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November 15, 2006 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-11-15

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The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Party time, excellent?
It's Over Your Head j Architecture Column
EyAUSi0O gWa0

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 - The Michigan Daily 9B

s the weather cools down and
the snow begins to fall, college
house parties will soon migrate
from the open air of balconies and
lawns to the heated indoors. This subtle
shift has a dynamic undertone: a ban-
gin' game of Wednesday-night flip cup
in 3A can be a nightmare for neighbors
in 4A who are trying to study for their
Thursday morning exam. The reason
for this is party walls.
Most campus residents, whether liv-
ing in an apartment, a dorm, a frat or
a co-op, have to deal with party walls.
Though it may sound like a blast, in
architectural language a "party wall"
is simply a boundary partition shared
by both owners. My living room wall
is also my neighbors' living room wall,
and this means we have more in com-
mon than to whom we pay rent.-
The "architecture of location" is
often more powerful than the "archi-
tecture of building" because it deals
with social interaction. An area is
defined by its perimeter, and commu-
nities are necessarily about other com-
munities. Proximity and adjacency,
though the most basic of concepts, can
be explosive issues. Party walls exist
at a building scale, a community scale
and a regional scale. Our built environ-
ments of urban spaces and structures,
whether consciously or not, tacitly
articulate the attitudes we have toward
our neighbors.
This is familiar rhetoric for archi-
tects and urban designers. A building's
aesthetic success is frequently related
to how it reacts to its context. At a larg-
er scale, we are taught through urban
design that an area must respect its sur-
rounding environs. Yet as we become
.. adults, societal pressures sometimes
force us forget the wisdom imparted
on us by Mr. Rogers, which is simply to
play nice and be a good neighbor.
An old adage claims that "good fenc-
es make good neighbors," but fences
are clearly barriers meant to exclude.
Contempt for neighbors is commonly
displayed through separation, barriers
or both. More disturbingly, many times
these relationships go unnoticed and
unchallenged. Even in the politically
liberal city of Ann Arbor, these issues
arise.
Around 100 years ago in the United
States, zoning ordinances became the
means to separate uses in order to miti-
gate the nuisances of conflicting neigh-
hors. While this notion makes sense
for some cases, like separating indus-
trial and residential zones, other cases
are clearly based on discrimination.
EMMA NOLAN-ABRAHAMIAN/Daily As recently as 1995, Michigan courts
ABOVE: Arches serve as some of the entranceways tothe Diag. deemed it illegal for unrelated college
BELOW: There is a stark difference between the students' Central Campus and the more adult-oriented down- students to share a house in an Ann
town Main Street. Arbor neighborhood that was zoned for

single-family residential. It is hard for
me to believe that those seven people,
who found it more economical and con-
venient to share a house than to rent,
were not treated differently by the city
because of the "partying college stu-
dent" stigma.
Another more subtle separation of
Ann Arborite and University student
is the difference between the "stu-
dent downtown" on State Street and
the "grown-up downtown" on Main.
Admittedly, multiple factors attri-
bute to this distinction, but there is
undoubtedly an inherent desire to sep-
arate the citizens from the students.
Besides the obvious reason of location,
Main Street businesses are unattract-
ive to many students because of the
price tags on their items. In housing,
the practice of zoning to artificially
created areas of high housing costs to
keep out lower class citizens is called
exclusionary zoning, or snob zoning.
Gratzi is definitely more exclusive than
Noodles N' Company.
While the city delicately separates
these two groups, the University uses
more obvious methods to keep residents
away from students. Campus buildings,
with no need of approval from the city,
are often figurative fences that domi-
nate and impose on their surroundings.
EventhoughtheUniversityisconstruct-
ing distinguishing "gateway" buildings
along State Street to usher people into
campus, this language infers that the
ethereal fence around campus needs a
few openings.
The Diag is the most vivid example of
such barriers. All Diag buildings form
an inwardly exclusive student zone
detached from the rest of Ann Arbor.
Consider the elegant Rackham building
that dominates the north-south axis of
the Diag along with the Harlan Hatch-
er Graduate Library. Its rear eleva-
tion toward the neighborhoods across
Huron Street is large and blank, a clear
indication that the building's designers
did not care how the structure responds
to the surrounding community.
In Ann Arbor, these relationships
are fine. In fact, the separation of stu-
dents and residents is mutually benefi-
cial: Ann Arborites don't have to put up
with rowdy students, and students get a
serene educational atmosphere devoid
of distraction. Yet we need to realize as
a society that how we treat our border
conditions is a reflection of ourselves.
Recognizing party walls as shared
items, we may be more inclined to ask
our neighbors before we blast our music
at 3 a.m. on Tuesday. Recognizing our
built environment in relation to our
neighbors, we might compel them to
recognize their built environments in
relation to us.

to promote learning about different cultures,
including a night of Salsa Dancing lessons and
an educational movie night that focused on films
showcasing racial tension.
"I remember the movie night we had," said Pab-
ich. "We watched 'Crash' as a dorm, and when the
movie ended, we talked about (the movie's) mes-
sage as a group. When I think back on it, our dorm
did a lot to promote diversity, and I really feel it's
something every residence hall should do."
HOUSING'S INFLUENCE
The housing office may influence people's inter-
action between different groups as well. Because
many incoming students don't have many initial
contacts at the University, they often naturally
interact with whoever they are in closest contact
with.
"A lot of it has to do with who you get as a room-
mate when you move in," Mulrooney said. "My
roommate was Latina and we got along. Now this
year, we are living together again. It had nothing
to do with the fact that she was or wasn't Latina. It
was just because we got along well together."
However, sometimes people choose their resi-

dences in hopes of living around people of the
same race. Some students try to persuade both
incoming and returning students to move to cer-
tain dorms because of their communities.
"My friend mentioned to me that I probably
should move to North Campus from Central Cam-
pus because there were more black people and I
might like it better," said LSA sophomore Nailah
Holden, who is black. "But I personally chose to
live (on North Campus) because I could have my
own bathroom, not because there were more black
people here."
Carole Henry, director of housing services, said
many students benefit from having a roommate of
a different ethnic background.
"I imagine that in some cases that (living with
someone of a different race) is a great enhance-
ment," Henry said. "The experience is probably
wonderful at enhancing relationships, breaking
down barriers and simply leading to greater cul-
tural understanding."
THE MCRI AND INTEGRATION
A student's willingness to interact with stu-
dents of other races can definitely be shaped by

his or her surroundings, and few would argue
otherwise. But the University stands to lose a
large number of underrepresented minority stu-
dents after Michigan voters passed Proposal 2 last
week. The amendment not only makes it harder
for the school's admissions office to admit under-
represented minorities, but the housing office will
have fewer students of color to diversify living
situations.
With the number of minority students admitted
likely to drop in the future, integration between
different races at the University could become
even more difficult after this year.
"If you don't have the numbers (of each ethnic
group), how do you make diversity work?" Mat-
lock said.
While there is still hope that race relations can
somehow improve on campus, for obvious reasons
the passage of Proposal 2 was a blow to Bowman
and others who would like to see the campus more
integrated.
"I'm an optimistic person," Bowman said. "But
in this situation, the only way to project what will
happen in Michigan is to look at how California
is now. And for right now, it really doesn't look
good."

Some students try to
persuade incoming and
returning students to move
to certain dorms because of
their communities.

After Proposal 2 passed, there wasa large outcry from many students and faculty on
campus. It is feared that diversity will decrease on campus while segregation continues
to grow.

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