The Safe Space Project

by Carlos Ibarra-Frayre

Institution: University of Detroit Mercy
Year: 2015
Keywords: Southwest Detroit Kinship Architect Developer Gang
Record ID: 2059862
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10429/775


Architects are trained to understand that no two urban conditions are the same. It is the complexity of issues that are available that make design such a challenging yet rewarding career. In the case of Southwest Detroit, there are high crime rates and many gangs. The way the built environment impacts social relations was a starting point for this thesis investigation. The ability of design to promote or prevent crime or criminal activity has been studied since the 1960s. The idea of defensible space by Oscar Newman laid the groundwork for more sophisticated research in that field. It lead to a design convention known as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, or CPTED, which began to annotate how design can provide safer communities. But why do youth join gangs? There must be a reason for this. Joining gangs is not a trend or new phenomena. There must be a cycle to explain how it is that generation after generation gangs continue to linger. It is difficult to pinpoint where the cycle begins, but for the sake of the argument let us begin with how there is low government investment in basic services. This results in a lack of opportunities for youth as there are less and less funds to maintain government facilities. As a response to finding rare enrichment after school hours, there is an increased appeal for gangs. Gangs are recruitment masters by luring young boys and girls with promises of being “cool” and a sense of family. This thesis opens the conversation as to how designers can address this urban issue by drawing on the research that has been done in the field and incorporating architectonic interventions. The role of an architect as a developer, designer and humanitarian to address this issue become the guiding aspect of this thesis investigation.