Locating Vitality

The notion of urban vitality is at once a construct that is malleable to both individual and community pressures and static – devoid of social intimacy, having been stripped down to replicable tactics.

In the context of South St. Louis, the intricate interactions between people along the street is an unrecognized form of vitality. These interactions manifest between the street and the stoop. In South City, the numerous vacant lots are sinks, devoid of the richness of encounter found elsewhere along the street. A second, less obvious sink also threatens vitality in South St. Louis – gentrification. In “Subtraction,” Keller Easterling highlights the role of both subtraction and addition to the neighborhood, pointing out that each can be harmful to existing social fabrics (Easterling, 3-9), and bringing with it “noxious forms of the common” (Negri and Hardt, 256). Reinterpreting the role of these sites as sources of community vibrancy affords the opportunity to foster encounter at the block scale through flexible parcel remediation.

The Stoop without a Home prototype aims to do just that. By re-articulating a vacant site within the Benton Park West neighborhood as a communal gathering space, two stoops are placed in conversation with each other. Whereas stoops generally face the street in South St. Louis, the Stoop without a Home prototypes are intentionally facing each other – in an attempt to make a statement about the fleeting nature of encounter within a rapidly gentrifying block and the need for individual encounters that are conflictive as a means of preserving existing forms of urban vitality.

Work performed while studying landscape architecture at Washington University in St. Louis