Contest urbanism: Meaning and manifestation in communuty garden design A case study of the Black Rock Heritage Garden, Buffalo, NY
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The contest for space and meaning is manifested and continually revised in the built environment. This thesis explores how community garden design reflects the process of neighborhood contestation in urban areas. Contestation affects the morphology and meaning of place and the process of "contest urbanism" shapes the city. Contestation is not inherently "good" or "bad"; it is a process of negotiation with results that may be incongruous when multiple value systems compete for expression. At times, disparate agendas may find points of concordance, and at other times these agendas may be in conflict with one another. The result of contestation can be collaboration or conflict. This thesis demonstrates that community gardens can be highly meaningful spaces for communities in which they are located. It shows that a theoretically grounded, close reading of their design in concert with a deep contextual understanding of the neighborhood can elucidate those meanings. Meaning that occurs at the level of "habiting" is highly specific to the context out of which it emerges and can be cultivated in place. Meanings can also be multiple. In the Black Rock Heritage Garden multiple means exist. The Black Rock Heritage Garden memorializes historic and social history to commemorate historic and social moments of importance, while at the same time addressing current community concerns. The garden also creates a culture around food that contests a loss of connection to food system. While the City of Buffalo has acted as a collaborator in the creation of the Black Rock Heritage Garden, its policies reflect a different view of these spaces and offer no legal protections for community-initiated uses at the policy level—including the Black Rock Heritage Garden. The city could choose to "develop" the site of the garden at will. Planning policies that ignore places heavily influenced by community imbued meaning, and/or reject its morphology in favor of traditional "urban development', may create negative consequences for place.