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A Rural, Religious Front Street

Exploring Islamberg, a religious hamlet of ex-urban African Americans in Upstate New York, A Rural, Religious Front Street asks how might the adjacent communities of Deposit and Islamberg find meaningful ways of encounter, exchange, and understanding––ones that transcend reductive neoliberal forms of “coexistence.” Through a process rooted in undoing the ground and fortifying existing institutions, ecologies, and activities, the project explores the limits of subtlety in an architectural intervention. To achieve an intervention that could be noninvasive and still encouraging, Front Street was generated from the ground up at a variety of scales. First, redoing the ground met undoing the block––both the capitalist tax lots that block fluidity and encounter, as well as the manicured yet dilapidated landscape consumed by parking lots. Next, negating the performative main street meant finding new elements to center on––the ecology and institutions. As furrows around trees enforced their natural canopies, natural and built objects bleed out from the church and library, bringing with them their existing programming. Front Street’s built environment becomes one of partnership––a co-production of intervention and the existing landscape that seeks to reclaim narratives and learn from the spatial and social syntaxes of Islamberg.