Fair Trade Cocaine.

August 8, 2015

Earlier in the program, Paolina commented briefly on the impact of Reagan’s “War on Drugs.” Her comment made me consider how we think and talk about distribution and purchasing power of drugs. Typically, one hears about those that are distributing and selling drugs and associated violence, but we often forget about those that purchase and use drugs—those that create demand. This situation is clearly illustrated by Flip Kiran Singh Sirah in his slam poetry rendition of “There’s no such thing as Fair Trade Cocaine” (watch at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1w6auvqmTk). It’s about the connections between people and trade and the relationships, interconnection, and potential violence that results. We are all involved. We are all connected.

Memorials and Conflict.

August 6, 2015

On Monday, August 3, 2015, Dr. Susan Hirsch wrapped up her morning discussion on “Justice and Law in Post-conflict Setting” with memorialization. Memorials are one way to remember an event and/or conflict, especially if justice has not been addressed by society. However the process of creating a memorial can cause conflict within various associated groups—from the survivors, to the public, to the government. The documentary “Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision” by PBS examines Maya Lin’s design of the “Vietnam Veterans Memorial” and the conflict that arose around her proposal.

When Maya Lin’s design was selected by a national design competition, many felt that her design proposal was too abstract, not representative of the veterans, and there was opposition to its construction. (Maya was a Yale University architecture student when she won the competition with a design concept of a V-shaped wall representing a wound in the landscape. Rumor is that her professor gave her a “B” on this design.) Thankfully, her design was built with only a few additions (an American flag and two sculptures, which she herself opposed, but were added nonetheless).

I would recommend watching the documentary, which helps to explain the process of designing a memorial for a national competition and why Maya Lin’s design proposal was so controversial. And how, most importantly, in the end, the memorial represented (and continues to represent) a larger process of trauma, peacebuilding, and healing.

Design and Peacebuilding.

August 3, 2015

Humans live in a built realm, use and buy designed products, create and design our individual realities. All around the world people live in a built environment, whether it is designed formally or informally. What designers create affects and changes the lives of individuals and societies. Peace processes and related practitioners are often unaware of issues related to design and environments. Likewise, design professionals often do not see the importance of social, political, and economic ramifications of their work. Designers possess training and skills that could service the needs of billions living in harmful environments and alter how they live. In summary, design can address the needs of the ‘unrepresented’ and help to promote social change, peace, and security.

The design professions are underrepresented in the field of peacebuilding. Yet during our daily academic experience this past week, I have noted issues highlighting the connection between the built environment to peacebuilding. Firstly, Chief Kelly McMillin gave us a tour of the Salinas Police Department and I saw how the space limitations they are currently confronting affect their operations. For example, they use a closet for finger printing purposes. Chief Kelly also told a story about helping a soldier through his window on a day when the Police Department was closed. According to the proposed building renovation, this sort of interaction will not be possible. Instead, the proposed design will push the community even further away through the use of massive structure elements, fewer windows, and being set back even further from the street. These two distinct designs illustrate how buildings and constructed spaces respond to historic changes in societal violence.

Secondly, I noted that during Dr. Jeff Knopf’s “Nuclear Weapons and Global Security” lecture I kept asking myself, “What to do with these spaces after disarmament happens?” The example of a missile solo retrofit illustrates what can happen to space designed for nuclear war after the conflict—how it can be adapted for another use, that of housing.


Unknown. (n.d.). [Mixed Media.] Turn thisInto this... Retrieved from http://just-thinkin.net/2007/11/i-want-my-own-missile-silo/

Thirdly, we visited Rancho Cielo’s transitional housing units that students built themselves. Here the architects designed the interior hallways to be wider than normal to avoid the possibility of residents touching while passing. This one small physical design element can help to proactively eliminate future conflict between opposing groups living in a space together.


Lewis, K. (2015, July 30.). [Photographs.] Rancho, Cielo, Salinas, California, USA.

Finally, Dr. Richard Matthew concluded his lecture on “Natural Resources, Violent Conflict and Peacebuilding” with a point that reiterates what I wrote at the beginning of this essay: it is essential that more planners [architects, and designers] are needed in the peace field. Considering my original point at the beginning of this post, I could not agree more.