An urban education model that responds to the crisis in community participation and political representation by circulating different ways of thinking and making
Learn how ten-blocks from 40th and Walnut to 40th and Brown frame our activities
The concept of "one linear mile" frames our activities at Mixplace Studio. It begins with a single hypothesis: the tensions that define a city such as Philadelphia are typically experienced within any given ten-block distance.
Mixplace Studio is located along one of these linear miles at 40th and Walnut Streets. The ten-block distance from the corner of 40th and Walnut to the corner of 40th and Brown, and back again, is our particular focus. As we walk this linear mile, we move across race and class, from public school to private university, and from public disinvestment to total privatization. Visualizing and representing this movement from different perspectives is central to our activities.
More than just a visual or spatial concept, a linear mile is a psychological device that focuses our attention on the shifts in economic opportunity, institutional access, and social relations that divide Philadelphia. This attentiveness enables us to engage with and take responsibility for these shifts.
Steering committee members, youth researchers, design students and coordinators came together during the first year of Mixplace Studio to conceptualize and research the Linear Mile. Thousands of images were photographed, edited, and aligned together to form 80-foot horizontal storyboards of the East and the West sides of 40th street, with white vertical bars demarcating shifts in property ownership. The storyboards are affixed with a laminate to enable eraseable writing, and permanently installed in Mixplace Studio, where they are used to organize research and activities.
The following principles guide our application of the concept of the linear mile:
It is a moving conversation on the scale of the individual, the building, the block, and the city.
It is a process of walking and gathering community voices, local histories, and everyday experiences.
It is an educational tool for learning about and renewing social trust across divided constituencies.
"Far from eluding our grasp or sense of responsibility on account of their abstract nature, the tensions we find along this linear mile can also be negotiated within this same distance. We can aspire, for instance, to amplify and empower neighborhood voices and opportunities along these ten blocks, and to facilitate exchange between the everyday knowledge of neighborhoods and the specialized knowledge of institutions of higher learning. [...]
Architects and others can enable interfaces between neighboring communities wherever they are found. It is in this sense that I propose the concept of the linear mile as a starting point for designing in response to the profound challenges we face."
-- Aaron Levy, "One Linear Mile" (2012)