Crown St. Visions Collide

May 17, 2013
By Thomas MacMillan, New Haven Independent
One person sees a “shady gas station” on the corner of Howe and Crown.
That’s “crypto-racist,” says another.
At the corner of Orange and Crown sits one person’s “weird art place.” To another it’s “Artspace (not weird.)”
Those competing perceptions of Crown Street landmarks overlap on a new map being created by passersby this weekend, part of a “pop-up” project organized by Yale architecture professor Elihu Rubin.
There are many Crown Streets, Rubin said. Apart from the physical space, Crown Street exists just as much in the memories, routines, experiences, and perceptions of the people who inhabit it.
This weekend, Rubin is inviting people to share their own Crown Street in “Interactive Crown Street,” a “pop-up urban research field office.” Click the video to see Rubin describe the project.
The strorefront near the corner of Crown and College streets opened Thursday. It will stay open through Sunday, with a special meeting Saturday night.
Inside the “field office” near the corner of Crown and College streets, Rubin is presenting research that his students have done on Crown Street, and inviting people to contribute their own impressions as people who visit the street.
It’s an interactive space, Rubin said. One one wall is the “Crown Street Collective Memory Palimpsest.” It’s a scale drawing of the eight blocks that make up Crown Street, from State to Howe streets. Rubin is inviting people to draw and write on the map, to fill it in with their impressions and memories of the places and events of Crown Street.
Already people have begun to disagree about features of the street, which Rubin said he loves. One person labeled in cursive the corner of Crown and Howe streets as “Shady Gas Station.” Another person drew an arrow pointing to the label, with the words: “Crypto-racist/classist language that enables displacement of people who grew up/work/live in New Haven.”
Just above, in the same hand-writing: “Got bags of ice here once. Crucial for a Saturday night.”
The “field office” also has stations for recording video memories of Crown Street and a crowd-sourced Crown Street poem being typed out on an old Smith-Corona.
On Friday and Saturday afternoon, the field office is hosting a “Disposable Camera Experiment.” Participants will start at each end of Crown Street and walk its length, taking pictures with a camera that they’ll then turn in to the field office.
Rubin said the overall goal is to bring more people into the process of thinking about collective urban spaces, like Crown Street, in a way that could shape the development of the city in the future.
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