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Fluctuating Border

In this research, I examined the cultural dynamics of Washington Heights and Inwood by studying the role of institutions and community-based organizations. I found that while institutions tend to focus on economic activities, community-based organizations tend to focus on cultural activities such as music, dance, and conversation. As an example, I discussed the dance form of Zumba, which has been both commodified and reclaimed by the community for cultural purposes. I chose to analyze La Plaza de las Americas, as it is a space that hosts community-based dance events in front of the United Palace theater, and identified a tension between cultural and commodified dance. To address this tension, I proposed an intervention at La Plaza de las Americas that aims to reclaim the United Palace for the community and integrate it more closely with the culturally-motivated outer plaza. This intervention includes making the United Palace’s façade semi-porous, centering the building’s entrances and exits on the plaza, and creating balconies that face the plaza rather than the interior of the building. The goal of this intervention is to alleviate some of the economic incentives driving the commodification of local culture and to promote a more inclusive and culturally-rich community.