An architectural and urban planning proposal to address Los Angeles Chinatown’s housing crisis presented through a board game and a comic book.
- ROLE: DESIGNER
- FOR: HARVARD GSD M.ARCH I
- STATUS: COMPLETED
- PRESS: METROPOLIS
Four Chinatowns focuses on Chinatown in Los Angeles because its central location makes it a contentious battleground in the city’s current affordability crisis. Fights over affordable housing and new developments happen every day, often hurting the most vulnerable community—low-income elderlies, which has led to outrage against any new development in Chinatown. Protecting vulnerable residents during an affordability crisis is crucial for protecting the neighborhood, which is often equated with preserving it exactly as is. However, the paradox is that we cannot sustain old roots without growing new shoots—and vice versa.
Chinatown was a burgeoning neighborhood that offered many immigrant families economic opportunities and stability. As the community aged, the neighborhood didn’t grow. Many children didn’t move back because of the lack of attractive employment, and local businesses began to rely more on residents who spend less as they age. The neighborhood started to look run down, and new Asian immigrants now tend to settle in the San Gabriel Valley. Preserving a neighborhood puts it in a vitrine and stops it from gaining new housing and better jobs—the two vital elements for resolving the affordability crisis. In Chinatown, the crisis is not simply housing but an identity crisis. The solution requires a transformed identity for Chinatown that allows residents to buy in and welcome healthy growth in the neighborhood. A Tale of Four Chinatowns puts forward a provocative vision that shows a non-zero-sum future for the neighborhood in the hope of sparking positive change.