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Introduction and Team

Block Party: From Independent Living to Disability Communalism reimagines the architecture and urbanism of a section of Berkeley, California, through the perspectives of disability and housing justice. Created by a multidisciplinary team composed of disabled and non-disabled architects, artists, and authors, the project asks: What form might a multiracial disability community take today? What kinds of housing and public spaces could support not only “independent living”— a historic demand among disability rights advocates — but also mutual aid and communal flourishing?

Block Party explores the ways in which the design of architecture and cities can do more than merely accommodate disabled people in “accessible” buildings, public spaces, and landscapes. We propose a series of strategies for challenging the regime of private, single-family property that dominates small towns and suburbs in the United States. The project presents a vision for a more just, diverse community where disabled people can live together, cooperate, and exercise individual and collective agency over their lives and environments.

This installation includes four elements. A large mural displays the blocks where the team has proposed interventions and explains the project’s key architectural and urban concepts. A model of a block in South Berkeley illustrates how the team reimagines property ownership, urban circulation, housing, and communal space within the neighborhood. An audio narrative collects portions of interviews with Berkeley residents and disability and housing activists. Finally, a tactile model — initially created to collaborate with a blind team member — offers gallery visitors an additional means to access the project’s architectural and urban strategies.

A gallery room with maps and illustrations along the wall, and a 3D model in the middle of the room.
Reset: Towards a New Commons, installation view, Center for Architecture, 2023. Photo: Asya Gorovits.

Visual Description

Photograph of a gallery with white walls framed around a 3D model and a series of maps and illustrations that runs along the wall behind the model. The wall extends from the right side towards the left side of the room, then a small gap, then a column. The illustrations on the wall extend over this gap between the wall and the column. The illustrations on the wall are black and white with hot pink details. In front of the wall in the middle of the room is a purple platform which is only partially visible. The platform holds a 3D model of a residential neighborhood. The structures are light wood or white and line pink streets with some trees poking out above the houses.  

Project Team

  • Javier Arbona, University of California, Davis
  • Irene Cheng (Project co-leader), California College of the Arts and Cheng + Snyder
  • David Gissen (Project co-leader), Parsons School of Design, The New School
  • Rod Henmi, FAIA, HKIT
  • Jerron Herman, Artist and Dancer, New York City
  • Georgina Kleege, University of California, Berkeley
  • Chip Lord, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Brett Snyder, AIA (Project co-leader), University of California, Davis and Cheng + Snyder

Student Interns:

  • Cody Burchfield, Parsons School of Design
  • Isabella Teran, Parsons School of Design
  • Ariana Contreras, University of California, Davis
  • Cameron Gillern, University of California, Davis
  • Fatema Mostafa, University of California, Davis
  • Genevieve Zanaska, University of California, Davis
  • Lina Kudinar, California College of the Arts
  • Nicole Kuo, California College of the Arts

Support from:

  • University of California, Davis, Office of Public Scholarship and Engagement
  • University of California Placemaking Initiative The New School University
  • California College of the Arts


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