Physical Places and Ideological Spaces: Exploring Fourth World Theory and the Inner-City Abandonment

By Olon F. Dotson and Lisa Merriweather.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Rivers whether raging currents or gentle ebbs play essential roles in determining the physical landscape of their banks. Throughout modern history, architecture, like rivers, has been key to defining the character of cities, setting the tone of institutions, and forming the nature of communities: the lifeblood of contemporary societies. Architecture has potential to aid in creation of a more socially just society. It is architecture’s function in communities that positions it to contribute greatly to the project of social justice.

For architecture to contribute positively to not only the physical but also the cultural landscape, practitioners must adjust their priorities and overall conceptual framework – a framework that should balance emphasis on design and structures with sustainability. Sustainability is defined as meeting the needs of today “without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Conventionally sustainability is associated with “green” initiatives but to be useful as a guide in architecture it must be re-imagined to include social dimensions such as culture, historic discrimination, and segregation patterns. Socially dictated sustainability incorporates stewardship, responsibility, collaboration, and diversity.

Sustainability therefore impacts architects’ designing of places where diverse communities live, work and play. Their designs should incorporate not only knowledge of the physical place but also of the ideological space which like the riverbank has an influence on the flow of the river. Many inner cities represent physical places shaped by ideological spaces of racism, classism, sexism and other societal ills. Fourth World Theory is a vehicle for investigation of the deteriorating physical spaces of inner cities and the ideological spaces which are shaping them. Sustainability will be discussed in the context of Gary, Indiana, a Fourth World city, to highlight how it has been ravaged by such spaces and suggest ways that architecture can exercise responsible stewardship toward its development.

Keywords: Inner-City, Neoliberalism, Racism, Gary, Indiana

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.143-151. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 368.342KB).

Olon F. Dotson

Associate Professor of Architecture, Department of Architecture, Department of American Studies, Purdue University, Muncie, Indiana, USA

Olon F. Dotson serves as Associate Professor at the Ball State University, College of Architecture and Planning in Muncie, Indiana. He also is enrolled in a doctoral program in American Studies at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. His research at Purdue and at Ball State involves the development of Fourth World Theory as a critical examination of the systemic institutional abandonment of the American inner-city. Mr. Dotson is the former vice-president of the Urban Design firm, ARMONICS, Inc. of Indianapolis, Indiana where he led revitalization initiatives for numerous severely distressed inner-city communities throughout the United States.

Dr. Lisa Merriweather

Assistant Professor of Adult Education, Department of Educational Leadership, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Lisa R. Merriweather is an assistant professor of adult education at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Her research focuses on issues of equity and social justice within the historical discourse of adult education, informal education, and doctoral education with particular emphasis on race. She interrogates these issues through the use of race-based theoretical frameworks such as Africentric Philosophical Theory and Critical Race Theory and the use of qualitative and historical methodology.