering techniques in visual and spatial analysis. Collaboration is key, and its outcomes are eye-opening.

One of Forensic Architecture’s recent projects is on display at the Cloud Studies exhibition at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester, England. Its study maps the toxic legacy of chemical plants built on plantation graves of enslaved people in a Louisiana region known to locals as “Death Alley.” Residents of the majority Black communities that border these plants breathe some of the most toxic air in the country and suffer from some of the highest rates of cancer, COVID-19 fatalities, and other serious illnesses. Forensic Architecture has used advanced techniques in mapping and fluid dynamics—simulating the flow of gases and liquids—to help support efforts by local community activists such as Rise St. James, which has been fighting the construction of a new plastics facility in the region. The research exposes how these petrochemical companies not only continue to release lethal airborne pollutants but also build in the footprints of sugarcane plantations—becoming a case study in environmental racism.

Forensic Architecture
Forensic Architecture

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